MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
May 2012
The Efficient Organization

Mr. Roboto


"I'm not a robot without emotions

I'm not what you see

I've come to help you

With your problems, so we can be free...


"Domo, Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Domo, Domo

Domo, Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Domo, Domo..." (STYX)


Human "robots" can be found in many "un-Lean" organizations where employees are not utilized to their fullest potential.  If your organization has underutilized employees, the organization structure and values may be to blame. You may say, "So what, at least they've got a job." Not so. There's a huge impact on the organization's processes and customer value if underutilized people remain underutilized. This is demonstrated succinctly in a study by Barry Schwartz (TED talk on Practical Wisdom).


Schwartz interviewed hospital janitors about the challenges of their jobs. They all stated that their biggest problems dealt with other people. As part of his analysis and getting to the root of the problem, Schwartz checked the janitors' job descriptions and found that the job descriptions did not list any responsibilities relating to interacting with other people. The organization did not consider, for example, that good janitors would know not to vacuum the floor when patients were napping, or not to mop the floor when a patient is walking the hallways to restore their strength. Being a janitor involves interactions that require kindness, care, and empathic thought that were not listed in the job description. The janitors, by all accounts, were treated as robots and very underutilized. This shows up clearly in this particular organization's culture.


On average, research shows that 20% of employees are underutilized and could be handling higher level roles. But how do you know which of your employees could be assigned to more challenging or different tasks to keep them happy and humming at work, while at the same time providing you and your organization with ideas to improve processes and add value to your bottom line? According to Michelle May Carter, one or more of the following common behaviours may manifest in underutilized employees:


  • Does not respect your authority and tries to tell you how to do your work
  • Anticipates what you are going to say and has ready answers
  • Works on tasks other than what you have assigned or does the work assigned and creates more work (e.g., improves and expands on existing practices, policies, products or services)
  • Gets work done more quickly than peers and/or more quickly than you expect
  • Complains about being bored, despite having work to do
  • Delivers mediocre products, despite capability
  • Complains about how things should be or asks complex questions that you can't answer
  • Appears different; peers consider employee to be arrogant or impatient
  • May often be found coaching peers
  • Exploits the system through loopholes and constantly bends the rules to get things done


If you recognize any of the above behaviours in your employees, it may be time to offer them more challenging work; perhaps even re-write their job description. Treat your staff as you would like to be treated and involve them in process improvements. If you don't, not only are you missing out on huge creative potential, but your organization is suffering in loss of customer value.  

Pursuit of Profit
Progression Diagram


Mapping: Show Me, Don't Tell Me


Did you know that only about 20% of activities typically cause 80% of delays in any process? These delays are directly attributable to waste in the process. It stands to reason, then, that the only way to speed up process is to remove anything that is slowing it down. And to do that, you need to slow down first to examine the process to find its defects. Start with process mapping.


Use mapping to collect data about a process including its cycle time (how long it takes to complete the process), variation between lead time and process speed (how long it takes you to deliver your service or product to the customer), and complexity of the process (how many redundant steps are present, how many non-redundant steps add no value to the end product). Lay out all the steps so that you can visualize the process at a glance (use sticky notes to depict process steps, and place them in sequence on a large wall - you'll probably be amazed at what you discover!). Once you've found the waste, start eliminating it in order to start gaining more time for your staff and more value for your customers. Sound easy? It is unless you get pushback, such as:


"We've always done it this way."


"There's nothing wrong with this process, it's the people who are the problem."


"This is the way work is done around here, so no sense in rocking the boat."


When organizations get caught up in complex processes, it is difficult to change. But the difficulty isn't so much in changing the process itself; it is changing the habits of the people who are managing the process. In my experience, you cannot change people. Nor can you teach people how to change. You can encourage by appealing to their personal reasons for change ("WII-FM" - what's in it for me), but the final enthusiasm for change lies with the persons themselves. As a manager, all you can do is your best to explain, to engage, to demonstrate, and to communicate.


Unfortunately, getting stuck with the wrong way of doing things can cost your company a lot of money, so you need to demonstrate to your staff that the "new way" really is the best way. Starting with a large visual map of what needs to be changed serves as a great motivator for those willing to see the big picture. If they don't see it in large print, they won't see it in small print, either.

In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

When was the last time you paused to evaluate your workload? Do you know what you're doing? Do you know why you're doing things the way you're doing them? Are you run off your feet most days by the end of the day? If you're not using your creativity most days while at work, then you're not contributing your best to your organization and you're probably not working efficiently. The savings that can be had from changing even just one process in your workload may mean the difference between getting a raise or getting laid off. Why not pause for the raise? IMHO.


"A sense of value of time - that is, of the best way to divide one's time into one's various activities - is an essential preliminary to efficient work; it is the only method of avoiding hurry."

Arnold Bennett

About MNC Consulting Group
Our goal is to help you to dramatically increase efficiencies that immediately boost your profit margins.


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Extreme Profits is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing how leaders can be more efficient and areas where organizations can save more money. 


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In This Issue
The Efficient Organization
Pursuit of Profit
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
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