Saturday, November 11, 2017

Navigating "Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time"

I retired from a job in which a small group of us handled many functions including operations, financial functions, and Human Resources.  Being short-staffed and overworked seems to have become the norm rather than the exception.

To navigate through this requires that we prioritize low level and high level functions.  Thinking this way can apply to our lives as a whole, not just work. 

Where I worked, we developed a mindset of Continuous Process Improvement (CPI).  When workloads became overwhelming, I found this mindset to be useful in quieting the chaos.  Chaos is the exact opposite of a CPI environment; it is the enemy of productivity. 

CPI isn’t just a set of standards.  CPI is a way of thinking that can apply at work and in our personal lives. In this post, I will talk about two areas of CPI; Process Development and Paperwork Reduction.

Process Development
It insufficient to only think about processes.  In order to get a good handle on processes, you need to understand the interactions of every process element.  This is where simple process maps can help you get a good helicopter view. 

Start by developing process maps of the existing conditions.  Look for unnecessary waste in the processes with an eye toward reducing redundancy and repetitive work.  Based on this review, develop process maps that will reflect expected conditions.  Be sure that everyone touched by the process is involved in development of it. Here are some examples of deliverable maps of expected conditions;



Now that you have a deliverable process, the next step is to deploy the processes.  Communicate every aspect of the finished product to everyone involved.  Get feedback!  It is important to remember that this process is NOT once and done.  Always think in terms of “finding a better way”.

Paperwork Reduction
Scanning, file sharing, and shredding capabilities are essential to reducing paper.  The initial cost of ramping up such capabilities is a factor that needs to be considered.  Time spent scanning is generally offset by savings in time dealing with and retrieving paper files. 

Office scanning management packages are available, but in small offices, scanning to .pdf and saving to a file server will usually suffice.  This requires file naming and folder management conventions that aid in retrieval of documents.  Another convention to consider is utilizing the recognize text function of Adobe Acrobat.  This allows searching within files, but will increase the size of the files, taking up more space on the server.

Another factor to consider in paperwork reduction is self-shredding vs. a shredding service.  A bin-installed shredding service costs more, but it reduces time spent shredding your own documents.

Final Thought
Continuous Process Improvement is the realization that no system is ever perfect.  It is
easy to forget that externals change constantly, and what worked today may not work tomorrow.  If you are adaptive and open to change, the benefits will become evident.  While all of this seems elemental and simple, it is easy to get overwhelmed and miss the basics.

Paying attention to incremental processes will ultimately make the high-level aspects of work easier to navigate.


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