As a management consultant I’ve been told by dozens of executives that they’re too busy and focused on “running the business” to “grow or improve the business”.
Failure to cordon off the time and resources necessary to attract additional clients or customers, improve our products and services, or develop and bring new products to market can lead to the business demise. If it currently takes every minute of every day and every dollar to run our business, we need to look for opportunities to eliminate or “routinize” the tasks we’re doing and reduce the dollars we’re spending.
Analyzing the time and money we’re spending to run our business provides us with the basic information we need to focus on areas of opportunity.
Opportunities to Consider:
- Rework of any kind. Why was rework required? What did we do differently than what we did previously that worked? How do we ensure we have communicated the importance of this difference? Is there a method of determining we have an issue earlier in the process? When employees are working overtime we need to determine the cause. If it’s due to unexpected issues, we should resolve those issues. If they’re working overtime because we’ve added new business, we need to hire additional people, either on a permanent or temporary basis, and we should do that sooner rather than later. Overtime is not only financially expensive, it’s expensive in terms of the toll it takes on our employees and their personal lives. Worse yet, it can become an “entitlement” when employees become accustomed to the extra money in every paycheck and make financial decisions based upon that additional income.
- Time spent preparing any routine report that exceeds more than an hour. Why did it take longer than an hour? What will be done differently as a result of preparing this report? Who is the audience for the report? What is the benefit of having them spend time reading this report? If we can’t eliminate the need for the report, how can we reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare?
- Meeting or talking with a client to apologize for a late delivery. Why was the delivery late? What change needs to be made to prevent deliveries for being late for this reason?
- Meeting or talking with a client due to an issue with the quality of the product or service that was delivered. Where in the process did the issue occur? How can we build quality into the product or service at this step? If quality defects or customer issues are being discovered after they occur, it’s too late. Trying to inspect quality in is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. We need to find the source of the issue and fix it there.
- “Firefighting” of any kind. Many companies have cultures that reward those who can find a solution to an immediate problem. It goes without saying that putting out the fire and getting back to business is essential. Once that’s accomplished, understanding what was different from what is normal practice is important to prevent it in the future.
- Time spent replacing unexpected employee turnover. If our managers at every level are listening and talking to each employee on regular basis we should know if we’re at risk for losing someone. If someone just isn’t happy and the situation can’t be changed, they can often help find and train their replacement, in exchange for assistance in finding a job that’s a better fit.
- Time spent coaching employees who will never be successful in their current position. If, for whatever reason, we have an employee who will never be able to perform successfully in a position; helping him to find a position to which he’s better suited or allowing him to leave gracefully is the right solution. This should be followed up with an analysis of why we put this person in this position in the first place.
Correct the Issues and Free Up the Resources
When any of these, or other, non-value added activities are occurring, we have to take the time to fix them. This frees up the resources necessary to complete value added activities that will grow our business or improve our products.
Putting in place a Rewards and Recognition System that celebrates reducing and eliminating this type of activities can get an organization engaged in preventing, rather than correcting problems.
Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups. Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.