When you're slammed, what should you do?

In the digital, do-more-with-less age, managers and the rank-and-file find themselves overwhelmed.

Eugene consultant Randy Harrington examined the rapid flow of business life in a book he wrote a couple of years back titled, "Slammed!: Succeeding In a World of Too Busy."

Harrington will draw on recent observations and on his conversations with 20 corporate boards and 35 executives when he addresses the 2018 Southern Oregon Business Conference, set for Thursday, Jan. 25, at the Inn at the Commons. The annual Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc.-sponsored conference theme is "Resiliency: Personal wellness, resilient workplaces and a healthy economy."

It's not a simple matter of digging down, working hard and longer, Harrington discovered. That merely led to more work.

"It doesn't matter if you're working at a food truck or for Johnson & Johnson, the tension is still there," said Harrington, CEO of Extreme Arts & Sciences.

When Harrington began his project, it was aimed at the Microsoft and Adobe cultures.

"What I found there that being slammed is normal, they don't see it as unusual," Harrington said. "If they are not slammed, somehow they are failing."

Of course, the medical community, bankers, manufacturers, government workers and educators understood the phrase in the same manner as Harrington. Those are the people overloaded with task saturation who need answers beyond time management techniques.

"People have the perception they have a wafer-thin layer of bandwidth of capacity to do anything beyond the pile of work on their desk," he said. "When trying to get people to change, they often push back. They really can't because they are slammed."

In looking at business, Harrington focused on the tension between managing business as usual and at the same time taking formal, aggressive steps to improve so a company or organization could take advantage of whatever opportunity is on the horizon.

"That tension is extremely important for modern businesses," he said. "Where the rubber meets the road is businesses getting things done or not. How am I expected to do something else with very limited resources and time while pedaling as fast as I can to stay upright?"

He suggests relatively minor things can go a long way to relieving office stress. Operational succession is one.

"If Sue is gone one day, she's sick at home, the rest of the office suffers because nobody can do what Sue does," Harrington said. "We're not even talking about someone leaving for another job. There needs to be a structure where someone can take up the slack when someone is out for two days. Those simple things are a huge stress in a small business and limits how you can build capacity."

In working with Southern Oregon clients, the challenges are familiar.

Harrington said it is important to create future-ready capacity, keeping everything that's amazing about it, while creating a 21st-century business environment.

"It will take innovation to solve the problems plaguing the region, such as affordable housing and seasonal work patterns," he said. "Southern Oregon is a hot spot for innovation and manufacturing. At the worst of times, it shows up as a chip on the shoulder, and at the best of times, deep personal pride."

The 2018 SOBC also features an economic forecast by Tim Duy, who directs the Oregon Economic Forum at the University of Oregon, and Todd Bloomquist, who oversees special services for the Grants Pass School District and deals with special needs, mental health issues and homelessness.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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