OPERATIONS

3 Ways to Get More Time Out of Less

You can achieve more in a constrained market without running your employees into the ground. These three steps will get your team focused on the work that really drives growth.
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Across the country, businesses are being pushed to do more with less. Typically this has taken the shape of longer hours, later nights, and a big group of unhappy employees. Achieving in a constrained market should not mean spending more time at the office doing less exciting work; it means that you should stop wasting time.

There are three steps managers and staff can take toward a more efficient, more productive organization. By 1) identifying and focusing on your biggest priorities, 2) completing two objectives every week, and 3) outsourcing work, you will find a smoother running organization that employees are happy to contribute to every day.

1. Identify and focus on your biggest priorities.

Too often employees find themselves spending time on work that isn't core to the success of the business. As the Pareto principle states: 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. The key here is for your business to identify the few objectives that drive the most value and focus rigorously on them.

If your priority is to grow with large customers, it may be time to evaluate if a huge list of small customers is worth the time and effort invested. Prioritizing the "True North" of your group will empower them to concentrate on just a few main areas instead of getting distracted with work that creates less value.

2. Write down and complete two objectives every week.

On an individual level, goals can be a powerful motivator and driver for success. One objective that has shown promising results is shortening the timeline and simplifying goals. By having every employee write down two "must-dos" every week, management empowers everyone to focus on what matters most.

Too often, we get caught up in the deluge of emails, meetings, and internal needs that pop up every day. The unfortunate result is that, by the end of the week, we've worked hard but don't have much to show for it. By empowering your employees to identify--on their own--just their top two priorities, they will be more focused and driven each week.

3. Outsource noncore work.

If you find your team doing time-consuming work that isn't core to your business, stop wasting their time. Domestically, and across the world, there are businesses that can take on your noncore work and do it faster, better, and cheaper than you can.

Whether your time suck is happening with accounting, marketing, HR, sales, or almost any other business function, do a search on companies that can take over this function. As a manager, you must believe that the time you're not spending on making the core of your business better is valuable time lost. See our previous article 3 Ways to Lower Your Breakeven Point for more perspective on outsourcing.

Across the country, businesses are struggling to cut back and do less with more. In order to succeed, it is crucial that your team does not waste time. By focusing on their biggest priorities, shortening and focusing goal timelines, and outsourcing noncore work, companies can be more successful with fewer late nights.

Has your organization found ways to be more efficient? Let us know your thoughts by emailing karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com.

Avondale Associate Marc Uible contributed to this article.

IMAGE: Helen Ashford/Getty
Last updated: Jul 23, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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