Busy work is the antithesis of extraordinary results.
According to Ron Wince, an expert in continuous improvement, “Forty-five to fifty percent of what a company does is a waste. These are systems that do not bring value to customers, nor do they drive revenue or cut costs.”
Said more succinctly, 45% to 50% of an organization is busy work. If this is the average, your opportunity is immense.
“The most successful people are the most productive people,” says Gary Keller, author of The One Thing. “Productive people get more done, achieve better results, and earn far more in their hours than the rest.”
How can you invest your time more strategically to achieve your personal and business goals?
What’s your One Thing?
Time is one of the biggest obstacles of success. You can’t manufacture it, but you can squander it.
In October I hired a salesperson, Melissa, to help me grow my speaking business. A few weeks into her role it became evident to me that the biggest obstacle to Melissa’s success was time. Busy work such as data entry, internet research, and weak or undefined processes were hampering her performance.
As a manager I take responsibility for the success of an employee. I expect each person to perform, but I have to create the conditions for success:
- Clearly defined expectations
- Effective tools and training
- Coaching and management oversight
Instead of getting into an exhaustive study of our sales process, I took a page from the book, The One Thing. I asked, “What’s the one thing my salesperson needs to do?”
It’s a powerful question, because it forces you to get to the heart of the issue. You don’t need to optimize the 45% to 50% of systems that are busy work. You just have to optimize, elevate, or clear space for the strategic people on your team do their one thing.
Return on Activity
Look at your work through a return on activity lens.
Keller argues, “If money is a metaphor for producing results, then it’s clear — a time-managing system’s success can be judged by the productivity it produces.”
When you look at the work your team is doing through the money lens it brings everything into perspective:
- What activities deliver the most profit?
- What activities deliver no return, but are necessary for the high value activities to be performed?
- What activities are costing you money?
When I applied this lens to my business it lit a fire under my ass:
- We’re streamlining our CRM and reporting systems.
- We’re implementing a marketing automation system.
- We’re challenging everything.
Evaluating activities through a money lens also makes it easier to make strategic investments.
As a small business owner I can be parsimonious. (It’s my favorite word. It means cheap to the point of miserly.) But quantifying time with a money metric makes it easier to invest in software and systems that will have a lasting impact on the business.
Cull the Busy Work
The successful continually cull the busy work, and prioritize the activities that deliver the highest return on activity.
Apply the test to yourself and your business:
- What’s the one thing you do that delivers the most value to your company?
- What’s the one thing your employees need to do above anything else?
- What’s the one thing your company does that differentiates it from the competition?
Find your one thing and give it the space it needs to blossom. When you value your time as a money metric you can cull that 45% to 50% of waste that lingers in every company.