Time Management Expert, Event Speaker: Mark Lamendola

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Productivity Knowledge Base: Beware Quick Fixes

Managers are often tempted to throw money at productivity problems, rather than invest in real solutions. They are also tempted to jump into a "solution" they heard about at a seminar or golf game, without analyzing it thoroughly first. Either approach can actually make things worse. Let's look at a couple of examples, then talk about the right approach.

Example one

Ron, the president of a small and growing firm realized his accounting group could not keep up with the rapid growth. This group consisted of two book keepers, one person who administered payroll and accounts payable, one person who administered invoicing and accounts receivable, and a hands-on unit manager. None of these people had formal training in accounting.

After hearing countless complaints about working late nights and weekends, Ron decided to install an accounting system. Unfortunately, this simply automated the inefficient accounting processes already being used. Consequently, problems appeared more often and required even more hours to resolve. On top of that, the system was very expensive and took four weeks to install. This installation at staff time like termites on wet wood.

Example two

Dave was an operations manager with P&L responsibilities for an electrical contracting firm. The firm had three such managers, each with their own staffing and area of specialty--forming three arms of the company: telecom, industrial maintenance, and industrial construction. They shared some common resources, such as administrative and back office support.

Dave was concerned about shrinking margins, and decided productivity improvement would bring those margins back up. So far, so good. Dave instituted a Best Practices program. Unfortunately, the program took a cookie cutter approach. If someone submitted an idea as a Best Practice idea and the Best Practices Committee agreed it was a Best Practice, then that approach became mandatory for any task of that nature.

Those on the committee were managers--people not actually doing the work. When someone from the telecom arm of the company got an idea into Best Practices, that dictated policy in the industrial maintenance and industrial construction arms. But, those three areas operate under different rules and serve different customers with different standards and different expectations.

Callbacks started increasing, and complaints of confusion in the field soared. Productivity plummeted, due to a combination of work stoppages and rework.

Replacing quick fixes with real solutions

You must do some things before adding a productivity fix. Otherwise, you are likely to go backwards. Here's a brief overview--for a more developed approach, consider one of our productivity seminars.

  1. Define the problem. What is causing productivity to suffer? Be as specific as possible, looking for root causes.
  2. Characterize all causes. For example, determine if they are cultural, educational, tool-related, deficit of technology related, procedural, organizational, communication-related, managerial, and so on.
  3. Look for a solution to fit the problem, not a problem to fit a solution.
  4. Test. If you can deploy a solution on a trial basis, or small scale first, that is usually the best way to go.
  5. Work with the team. Don't shove a fix down the throats of your workers, unless you want it to fail.
  6. Monitor and adjust. Productivity improvements that would otherwise be great successes can fail due to a minor problem that proper monitoring will catch. Go in with eyes open, mouth shut, and ears on full alert--in other words, don't listen only to what you want to hear or see only what you want to see. You can improve only that which you can accurately measure.

Do you want to radically improve how well people in your organization make use of the limited number of hours in each work day?

Contact me to arrange a time when we can talk about a presentation: mark@mindconnection.com. Why arrange a time? So I can give you full attention during the call. There's a really powerful time management tip. Ask me why it works.