Upgrade Productivity

You review your personal technology devices – cell phone, computer, tablet, laptop – every year or two. Your company (hopefully) reviews technology platforms and equipment every two to five years. So why are your internal processes the same ones that have been in place since… well… ┬ádo you even know when they were established? The gains to be had in productivity are no less substantial than the advances we’ve seen in technology. The changes that are put in place are usually reactive in nature and necessary to keep up with growth. At some point it’s going to be time to step back and evaluate how work is done from start to finish.

Let’s look at this from a different angle

We all want to see results faster, attain information that has already been compiled, be given enough data to make informed decisions, and believe in leprechauns. The first three might actually be possible, but first you’re going to have to step back and look at how business is being done. You’ve been keeping up with the growth and hiring people to help maintain the increased data flow, but you never really feel like you have the entire picture in front of you. Instead of focusing on the specific tasks being done every day, let’s step back and look at daily operations from a data flow standpoint.

Data flow and how it relates to productivity

Chances are, when you established the way business is done you were probably not operating with all of the data input and management systems you are today. Rather than review the processes and activities based on the new information, you have probably taken one of two courses of action. You either slightly altered the tasks to conform to the new system, or worse, you started operating the new system based on the way tasks are performed.

The impact of system and data flow changes may appear to be minor at first glance, but failure to review how business is done based on the new information will result in lost opportunities for improvement. There are typically good reasons a new system is chosen over an existing one, The problem is that few of those improvements and advances are ever taken advantage of, simply because to do so would mean changing how work is done in your organization. What features and improvements are you missing out on? The gains to be had can be significant. Are there features that could remove certain tasks altogether? Are there opportunities for linking the information from multiple systems together so you can actually have all of the information in front of you?

Steps to improvement

Evaluate the information sources

What data is utilized in your organization? Is there overlap between departments? Are individuals manually compiling information for either reporting purposes or for entry into other systems? Who is accessing the information, and how often? These are all questions that must be answered prior to moving forward. If you don’t know where the data is used throughout the organization, you can’t make decisions on how to improve productivity.

Evaluate the data consumption

How are people using the information? Is your management team relying on the information for important decisions? Do they have all the information necessary to make those decisions? How is the data gathered and entered? Are people feeding systems, or are systems feeding systems? Once identified, the consumption patterns in your organization are going to give you a good high-level picture of where your bottlenecks are, where redundant work is being done, and specific pain points to focus on in your productivity improvement efforts.

Clearly identify next steps

Having the information in front of you is a critical first step. A mistake typically made at this point is to do nothing with the information. Many times the next step seems daunting, and knowing where to begin is difficult. My suggestion is to start with something small that will have a clear and identifiable impact. Maybe an employee is manually creating reports for managers, and spending an inordinate amount of time doing so. Automating that task, or as much of it as possible, is a good first step. A measurable improvement will help build momentum in moving to the next area of pain. Also, empowering your employeesto be part of the process and make suggestions as to how to improve the information flow and daily tasks can result in significant improvements and a renewed energy in the organization.

The main thing is to do something. Standing still, especially when you have all the information in front of you, can result in lost opportunity and unrealized growth and prosperity.