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One-to-Many, or Many-to-One?

When we have a task to do, the most common way to achieve it is to do it ourselves. If something must be delivered or collected, you’ll often see an individual going to each location/person to achieve this. When something must be delivered, it is sent by a single unit to each location. We can see this example in our postal service. You can also see it when paperwork is being handed out by an instructor during a class. This is far from the intention of saying that this is the wrong way to complete these tasks. We’re here to look at when this strategy has a limited effect, and how to capitalize on its inverse.


So, it’s a few years ago, and I’m managing multiple teams across difference areas of a production floor. Each day, I would have to collect specific data from each team leader and then report that data to my superior. This activity was in addition to many other tasks that I would also have to complete within a given shift. As you can imagine, or have already experienced, I would spend a great deal of time just moving from one end of the production area to another while I collected this information. What would make it even worse, when I get to each area, I might still have to hunt for the person to get the needed data. By this time, there were about five areas where data was collected from. I’m sure there are scarier scenarios, but this one will work for the purpose of this demonstration. This is an example of One-to-Many. This is where a single point must travel to different points to achieve a specific task. In some cases, this can be acceptable. For my case, my time was very limited. For me to be successful in this example, there had to be another way.


Running around as One-to-Many, I wasn’t being very effective. Considering the needed information and where it had to come from, the strategy had to be flipped. The energy it took me to collect the information was heavy for a single individual. For the team to just text me their data at scheduled times throughout the day, the effort was lowered and spread across the team. By comparison to my original strategy of One-to-Many, the difference in time and effort was dramatically decreased with use of the Many-to-One method.


With establishing a process that requires the collection or distribution of information or materials, we must consider the investment comparison between what it takes to be gathered by a single source, and what it takes to be delivered from multiple sources. Nowadays, technology can make the Many-to-One method even more efficient such as having your team send you text messages.

Used in action - I had my different team leaders deliver specific information at specific times. This allowed them to simply text information that they were already tracking and allowed myself to spend zero time in gathering that information. This turned out to be a good example of Many-to-One being the more effective choice. When your time is limited, making sure that the action is being performed by the team member with the best available resources. In this case the resource was time. Chasing information when you don’t have the time to do so is a great strategy for failure. The One-to-Many method has its place, but your time is finite and bringing the information/resources to you allows an increase in your own productivity as long as you don’t hinder the others with this added task. Determine what is needed and where it is coming from, and you will find a better way to delegate the delivery process and ultimately better decide between using One-to-Many or Many-to-One.


Thanks for reading.

Rick V.

Sigmasmith

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