Recapture Lost Time in Your Organization

Today’s workplace is filled with busy people. There’s too much to do. There’s too little time. And the streets are filled with people that organizations didn’t think were busy enough. It’s no wonder that it is almost impossible to find someone willing to admit that he isn’t working at full capacity.

This leads to a big problem when an opportunity presents itself, and nobody is available to take on a project. So how does the organization make time for the project? There are at least three options.

The first option is to admit the organization is working beyond its capacity and hire more help. Although this seems like the obvious answer, it’s not a great solution. Organizations don’t have unlimited bags of money, especially in the tough economic times we are facing today. Spending money on more people usually means that some other need will go unmet. And then there’s the problem of what to do with the people you hired after the project is finished.

Another possibility involves recruiting people for the project and cajoling them to work harder. While this solution is very popular with the project sponsors, it is not popular with the recruitees. Burnout sets in, the quality of the project suffers, and eventually the organization begins to suffer serious morale problems.

A third option is to find more time in the organization. At first this idea appears to offer little promise, but it is clearly the best option. There is plenty of wasted time in organizations that can be captured and re-deployed on projects that will possibly save even more time. Finding it isn’t difficult. Look where it is most likely hiding. It’s like looking under the   sofa  cushions for money. Experience tells you there is almost always a coin or two under there. Here are five promising places to search for extra time within your organization.

1. Meetings. There isn’t an organization in the world that can’t free up tremendous amounts of time by paying better attention to meetings. Think about how much time you spend in meetings. What percent of that time is wasted? Now figure out how much time is wasted across the organization. There are several concrete things to be done to recapture this time. Make sure meetings have a clear and useful purpose. This should eliminate a good percentage of meetings. Second make sure there is an agenda and carefully follow it. This will keep the meeting on track and short as possible. Finally, be extra careful when creating the meeting invitation list. Only invite those people who absolutely have to be there.

2. Processes. Almost all processes can be improved. Perhaps they contain steps that don’t add value. Maybe they could benefit from automation. Possibly the people working the process don’t have the proper tools or resources. In each of these cases, improving the process almost always frees up time within the organization.

3. Travel. Anyone who’s traveled for business or pleasure knows it’s a game of hurry up and wait. If there’s an airplane involved, it seems like the better part of a day will be chewed up in travel. Here are a few ideas to consider when hunting for wasted travel time. Begin by asking the most obvious question, “Is this trip really necessary?” Could the objectives be met by telephone, videoconference, or email? Another strategy is maximizing the amount of productive time that goes along with the travel time. Instead of traveling all day for a single, one-hour meeting, could other meetings in the destination city be scheduled for the same trip?

4. Environment. If you ever found yourself needing to work off-site because you really had to focus on a piece of work, your office environment probably creates too many distractions. Perhaps you have a culture where you “pop in” on each other. Maybe there’s just too much noise. In any case, distracted employees are inefficient employees. Significant amounts of time are being consumed in those distractions. The challenge is to identify and eliminate as many distractions as possible.

5. Routine work. Evaluate each and every piece of work you do. Is it all really necessary? Chances are that most everyone has something in her routine work that she does because she thinks she is supposed to, but in reality it wouldn’t matter one bit if she simply stopped doing it. Likely candidates for unnecessary work are regular reports and record keeping.

There’s always far more time available within the organization than it appears. The trick is finding it, capturing it, and then redirecting it to the activities most likely to support the organization’s success.