Monday, May 7, 2012

Effective Waste Management: Curb the Ego's and Meetings!

It amazes me how much time and money companies and organizations can simply throw away to satisfy various egos.  There are so many examples to pull from:

 -          Executives having outrageous demands and systems just to see information "their way."  There are companies out there that will take information from a system of record, massage it in a variety of tools to present to the executive team.  The executive team will question the data or make adjustments and then another team will adjust the data in the system of record.  When asked why not just look at the system of record, the answer is, "The executives just like to see it in Excel."

-          Organizations hire industry leading experts to improve processes.  They bring in the organizations because they did not have the expertise on the team to perform the functions.  Then they allow the internal team that feels that they are experts to subject the known experts to micro-management and questioning of every technique.

-          Executives that have had project failures in the past create so many processes and checkpoints that the resulting workflow is so chaotic and time-consuming as well as a perceived lack of value. 

Most of these items have to do with ego.  The ability to be right or to prove someone wrong can create countless hours of waste and cost to an organization.  Yet, this cost often goes unchecked.  As a consultant, there is always a tremendous amount of "low hanging fruit" that can be found in companies plagued by pointless process.  Most of the workers within the process will be the first to complain or question the value… other people.  So what can we do and how can you curb this behavior? 

The first item is to create a system of measurement.  While time tracking is done in many companies, the value of the information sometimes does not match the effort.  Find a way within the current time tracking activities or if there is not time-tracking today, start by tracking your time.  At the end of each activity, record your time with a note or marker as to whether or not there was any value to the activity.  For instance, if you go to a team meeting and the meeting was an hour long to provide information to you that is beneficial, then that was a valuable activity.  If you went to a meeting about a project where two people argued about the same things over and over and no resolution was found in the meeting, mark that as a non-value add activity.  Run this time tracking for about a month and start to look at the amount of time in the non-value add category.  What is the data saying to you?  What can be done with the data?  After just a few weeks, you will begin to see where the time wasted activities are.  Now begin to classify those.  How many of those can be categorized into areas such as ego, mistrust, or pointless meetings?  You will be absolutely surprised at the outcome! 

When you are faced with a process or an individual that is a constant source of ego and waste, find a way to measure those interactions.  How many e-mails, communications, or documents are required?  When these documents or communications are negative towards them, what do they do?  All of these data points are key to understanding and navigating the political minefield of ego.  The collection of these statistics may point you to stay away from certain topics or may teach you a way to communicate effectively.  Whatever the case may be, finding the data point to measure and then studying the outcome will point you to the path of resolution.

I am interested in hearing from you on this topic.  Do you see waste and cost simply due to ego?  What do you think can be done?

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