Et Cetera

Many organizational systems have a “miscellaneous” compartment. Whether it’s your workshop in your garage or the org chart of a company, occasionally inputs or tools don’t fit neatly into the broader categories you’ve created. Rather than create dozens of smaller categories, each with only one entry, we create some catch-all. A “miscellaneous” drawer for all the odds and ends, that sort of thing.

There’s nothing wrong with that, on the surface. But you have to occasionally step back and ask a simple question: is my miscellaneous category several times larger than most of my other boxes?

If so, you’ve got a problem. I’ve seen it plenty of times: imagine a toolbox with one drawer for “hammers,” one drawer for “wrenches,” and one drawer for “everything else.” That last drawer is not only going to be much bigger than the rest, but it’s also going to be pretty shoddy as an organizational tool! If you have a tool drawer with hundreds of gadgets, widgets, sprockets, and sockets – it’s time to organize a little deeper, don’t you think?

The same thing tends to happen in organizations. One person or department is put in charge of sales. Another person or department is put in charge of IT. And then some person or department gets put in charge of “everything else.”

They don’t call it “VP of the Miscellaneous Department,” of course. But that’s what it is. Whether it’s something like “operations” being used as this catch-all term for WAY too much stuff, or an “administrative assistant” doing a thousand different jobs, this is the workforce equivalent of dumping all the extra tools in one drawer.

Having no space for the et cetera is bad; it results in either things just not getting done if they don’t fit into the proscribed existing boxes or the creation of endless pointless categories for single incidents. But no department or role is more at risk from scope creep than the miscellaneous department, whatever it’s labeled. You can absolutely drown in et cetera.

So, audit your et cetera. If 60% of the objects in the “miscellaneous” drawer are screwdrivers, then make a screwdriver drawer. If your administrative assistant is spending 75% percent of their time correcting errors on timesheets, then make a dedicated position for that – both to do it, and to improve the process. I’d give some more examples, but you get it.

Et cetera.

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