Are you answering a question or just doing a task?

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Written by Vanessa Bennett, CEO of Next Evolution Performance.

At NEP we deal with many different businesses and one thing is for sure – even in really high performing businesses there are still many people “doing tasks”. This might sound reasonably harmless or even like it makes total sense but it’s actually not that great for productivity.

Often we find that a task is being done because it’s always been done that way, or because the person doing the task hasn’t really questioned whether there is really a need for it to be done.

The best way to improve the efficiency of the business is instead of thinking about a series of tasks, think about what questions need to be answered, and then think about the easiest most efficient way to answer that question.

It’s probably easiest to work through what I mean with an example…

I once encountered a very senior sales person spending about 30 minutes each day sending emails to clients he was seeing the next day to confirm the meeting and meticulously including an agenda. This might seem relatively harmless but senior sales reps are generally not the cheapest people in any organisation. And based on this person’s salary it was effectively costing the company about $22,000 per year for him to do this.

Now when I asked him why he was doing this he said he wanted to ensure his clients weren’t going to cancel the meeting. Again, sounds feasible. But if we think about the situation in terms of the actual question he was trying to answer it turns out this was an expensive task for him to do.

So the question in this case was probably something along the lines of “How do I ensure my clients don’t cancel our meetings?” When you think of it this way it opens up thinking about other ways it could be done. For example, another person in a similar role would be clear about the agenda at the time of booking the meeting, that it was confirmed in her diary, and if her clientele needed for cancel for any reason, to please let her know as soon as possible.

The second sales person had very few cancellations and saved the company a half hour a day of her salary.

You could take it further and think is there someone else in the organisation who could also book the appointments with the same script and get roughly the same results with a cheaper salary. Possibly.

So my challenge to you… as you do every task go through these steps to really question how you are doing things:

  1. What is the question that this task is answering?
  2. Is the task I’m about to do the most efficient way of answering that question? Or in other words, what is the least amount of effort required to answer that question?
  3. Who is the best person to do the task that best answers the question? If someone else can do it about 80% as well as you can and more cheaply and with less energy required than you, it probably makes sense for someone else to do it.

So go ahead, question everything you do and you’ll probably find you spend way less energy and consequently save a couple hours of effective time per day.

Of course if you would like further help exploring what energy and profit savings are possible in your business we’d love to help so please do get in touch.

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