Remove Complexity to be Productive

There are many roads to productivity, but the best way I know how to become more productive is by eliminating complexity from personal and business processes. And the way to eliminate complexity is to identify areas in your personal and/or business processes that are costing the most and/or are creating the most customer dissatisfaction in the shortest period of time. Let me give you an example relating to a business process that is also impacting personal process.

I recently worked with a client to assist him with developing better personal practices to enable him to be more productive. The biggest problem he was experiencing was not getting his work done on time. His employer felt that he was taking too long to produce finished product. That said, some tasks he was performing were costing the organization a lot of money in terms of his salary compared to the length of time he was taking to finish the task. And, also, as a result of his taking too long to finish tasks, his customers (bosses and co-workers) were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his performance. Now it would be easy to say that my client should just use better time management skills and focus on performing these important tasks and the problem would be solved. But it’s not so clear cut.

You see, upon analysis, it was discovered that my client was indeed using good time management skills and working diligently at important tasks, but the tasks themselves were suspect. In one instance, the task required several repetitive steps including review and feedback from others. This back-and-forth prevented my client from completing what otherwise could have been a simple task.

One particular task involving a simple spreadsheet was implemented years ago and it steadily grew in complexity with new rules and new decision makers added along the way. You guessed it. Each time new rules and decision points were added, complexity increased and the amount of work went up. This undermined my client’s productivity while increasing the costs of delivering the completed task. In this instance, instead of adding new and more rules to an existing process, the entire process should have been re-evaluated and simplified. This would have saved time and money as well as customer (and client) angst.

You can see from this example that helping clients become more productive is not necessarily about the clients’ work habits, but it could be related to organizational systems and processes that have become complex over time. To remedy the situation, I suggest conducting a diagnosis to identify the causes of the symptoms (i.e., the “problems”). Then develop an action plan and implement the action items to remove complexity.

In any organization, a modest estimate is that 40 to 60 percent of activities and costs associated with services and processes do not add value to either the services or processes, and do very little to satisfy the customer. By eliminating complexity, an organization can realize large productivity improvements in a just a few short months.