How Organizational Drag is Wasting the Time, Talent, and Energy of Your Agency’s Workforce


People are the most valuable strategic assets in any organization. As Homer Simpson might say, “well, duh!” However, many senior organizational leaders are starting to realize that it is the time, talent, and energy of their workforce that makes the organization successful. As Michael Mankins and Eric Garton explain in Time, Talent, and Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, executives used to concentrate their focus on financial decisions. Finance was important because financial capital was a scarce resource in the industrial age companies. It took much money to build a railroad, a factory, or laboratory. However, capital is abundant in today’s knowledge age.

What is not so abundant in the knowledge age are the innovative ideas that help organizations succeed. The innovative ideas are, as Mankins and Garton write, “the product of individuals and teams who have the time to work productively, who have the skills they need to make a difference, and who bring creativity and enthusiasm to their jobs.” The best way to help the individuals and teams produce the innovative ideas is to manage their time, talent, and energy better. Thus, senior leadership needs to focus on better managing the human capital by reducing organizational drag.

Organizational drag is familiar to anyone who has worked in organizations. Essentially, organizational drag is the cumulative effect of “needless internal interactions, unproductive or inconsequential meetings, and unnecessary e-communications.” Organizational drag wastes time and saps the energy of the workforce. It is not the fault of the employees that they are not productive. Rather, senior leaders need to remove these common organizational barriers to the employees’ time, talents, and energy.


In the 1970s, an executive received up to 5,000 communications per a year. In the 2010s, executives can expect to receive 50,000 communications per a year. Meeting time has also grown to the point that 15% of the workforce’s time is spent in meetings. Ironically, all of these meetings and communications has increased the number of organizational silos because most of the interactions are informational and take place within departments rather than collaborative and across organizational units. “If all the e-communications and meetings were bunched up at the beginning of the week, [the employee] wouldn’t be able to start other work until late Thursday afternoon.”


I didn’t fully agree with Mankins and Garton on dividing up the workforce into the “difference makers” and the rest of the workforce. Personally, I believe with the proper coaching and development; all employees are capable of being difference makers. However, I do agree that organizations do not think strategically about how they build work teams that take the best advantage of the skills of the employees. Team building is still a lost art to many organizations.


Mankins and Garton suggest a pyramid of employee needs to help increase employee engagement in organizations. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are basic things that companies can do to make employees feel satisfied with their jobs. Once employees are satisfied, organizations can then help employees feel engaged. Once employees are engaged, organizations can then strive to help employees feel inspired. It will take much work to help bring employees from satisfied to inspired so, what is the payoff?

A satisfied employee is 40% more productive than an unsatisfied employee. An engaged employee is 44% is more productive than a satisfied employee. However, an inspired employee is 125% is more productive than a satisfied employee! Imagine, if you have a team of ten satisfied employees. If you could turn each of the team members into inspired employees, you would have the productivity of a team of 25 employees without additional salary costs.

Increasing Organizational Thrust and Reducing Organizational Drag

Mankins and Garton do not use the term “organizational thrust;” I coined it from the aeronautical concepts of drag and thrust. If organizations can better manage the time and talent of their workforce, then organizations will increase the energy of their workforce.  A workforce of merely satisfied employees who become a workforce of 100% inspired employees will produce tremendous organizational thrust. The organizational thrust that increases the number of innovative ideas and the difference makers to implement those ideas.

To measure the organizational drag in your organization, take the diagnostic at www.timetalentenergy.com. What are some ideas that you have in reducing organizational drag and increasing organizational thrust in your agency?

Bill Brantley is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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