As well as being a productivity specialist, I am a professional coach. So why am I blogging about this ? It may sound obvious, as working through a change process can be one of the most demanding activities that staff and leaders get involved with. Coaching is a widely used term, and sometimes misunderstood. It is often confused with consulting and mentoring. Coaching is a clearly defined process of high-end
The Brexit position has become more uncertain and business confidence dropped further, even though the UK is still outperforming other EU nations such as Italy and Germany in terms of growth. This vindicates more than ever the need for a "Lean" approach with businesses more agility in the market place.
In the line of work I do, there is a constant drive for productivity and efficiency. This clearly has its benefits, but it can be a hidden hindrance. As we rush to clear our job lists, key activities and work to have impact with our strategic goals, we have very little time to step back. This may sound obvious, and the principles of effective time management are well established, but what are the unintended consequences of this "hurried" or "rushed" state we create for ourselves? I use the word "ourselves" because even though our plates are filled by others, we have the power to control our environs.
There was a very interesting article in this months HBR by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini titled "The End of Bureaucracy" with an interesting example of how a Chinese company Haier, has adopted a very interesting business model to make it more efficient and agile in the market place. They have adopted the concept of ME (Microenterprises), whereby there are over 4000, each with 10-15 employees that serve the company both internally and externally.
I am always amazed at what improvement potential there is for organisations, even profitable and well established ones. There is a perception that they are well down their "Lean" Journey, and that they have made significant improvements, whether it be through technology or process development. Organisations are rarely as well developed as they think they are, of course this breeds complacency. Maintaining the improvement "hunger" is a real challenge in large companies.
I read an interesting recent article in the Harvard Business Review about highly productive people. It was explaining the typical traits of these. These can range from being able to set stretch goals, showing consistency, maintaining focus, problem solving and may others. In our profession we spend a considerable amount of time working on productive work systems, but less time generally about productive people.
There are numerous definitions of productivity, and a significant proportion of them are related to a company's KPI's in some form or other. If we take manufacturing as an easy example, these can be visualised as kg/hr , £/month or RFT (Right first Time) if we cover the elements of production, sales and quality. All of these have a direct relationship with the bottom line, and the cost of product made. However KPI's are also important in the "transactional" environment such as the administration arm of a company, or in say financial services. Processing documents can be a significant proportion of any process, and errors or tardiness will also negatively effect the bottom line.
This is where an experienced coach/business consultant can help. Ones with significant industry experience in different sectors, can start to build connections on where the losses are.
When we are looking at Productivity, we have a tendency to approach the easy stuff first. There is nothing wrong with getting "Quick Wins" in any Operational Excellence Programme, especially if you are trying to get traction in a new programme, by demonstrating the power of the system. However, there is a danger that we get ourselves into "Tick Box" mode, and we end up working through check lists. This means that we delay tackling the big issues, as we think we are making progress. This is not surprising as humans have what are known as cognitive biases. These are psychological states that can affect our rational thought processes and our ability to look at data objectively. There are many documented biases ranging from 15 to 20 in number. In this particular case we are talking about "Task Completion Bias", which gives us the sense of achievement when we view a 70% or similar complete list. A recent two year study of 90,000 patients in the hospital emergency rooms, showed doctors not necessarily choosing the patients on the basis of the severity of their condition, which should be the primary focus. They were falling into this bias trap (HBR Paper - Task Selection & Workload)