A little bit of housekeeping

LIKE the classic movie Ground Hog Day, many employees exper-ience work as one recurring night-mare after another – same old stuff, just a different day. And recurrent mistakes and problems eat up more than 40 per cent of your people’s time and effort – time better spent proactively selling and servicing customers – not to mention what it does to morale. Like water on a rock, these ongoing hassles eventually wear you and your people down. As you prepare for summer, it’s time to clean your company’s proverbial hallway closets and garages. It’s time to find everyone an extra four to eight hours of productive time each week as a way to ease the burden of upcoming summer vacations and staff shortages. It’s time to ‘dehassle’ the organisation. Hassle logs Nothing works better and faster than giving every employee a piece of paper and asking them over the next two weeks to note every time they: spend a minute or more doing something that shouldn’t have to be done; should have been done right the first time; is too hard to do; and/or is generally a frustration in doing their job. And have them pay special attention to situations that also hassle customers, including recurring questions, concerns, issues, and problems. The first time I saw this executed there were 1,784 instances logged by just 200 employees. And this company was considered to be one of the best-performing companies in their industry. Items included the perennial favorite “we need a bigger rubbish bin in the women’s restroom” to hundreds that pointed to some challenges with a specific order entry system (it’s not unusual to see a number of hassles related to the IT systems of the company). One at a time The first step is to pick a few easy issues you can resolve immediately, like the rubbish bin issue. Another classic group of hassles revolves around a poorly designed form. One recent client had inadvertently left off a place for customers to put their email address on an order form, not allowing them to email a confirmation of the order. This, in turn, resulted in a rash of calls to the staff that didn’t need to occur. Obviously, this was an easy fix, but no-one had had the time to stop and consider the problem – everyone was too busy answering calls! It’s also important to pick a couple big issues and let the staff know a team will be assigned to resolve each issue. This same client with the form problem also identified a significant production scheduling issue that was creating a huge ripple effect of hassles throughout the organisation. The executive team assigned a team of four to revise the process within a week. Summarising away In the process of fixing these problems, it’s critical that you publish the entire list for everyone to see – in its raw form. Resist the temptation to group the hassles into common categories and only publish the summary of those categories. Your people are going to be looking to see if their own specific hassles are on the list and they don’t want to feel like they have been summarised away. The only exception to publishing all the hassles is if any represent a direct attack on an individual. These need to be culled from the list and handled privately. You also need to emphasise that all the hassles can’t be addressed immediately. Explain how you arrived at a prioritisation of the list and share openly the criteria you used. One company was short of cash and needed to focus on those hassles that didn’t require a great deal of money to fix. Another firm needed to focus on those hassles impeding sales activity. Whatever your criteria, make it’s transparent to your employees. Easing the burden The first reaction from many executives when this process is suggested is that they don’t need another ‘to do’ list of activities – that there is already too much on their plate. And great leaders know its better not to start something than to go at it half-heartedly. Nothing will kill this process and create ill feelings faster than to fail on executing fixes to the various problems. It’s a quick way to turn enthusiasm into cynicism. The key is to identify a core group of middle managers or supervisors willing to form a team to administer this process. There’s no better training you could give your up-and-coming leaders within the firm than gathering, learning, and working through the solutions to these hassles. Besides, they are one layer closer to the problems and should have better data and insight into the solutions. Assign one top executive to champion the process and to provide a link between the middle management team and the senior leadership. Finding time The time and frustration saved by eliminating hassles is enormous. And it’s a process you can do a couple of times a year to keep the organisation running smoothly. More importantly, dehassling the company on a regular basis is a better alternative than simply throwing people at the mountain of work created by these hassles. Clean house and make everyone’s day a little better. •Verne Harnish was named one of the Top 10 Minds in Small Business by Fortune Small Business. In a one-day seminar on Friday March 2 2007, Verne Harnish will provide those attending the WA Business News seminar practical tools fast-growing companies can use to create focus, alignment, better communication and a winning strategy.

Add your comment

BNIQ sponsored byECU School of Business and Law


6th-Australian Institute of Management WA20,000
7th-Murdoch University16,584
8th-South Regional TAFE10,549
9th-Central Regional TAFE10,000
10th-The University of Notre Dame Australia6,708
47 tertiary education & training providers ranked by total number of students in WA

Number of Employees

BNiQ Disclaimer