I have been reflecting quite a bit recently about this topic, and the potential for further improvements in personal efficiency. Overall company efficiency is the sum of the component parts i.e. the aggregate efficiencies. This is why it is important to stay focused on our personal efficiency. I have blogged about productive people before, but quite often we think we are better than we actually are. One factor is that in the corporate or large company world, we can get sucked into "Other People's Waste". What do I mean by that? Inevitably we have to work in teams , whether that be large or small. Each team member will carry with them their own waste.
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)
Some commentators have said that "Lean" has had it's day, with the majority of western manufacturers, and those in the developing world, having run lean and similar programmes. These programmes show up under other guises such as "Production Systems" and "Operational Excellence". However the fundamentals of these are founded in Lean . Lean has always been about continuous improvement and development.
I stumbled across a great article about Aldi and their continued pursuit of Lean. The article makes it very clear that Lean is not just for manufacturing, and although Lean may have lost some profile over the last few years it still very much has resonance today. Some say that Aldi's current success is down to its models and market positioning. That is true, but how did they get to that position ? Lean thinking and principles which are referenced in the article allow businesses to get to a competitive market position. All too often Lean is just perceived about removing unnecessary waste and cost, but effective Lean drives flexibility, adaptability and agility. These are the key elements that allow businesses to have a strong market position. The article also references how Aldi have engaged their workforce, to increase their Lean bandwidth and achieve even more. Aldi also multi-skill their workforce to allow maximum flexibility, alleviate boredom and improve overall effectiveness. This is exactly what the manufacturing sector have been doing for a couple of decades. With the pressure on the retail sector, and the relentless competition, one may think that the staff remuneration would be low. However, Aldi also pay above the average sector pay. These savings allow Aldi to pay above market rates, and entice the most capable staff. They have an empowered and a motivated workforce to deliver on future improvements, and cost savings. The improvement cycle repeats itself. They will also be taking waste out of the all their administrative processes . A Lean mindset drives the removal of waste everywhere.
I thought that this picture is an excellent illustration of how different operational wastes are "Linked" together. The four key physical wastes in any operating business are "Process", "Energy", "Effluent", and "Transactions". These are not mutually exclusive. If you have process waste, i.e. inefficiencies in making your product, you are likely to be using more energy than you absolutely need, and creating unnecessary effluent in the form of defects or recycles.
There has considerable focus on "Manufacturing" processes in the context of "Lean" & "Waste". When people have time to think, they realise there is real "Waste" in all of the administrative processes. This is sometimes forgotten. If we start to think about some of the huge financial decisions that are taken daily by governments and corporations, these all have complex processes and analytics that sit behind them. The impacts of failures or defects can run into billions.
I recently attended a webinar run by the I.Chem.E. on and the following climate change initiatives post COP22. It finally looks like the engineering institutions are coming together as one, and working with politicians, technologists. This is a critical step in the process as engineers make it happen.