Am I crazy or is there a need for speed


Last week a CEO peer shared a story of frustration with me. He had created a new job description in about an hour and sent it to his management team for feedback.  Three days and 10 hours of time- sheeted effort later, the job description came back to him from the team with minor changes and no fundamental change to meaning. The task of reviewing a job description had created 10 hours of work by his senior, highly paid team for no major gain. This time could have been spent on advancing the company or the team in so many other ways. 

It raised a discussion between us about input and output and the need for speed in organisations where tasks, in today’s organisations, can extend to what is beyond reasonable effort and therefore sustainable profitability. Most people, of course, don’t sit around doing nothing at work but are they really productive and profitable? Are you as a leader?

All over Australia, every day, a lack of focus on output by teams and leadership is happening in companies big and small. We experience it with suppliers in frustrating call waiting, email ping pong where simple conversations could take place to resolve misunderstandings and tasks take far longer than they reasonably should.

While this happens, teams lose momentum, lose focus on the priorities and the company loses money, competitive edge, profit and innovation opportunity. The danger also extends to what I call ‘soft shrinkage’’ loss – caused by emotion draining activity and a drop in team morale that then ricochets out to subsequent fallout of business objectives and KPI’s not being met.

And the need for speed doesn’t just sit in the workplace. In your own home, in a simple example, tradies can take longer than you thought, time is wasted chasing service providersand renovation projects typically get drawn out.

I am well-travelled and originally a Northern hemisphere big city kid who now lives in Australia AND I feel that productivity needs a good kick in the proverbial. From our transport, infrastructure, professional services to service in restaurants, as a country, we could up our game. Sure, few are genuinely idle and sure we are all present AT work but arewereally maximising output and our ability to get things done as well as we could. The Lucky Country is exactly that – and perhaps a little too comfortable. Visit some capital cities overseas and witness the fast pace of where technology has been implemented and you see people getting things done fast!

In my early days of retail management training in Marks and Spencer, Baker Street London, we were taught as business graduates about the danger of productivity loss. It was given a name and it was known as ‘’shrinkage’’. In retail, of course, it applied to clothing and items that were soiled in store and had to be returned or thrown out – unavailable for sale. These losses were applied to reduced profit, sales targets and departmental return by a measurement against asquare metre of shop floor. So our task was to guard the garments and take great care of them so that shrinkage was minimised and revenue targets were met. In the same way, to save shrinkage loss of sales figures, our customers were King and the ‘’return policy’’ and commitment to customers service was ground breaking at the time and unparalleled.

You can imagine how the same ethos is applied to a manufacturing organisation, education establishments or a professional services firm and in your own firm.

Wasted time or soiled garments equal shrinkage of profit and it’s a shrinkage on growth and opportunity. If there is less profit in the pot – there is less money to redistribute back to the company for shareholders and perhaps more importantly today, for training and advancement of your team. In business, time is money.

There are several things you can do about the need for speed in your company and the good news is you can ask your leadership and team to help;

  • Set known time expectations, time limits and deadlines for tasks
  • Increase training of the task at hand
  • Ask the leadership team to help find faster ways of doing things
  • Then ask everyone!
  • Speak to your peers for their advice
  • Template and systemise where possible to cut down time taken on basic tasks so that time can be spent adding value
  • Educate, train and educate again
  • Brief tasks competently up front
  • Invest more time in explaining what needs to be done
  • Be conscious of industry benchmarks and how you are tracking
  • Where possible, create discussion instead of communicate by email
  • Be prepared to change and reinvent
  • Remember the mantra – constant change is here to stay

Things take too long if they are left un-monitored and un-examined. So set up simple and effective processes to manage productivityand remember you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

So how is speed sitting in your world?


About the author:

Sharon Williams is a pioneer in the Australian marketing and PR industry. She is a CEO, Fellow of the PRIA, international speaker, personal brand expert, entrepreneur, mentor, marketer, media commentator and frequent mainstream editorial contributor. Under Sharon’s leadership and entrepreneurial flair, Taurus is now recognised as one of Australia’s highest profile agencies, offering unparalleled levels of service to global corporations including Advance, UTS:INSEARCH, Appster, Napoleon Perdis and Clean Up Australia.