In these days of crushing competition, it’s all about productivity and time management, not just on an individual but also on an organizational level. Ever wondered how your company could work more efficiently? Unsure whether to accommodate inhouse or to outsource IT, HR and other “back-office” functions? Follow these four steps, and you’ll be amazed at the potential you can exploit.
1. Take time to think.
No matter how busy you are, it’s important to step back every now and then and evaluate your company’s progress to know exactly where you’re heading. In fact, the busier you are, the more important this becomes. You can’t possibly be busier than the CEO of eBay, John Donahoe, and even he can pull it off. He recommends a pre-scheduled, uninterrupted period of time, preferably an entire day once every 3 months or so, when you disconnect all phones and mail, then retreat to a vacant office with nothing but a whiteboard. There, map out your ideas and impressions about external factors like the competition, about your goals and how you’ve progressed in achieving them, and about the most pressing issues up next. Summarize what there is to learn and which areas need more attention.
2. Identify or readjust your priorities.
The point of such a thinking day is to regain awareness of your company’s most important objectives, which may get lost in the everyday hassle to meet deadlines. Sometimes you’ll want to re-evaluate these priorities, asking yourself whether what you and your colleagues spend the most time and effort on actually serves your purpose best. As the so-called Pareto principle states, 20% of all your work produces 80% of your value. The question for you to answer is, which 20% is that?
3. Focus on core tasks.
Once you’ve separated the important goals from the less crucial ones, identify the business processes that directly serve to achieve them, and focus exclusively on these. You’ll be surprised how much time your employees have been wasting by doing repetitive, routine tasks that are irrelevant to your main objectives. Allow them to refocus their efforts on core business processes. Going further, encourage them to identify the two most important assignments every week and complete those come what may, suggest startup advisors Karl Stark and Bill Stewart. Everyone will feel much more efficient than after ticking off a million minor to-do’s that lead nowhere.
4. Outsource IT and other noncore work.
As for the business processes beyond your activities which create the most value, your best bet is to outsource them. Alongside accounting, HR and sales, IT services typically belong to this category. Near your location and throughout the world, there are countless professional companies which can take over what is a time-consuming burden for you, and do it better, faster and cheaper. In doing so, they’ll be following your example: focusing on core competences. It’s a real win-win.