How To: Eliminate the Hidden Costs Lurking in Your Business
I recently had a meeting with one of our clients, and funnily enough, by the end of it, I was learning significantly more than the other way around. We were seated in a meeting room flanked by large glass windows, and I could see their staff working - very casually - since their managers were sitting with their backs to the glass. With a few pointed questions, I gathered in a pretty short space of time that they had some work to do in terms of closing some gaps that were eating up their revenue. All the while, I was peering behind the executives seated in front of me, watching four or five of their staff members doing some grade-A procrastination while their bosses were occupied.
I made a brief estimation that an organisation riddled with a culture like this was costing them up to $5,000 per week; $20,000 a month; $240,000 annually! Worst of all, it’s so easily avoided, that I felt obliged to write this post.
My organisation produces a lot of free content for everyone- not just our clients. A lot of this content is designed to give you tips and tricks on implementing a quality management system, and explaining some of the misunderstood and under utilised aspects of a QMS. While it might not be obvious to our audience, this content has been purposefully created, quite simply, to save you money! So in this piece, I'm going to offer up some of my advice on how to reduce any wastage in your organisation, make your projects work on-time, keep your staff productive, and keep more money in your organisation’s bottom-line as you move into the future.
The first, perhaps most significant tip I’ve got for you is how to get your projects up and running- on time. It’s a daily occurence that I meet with executives of businesses that have projects running over their allocated time frames. In a lot of ways, this is hard to control, but it can be more effectively managed when you allocate a number to your team. What I mean by this is, if you make it clear that person number one is responsible for this - and accountable if and when that task isn’t met on time - your staff will almost certainly increase their efforts to make sure their end of the project is finished on time. It’s easier as a group to say ‘we didn’t meet this timeline because of X, Y or Z’, but much more difficult to reason when it was due to laziness on your part.
Let me make clear that it’s not about whipping your staff to death, but in business, accountability is key, and one of the clearest signs that an organisation is working effectively. Keep your timeframes realistic, that way when you’re in your strategic planning sessions, you’ll have a better idea of just how time and resource intensive your projects will be, and you can compare this figure with your predicted return on investment of time and money. Too often I see organisations underestimate just how involved certain projects can be, and the desired outcome is only marginally better than what they’d started with. Decisions shouldn’t be made in a hurry, so in these planning sessions, ask as many questions as you can and be realistic about your timeframes.
I’ve worked on efficiency with thousands of processes, in thousands of companies, and guess what- they’ve all had similar problems. They find themselves inefficient, cumbersome, ineffective and clunky. Why? Well, often top management, delegates to their team to set up work methods and processes, when they themselves would have been the best person to take a little more time to analyse and design an efficient process before implementation.
Delegation is something important to consider in this context because of how often I see it presenting itself, and bogging down an organisation’s ability to adapt quickly to market changes, and act upon an action plan. Often, someone in a manager’s position will delegate a task - for a variety of reasons - to someone below them, when in reality, they’re the person that should be doing it themselves. It can be a time waster if you’re asking someone to complete a task they are unfamiliar with; so keep this in mind when you’re tossing up who will do what. ; rather than leave an unskilled team member to figure it out. I encourage you all to keep it simple, because simplicity is what you’re aiming for, and pays dividends.
The most profitable, productive and powerful organisations I've come in contact with all have one thing in common: they go above and beyond in terms of promoting a certain culture in their business. One of the most important takeaways from this piece is to better yourself, and encourage a culture that supports your colleagues to improve their existing skills. This will not only work wonders in terms of keeping a team’s skillset sharp, it will also raise motivation levels from everyone in the organisation. This can be as simple as collecting some educational articles, youtube videos or online courses; i’ll often encourage my staff members to work on this, even in business hours as a sign of my support.
Best Practice, I’ve noticed that the most effective team members - where I get my best return on investment for their wages - are the ones that are on a constant journey of improvement- learning, and developing new skills. Where the cost and wastage resides is in the team members that just turn up each day, and don’t consider improving themselves. They make the same mistakes, with the same inefficiency day in day out. If no one is watching, and the customers aren’t complaining, then these team members might run at 60-70% efficiency- quietly burning 30-40% of their salary each week on under utilization.
To sum this all up, I'll ask you three simple questions.
1. What little projects are blown out on time and budget?
2. Which of your processes need five steps cut out of them?
3. Who is not working on their own self learning and investing in their own career development?
Focus on what matters, what’s important, and what will assist you to effectively manage your risks.