Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Practical Productivity

As the year winds down and a new one looms, it is time to relook your organizational processes to be more efficient and productive.

From the early days of human history, success has been equated to a certain ability to simplify complex tasks into smaller and easily accomplished components to facilitate performance.

According to Mark Twain, “the secret of getting ahead is to get started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex and overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”

However, most people manage tasks in an ad hoc manner, relying on impulse or intuition. This is evident from slogans that are commonly bandied about, such as:

- Focus and consistency
- Positive work attitude
- Foresight and insight
- Supportive environment
- Passion and determination
- Proactive hands-on approach
- Coordination
- Teamwork and a bottom-up approach
- Adapting to changing environments
- Creativity and entrepreneurship
- Leveraging on strengths and avoidance of weakness

Practical Productivity

Notwithstanding the obvious wisdom of such advice, these are nevertheless abstract attributes. Operational manuals, standard operating procedures, policies and decisions are often adopted because they look good rather than because they are effective.

The prevalence of an intuitive management approach may be attributed to the common habit of equating success to individual efficiency.

But, if you look around, you will come across many objectively-defined work processes that are taking over traditional tasks with increased efficiency and productivity, such as online banking, real-time ticketing, automations, telecommunications, computerized management and accounting applications and so on.

Enterprise activities may similarly be carried out in established small steps such as study of ideas, enquiry, securing contracts and contract administration (operations).

Studying of ideas may be carried out through forms for every staff member to submit his problem-solving ideas. This method also encourages mass participation.

Making enquiries can be performed using a quotation or tender form. This can facilitate the process of identifying and seeking after opportunities.

The third step, securing contracts, will result in proper evaluation and acting on opportunities by calculated risk.

Finally, contracts can be laid out in parameter-defined functional departments such as human resource, revenue, accounts, marketing, services (for all outsourced activities), facility, enforcement, production, compliance and a general category. This is to facilitate consistent and focused performance.

A typical department report may be set up to oversee operational tasks as follows:

  • Identify three or four core activities for consistent and focused performance
  • Assign two to three quality-time-cost parameters to make each core activity easy
  • Perform core activities according to time-schedules and parameters set up
  • Inspect or oversee performance in time-schedule and parameters
  • Assess and provide quantified feedback on performance. You may want to rank them by percentages, with scales representing non-attainment, attainment and excellent attainment of parameters
  • Submit all non-attainment performance areas in department reports with corrective actions

With these measures, a business can oversee overall tasks without hassle and regulate quality and standards in sequential work processes which are laid out in work forms and integrated to departmental parameters.

Having work processes defined and logged in a report enables personnel to engage in two-way interaction. It will also encourage mass participation and knowledge application.

This allows the company to have more control of its overall activities. It can practice total management and attain organization efficiency as all requests, complaints and problems are input properly and processed holistically in self-regulated processes.

It is much more efficient and productive to process input tasks in department reports, application forms, work orders, quotations, salary, contracts, budget control and so on.

Inter-departmental activities are coordinated through a one-stop standard clearance form. Thus saving on manpower.

Such a total management style enables management to forge consensus with a sense of fair play. It also offers a practical means to ameliorate or resolve disputes, differences in opinion and hidden agenda.

The breakdown and malfunctioning of essential services can be avoided or minimized with hands-on time-scheduled corrective actions.

Inaction or tolerance of intuitive management habits exact a heavy toll on human capital in the form of wasted resources, office politics, fire-fighting or fault-finding.

Start managing your tasks with processes laid out in objective steps. Be an asset to your organization and make a difference in your workplace.

Article contributed by Robert The Kok Hua, who is author of Objective-Steps Processing Management System. Email:


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