I am too busy (to improve!)

Hold on for a bit as this post is a combination of a few recent posts.  

Why am I doing this? Mainly because the message needs to be constantly reinforced about how crazy, short sighted this statement “I am too Busy” is in relation to continuous improvement in a business.

Throughout my consulting career I have heard this statement or the many variants on the same theme “we are just too busy to look at Lean (it can also be Lego Serious Play) or anything to do with it”.  Let’s pause and reflect on that for a moment. A business leader is too busy to pause and make improvements that will save them money, time and improve conditions for staff.  They would rather stay on struggle street, work on ever decreasing profit margins than to work on the business. 

My interpretation to this question is that:
  • We don’t respect our people enough to allow them to improve their jobs, improve themselves.
  • They don’t want to let go of the control they have in the minutia of the business.  Being a firefighter makes them feel wanted, too important.  It is a badge of honour that they are unwilling to let go.
  • They don’t want to diminish their importance to the team by removing themselves out of decision making processes

I am sure there are a number of additional reasons we can tag this situation, but I think you will understand what I am saying.

So let’s look at the reasons why you should consider a Lean or continuous improvement journey for your business.  A few of them I have stated before.

The $250,000 opportunity.  Yep that is right, for many small and medium businesses, it is about lifting performance so that they can capitalise on the opportunity cost that is happening everyday.  I have  updated the original figure ($170,000) so it better compares to the OECD average for SME’s. That's right, that is potentially how much a small to medium business in New Zealand is missing out because of poor systems & processes.

The positive benefits for staff.  There is a shed full of these as well.  Lean when truly based on people is as much a wellness programme as it is a performance journey.  Staff also enjoy their jobs when they are more engaged and empowered to eliminate the bits that piss them off.

The competitive advantage. If the first two points didn’t hit home, this will.  By improving your business so it is continually working towards world class standards you are putting yourself ahead of at least 90% of any other company in New Zealand.  It is that simple.  Our business productivity is so bad it only takes a small amount of improvement to get to the top of the pack.

Enabling you as a leader to work on the stuff that matters, the work that really inspired you to be a business owner / leader in the first place.  When you are stuck in the details, it makes it nearly impossible to do the parts of the job that you really want to do. So let the team you employed to do the job to get on with their jobs.

I appreciate that it is easy to sit behind a keyboard and talk about the benefits, how and when to begin, but how do you fit it into your busy day?

If it does feel overwhelming, I just encourage you to start small, work on a quick win, easy change.  Put aside 30 minutes in your week to do one of those tasks you never seem to get to.  Lock it in your diary and just do it. Tell your team why you might even close the office door or leave the site to get it done.  What I am beginning to describe is leader Standard Work. Setting aside and having the discipline to work on the essential tasks of the day.

The message I am trying to impart is simple.  If you value yourself and your team, you must prioritise time to improve yourself and the business.  Firefighting and answering or responding to questions that can wait is not a priority.

It is amazing how much time you can gain in your day if you respond to every question with a simple statement “What three things have you already tried?”. For most leaders in a business, this can result in an extra hour and more per day if the team stopped harassing you on everything. Again, another time to pause and consider the impact, an extra hour per day is possible.  That is nearly an extra day per week or over a month’s additional time across a whole year.  30 extra days a year to work on the mission critical aspects of the business.

Now I will ask the question again - are you too busy to slow down and improve?  Be really honest with yourself!!  By simply talking to your immediate team about not getting involved in every aspect of daily operations and letting them get on with the job you employed them to do, you can immediately minimise or even eliminate the chaos in your day.


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