Efficiency should be the goal for every project manager and their team, but the reasons behind its importance aren’t always clear. If you are in a team or manage one, the benefits are clear: you either save resources and lower costs for performing tasks, or you manage to do more with a limited budget. In the best-case scenario, you can manage to do both.

What’s often harder to see, however, are the ways in which corporate culture can slip from a place of innovation and collaboration to inefficient, isolated, and often counter-productive practices. These practices can be detrimental to both the bottom line and staff morale, and if left unattended, they can stack up.

Every business will need to take stock of the symptoms behind an inefficient culture and ask itself one important question: are you too comfortable to change? Let’s look at two of the biggest symptoms of an inefficient culture.

1. Late projects

One of the biggest red flags of an inefficient culture is late projects. When ego is involved, it might be tempting to see late projects as purely insubordination and laziness. While these can be reasons behind missed deadlines, there are other factors that would benefit you to consider.

Larger projects often have multiple phases, each with its own set of steps, checks, and collaborations. At any point in the process of completing these tasks, there can be bottlenecking that grinds things down to a halt. Poor communication within a department, slow responses, and a general lack of support from management are all forms of bottlenecking.

The trouble is that they’re not always visible and often rely on employees raising these issues, which can put them in the uncomfortable position of being viewed as disruptive and excusatory. To effectively combat this, businesses should create environments where staff can safely point to bottlenecking issues in the interest of solving them rather than personalising the issue.

Assistance from above goes a long way to mitigating many of the unseen problems behind late projects. It also encourages staff to be proactive in finding a solution and prevents one of the biggest productivity killers — survival mode.

2. A culture of pressure

When employees feel a constant pressure to perform tasks and meet deadlines in less-than-optimal conditions, a threat of burnout begins to form. To ward against this, staff members will often retreat into doing the minimum required to get the job done in an effort to manage energy and stress levels.

This energy management is often down to a lack of streamlining processes, a need to complete complex tasks on insubstantial resources, or the fear of losing one’s job if one cannot move mountains daily. This culture of pressure tends to only have two outcomes: burnout or job loss. It’s unsustainable and something workers should be protected from rather than expected to manage on their own.

Work is often accomplished according to a hierarchy of needs. Once people feel secure in their positions and the support they receive, they can dedicate more time and energy to actual innovation and things that show their capability.

In order to get there, however, there needs to be a strategy in place that incentivises going above and beyond. More importantly, this strategy should focus on creating vertical and horizontal support models that help workers fulfill requirements competently, efficiently, and on time.