I've been hearing the phrase "in the weeds" a lot lately, an expression I'd never heard before about a month ago but initially took to mean "very detailed"; a half-compliment/half-complaint when applied to a project. A Wikipedia check uncovered the origin of this phrase — it's diner lingo for "a waitress/cook that cannot keep up with the tables or orders."
The expression could be used to describe much of modern life. The constant distraction, for some, of mobile communication is one example. A funny-because-it's-true January "Saturday Night Live" commercial marketed the "Headz Up" app, which alerts the 24/7 jacked-in texter when she is about to be hit by a cab or when his wife is talking. The need to keep up with new technologies that might make work proceed more smoothly or quickly is a job requirement that many business leaders find similarly overwhelming. That's part of our job here at Bank Technology News, to help deliver and filter the new ideas that make sense for banks.
The definition of "in the weeds" could also be applied to one of the perceived shortcomings of chief information officers who fail to forge strong bonds in the c-suite. Instead of setting up a high-performing information technology machine that lets them focus on big-picture issues, they let themselves get bogged down in minutiae, notes Jim Bailey at Accenture. Such hands-on managers need to learn to let go of some of the details and trust others to handle day-to-day decisions, so they can develop vision and strategy.
First Horizon's CIO, Bruce Livesay, has "mini-CIOs" throughout the bank who spearhead projects within each business unit, leaving him free to focus on bigger plans. Fifth Third, too, has IT leaders who partner with business executives to get business-driven projects completed, letting CIO Joe Robinson focus on the broader picture.
What about tech leaders at smaller banks who at times feel overwhelmed but don't have staff to whom they can delegate the day-to-day work? You're not alone. A recent CareerBuilder.com survey found that half of U.S. workers are taking on more work and 37% feel they are doing the work of two people. As a friend said to me recently: "Everyone feels they have too much work to do. Just don't let yourself feel that way." Feeling overburdened with minutiae is a choice. The better choice is to find ways to take care of the day-to-day work more quickly and efficiently, perhaps getting help from quarters or technologies we hadn't thought of before, and look up from the weeds from time to time, freeing mental space for listening to and coming up with ideas and vision.