In years past, companies had abundant resources at their disposal. In fact, everyone seemed to have time and money to burn. Times have changed. WOW, have they changed. The emphasis on speed permeates every aspect of the world we live in. It’s a race against time.
In fact, in many cases, time has become more than a scarce resource; it has become a competitive weapon. Although you cannot increase time, it can be better and more effectively utilized. Today, when the efficient use of time often determines success, we must examine how organizations are run, rethink management practices, and challenge the way we allocate time.
Are You Running Out of Time?
Bloated bureaucracies. Bloated bureaucracies stifle creativity, suppress ingenuity, slow down responsiveness, and crush aspirations. They put paperwork before people and create a thirst for power, leading to personal ambition over team gains.
In organizations that are heavily bureaucratic, procedures are designed to meet internal requirements rather than the needs of the customer; politics — who said what to whom, who is gaining power, and who gets the credit, who the blame — overshadows everything, from customers’ needs, to inroads made by the competition, to overall organizational performance. When promotions are earned through political savvy rather than performance, people choose the political solution rather than the best answer; the “show” becomes more important than content; and rumor becomes the primary form of communication. The result is an organization that focuses inward, losing touch with reality.
Red tape. When people spend all their time on paperwork and reports, reviewing work with superiors, or getting multiple approvals before action can be taken, important activities that make the organization more competitive are put on the back burner. As a result, the organization’s ability to respond quickly suffers.
Rules and procedures. Problems arise when procedures and policies fail to provide value. Often, procedures once designed to expedite special tasks become ingrained in the company’s operations, remaining in place long after they are needed. In fact, we continually add new procedures but seldom eliminate old ones. The reason we do this is simple: People are rewarded for new programs, not for eliminating old ones, even when they are no longer required or have become burdensome.
Internal politics. How much time is wasted due to internal politics or frittered away by grandstanding during meetings? How much time is wasted kissing up to the boss or covering your behind? How much time is wasted trying to look busy or justifying yesterday’s actions?
Territorial fiefdoms. When organizations create independent groups or silos that separate one group from the rest of the organization, it often leads to inefficiency. Sometimes it results in misunderstandings or lack of communication. Other times it results in destructive competition.
Working at cross-purposes. Waste occurs when one part of the organization work at cross-purposes with another, each pursuing independent goals irrespective of how they impact others. How does this impact the race against time?
Measuring quantity over quality. Measuring ideas by their complexity rather than their merit is extremely inefficient. And yet, all too often, the more convoluted reports are, the more profound they are considered to be. Recommendations are often measured by their bulk rather than by the soundness of their ideas.
Too many meetings. According to an article in Business Week, the average senior executive spends four hours a day in meetings.” How many of them are necessary? Managers should ask themselves how much time is wasted when meetings are called at the last minute, requiring everyone to drop what they’re doing or reschedule planned events. How much time is wasted when meetings lack an agenda beforehand, when meetings drift into irrelevant discussions, or when meetings are allowed to drag on endlessly? Another way that meetings waste time is by the amount of preparation that goes into them. In some organizations, there’s more emphasis on the “show” than on the content. When that happens, a huge amount of time is spent preparing materials, rehearsing, and revising presentations for an internal audience.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Things don’t move faster simply because you demand them to be done faster. Organizational efficiency requires exposing and then eliminating the nonessential activities that delay or interrupt processes. There are six ways to improve a business process: The first method is to eliminate the task altogether. The second is work simplification, the elimination of all the nonproductive elements of a task. The third is to combine tasks. The fourth is to change the sequence to improve speed. The fifth is to simplify the activity, and the sixth and last is to do things simultaneously. So, start today. It’s a race against time.