Focus on efficiency, vital to combat Covid-19 business challenge | Sunday Observer

Focus on efficiency, vital to combat Covid-19 business challenge

While the risk of Covid-19 remains high, with great progress made as a country, you scratch your head and ponder on how to regain the lost momentum and get back on track fully. Full market recovery will take more time than you think. So driving internal efficiency is a must to remain in business for medium to long term growth.

Many companies laid off people and reduced salaries and perks as a quick measure to reduce costs to stay afloat.

It’s high time to look at the efficiency of people you have decided to keep and the business value of each activity you perform.

All organisations do some work that is unnecessary. This work wastes resources that you could use more effectively to add more value.

High value added work is often rewarding and is profitable to the organisation.

What are the activities you have been doing that do not produce the right results in the new normal world with many external factors dramatically changing?

Work practices, tools, policies and even processes that you developed to serve a specific purpose at a given point in time may become less relevant and effective as your operating environment changes. Given enough change, they can actually stop adding value at all, while continuing to drain resources as people continue to “go through the motions” because “we have always done it.”

By eliminating low value activities, you have time to improve the way you do things. Otherwise, day-to-day pressures will prevent you from using your time to think and plan for progress. This happens almost everywhere.

Organisations have habits too

Organisations get into habits just like people. People then defend the habits as though they made sense. The habits probably did make sense once but things have moved on. They result in vast amounts of wasted effort.

“I know it doesn’t make sense but we have always done it this way.” If you ask people to suggest to their manager their ideas for doing things better, they nearly always resist.

The organisation has another habit, which is to discourage staff from expressing their ideas by not being prepared to listen to them.

You can deal with this by deliberately listening to staff and acknowledging their ideas and creativity. You can avoid too much upward delegation by encouraging the staff to carry out their own ideas.

Most people like to feel that their work is useful.

You may find that some of the work you do is unnecessary. If you get information or work from someone else that you do not require, you could tell them so, gently.

It’s probably understandable that when we think of “being better” and “doing more,” our thoughts go first to needing and getting more resources, more capacity — a bigger budget, more staff.

But from our experience, there’s almost always the opportunity, first, to better optimise existing resources by routinely ridding your company’s ‘garage’ of what mattered yesterday, so you can re-focus those resources onto what matters today.

Think of it as doing more with what you’ve already got — to the great benefit of your company’s bottom line.

Re-scan

If people don’t know what happens to their work, then it is hard to make precise judgements about what to do.

If you know that the work you do will determine if a product gets to a customer today, tomorrow or not at all, then this is motivating; you see the fruits of your work.

When you know the context of your work, you can decide what to do and what to drop. You could encourage people to trace their work across the organisation.

The assumptions that people make, strongly influence the work they do. Most managers in the organisation may have a common assumption. For example, they may have the assumption that you cannot influence a tedious and bureaucratic system that is imposed on the organisation from outside.

The work reduction caused by a small change might be very large. If you simply accept the assumption without rigorously testing it, then the unnecessary work will continue indefinitely. People make assumptions too. Someone might assume that he or she has to go on doing the work in a particular way. “We have always done it like this. My manager wouldn’t agree to any shortcuts so there is no point in asking him.”

Assumptions are a cultural issue. Individual managers could encourage their staff to question assumptions by asking for and listening to their radical ideas. “If this was your section or department or organisation, what would you have us do differently?” You could make improvements in the way you and your team work routinely. This is part of the job of all managers.

Lean

When people find the culture of their organisation too critical, they work defensively to avoid people criticising them or catching them out. They may even make work they do appear to be useful. If organisations are too ‘lean’ there is no time to review the effectiveness of systems and improve or eliminate them.

Paradoxically, the leanness of resources causes wasted effort. Effective organisations need some slack to allow time to improve. Managers, who are under stress and time pressure, find it very difficult to listen to ideas on how the organisation could do things better.

They may find it hard to hear anything from their staff. This will block the flow of creative ideas from their staff. Then improvements to the way you do things get lost.

The old patterns remain and you do unnecessary work. The ideal organisation would feel safe enough for people to talk openly about their mistakes without fear of reprisals. Managers and others would work together to learn from the mistake so that it was less likely to happen again in the future.

Those who made no mistakes might, depending on their jobs, not be taking enough risks.

So do away with bad business habits and bad habits of people which might give you more savings and business value than simply laying off people. Using your head (strategy) more than your body (action) at this time is paramount.

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