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Surprising productivity lessons from some of the world’s most efficient companies

Slow systems, tools out of reach – improving the small things can add big rises in productivity. So remember, what's good for your teams is good for your business, says Simon Hedaux

Time is money

‘Time is money’ is too simplistic a way of looking at maximising business value today. Business leaders now need to think about opportunity cost not just time spent – and as we’ve moved from manufacturing to service economies the experience of our employees makes a huge difference.

As productivity consultants we find surprising opportunities wherever we go, and typically 5% or more operating cost opportunity. Most come from taking a critical look at the operation and always remembering that what’s good for your teams is usually good for your business too.

Simple questions any business can ask are:

1. How far do you walk?

It sounds obvious to say make sure everyone has what they need to do their job within arm’s reach. Yet we see lost time from teams searching for the things they need or walking miles to fetch them. And that applies to IT equipment too – I recently bought a car and the salesman had to walk the length of the showroom every time he printed off a paper for me to sign. Although he did say the printer used to be upstairs, so it had got better!

We’ve seen a coffee chain increase their coffee making capacity by 25% with the same people; just by making sure cups, syrups, milk were easier to reach.

We’ve spent time with retailers who make it super slick for customers to collect their parcels (Argos is the best we’ve found on the high street) – while in other shops it’s quicker for the customer to select their stock in store and pay for it than it is to wait while the colleague walks to the far reaches of the stock room

If your team need tools for the job have them in a kit bag or trolley – don’t be like the hotel chain who make their people walk the halls to find a shared vacuum cleaner. And if your team are moving stock give them a trolley – walking backwards and forwards might be great for their step count but it’s rubbish for your efficiency.

2. What do your team grumble about?

The things your team find frustrating are golden opportunities to improve your efficiency and team engagement. We see a lot of frustration and wasted time caused by slow running systems. In a recent study of an office we measured 6% of time lost waiting for systems; the equivalent of £1,200 per employee per year based on a £20,000 a year salary.

Overcome your system speed and IT challenges and it’s a massive win for your business

3. What do customers want you to change?

Don’t engineer your customer surveys to get a perfect 10 every time. Design them so you learn what could make things better for customers. They have a different perspective and can tell you things you’d never have realised without their feedback.

Costa switched to faster panini presses for their drive-through operation, so the panini was ready at the same time as their drink – just what the customer wants, and it saves team time as they no longer have to walk a panini to a parked customer and back any more.

4. Sweat the small stuff

In most businesses, if there was a huge and obvious change to make someone would have spotted it already. It’s paying attention to a million small things that creates the culture of ongoing improvements – just like the Team GB cycling team who tweaked everything they could to save the fractions of seconds that add up to world beating cycling productivity.

Set yourself a challenge this week and spot an opportunity at work and home every day – you’ll be surprised what you see. And once you get started you won’t be able to stop.

 Simon Hedaux, pictured, is founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world leading productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets

Simon Hedaux

Published 17 October 2019

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