I’ve seen it all too many times. The proverbial clock is ticking and the executive team and board are awaiting results. You’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, logging one 16-hour day after the next. Everyone’s working as hard as they can, yet the project is still behind. Significantly.
You’ve tried everything. Incentives for expedited timelines. Catered dinners to ease the pain of after-hours contributions. You’ve even asked a few people to participate in a task force to get to the bottom of the problem. In all cases the eyes of your project team – glazed over and rolling – tell you all you need to know.
It’s time to find more people – get more hands on deck. Right? Wrong.
After 30 years of helping companies implement their strategic plans, I can tell you that this is rarely the best course of action.
The truth is, there is usually at least 15 per cent people capacity on your project team, just waiting to be discovered and made available to re-deploy.
You just need to get everyone aligned to what really matters in order to find it and use it.
As an ex-Industrial Engineer I was trained to approach every cost reduction project on the basis that there is at always about 15-20 per cent of senseless, unnecessary or redundant work in the target project. And interestingly, when we’ve applied this thinking to our many client projects, we’ve almost always found more.
We tell our clients that the extra capacity isn’t found by making people work harder, but smarter. By identifying wasted time, non-value added work activities, and unnecessary checks and balances.
The secret lies in getting everyone aligned to the most important initiatives associated with the project. While it sounds simple, you’d be amazed at how often misalignment occurs. Overlaps (two people doing the same work) are common, as are “underlaps”—important work not getting done. By finding the redundant work and eliminating it, new capacity can be identified, and time made available to get the underlaps moving forward.
Let me give you an example of how it works.
One of our clients, a manufacturer of floor care products, was in dire need of product innovation. It was steadily falling behind its competitors, many with bigger names and bigger budgets. The principals of this organization were tired and stressed. They worried about the long-term viability of the business, wondering how they – and their shop floor workers – could possibly work any harder.
Our team was called in to facilitate an alignment initiative.
Instead of examining the work of the shop floor workers, we concentrated on the front office staff (Sales, Marketing, Finance and Operations Management). What did we find? A 15 per cent capacity, which was immediately re-directed to a major product innovation project. The result? An eight per cent gain in market share within the year.
Looking for new capacity to get the special project done? Try eliminating the overlaps and aligning your teams to the jobs that really matter. Who knows? You may find yourself announcing to everyone that work ends at noon on Friday the next long weekend.