What stuff do you have to do every day that is not your actual job? I was talking with a colleague the other day who has the job of finding out what this stuff is and working out a way of fixing it through technology so that we don't spend the day on activity that is taking time from getting the job done.
He wasn't looking at stuff that the powers that be think you shouldn't be doing – like looking at your Facebook page although that could be useful too (sometimes the powers that be get things wrong). He was looking at what I call 'avoidable costs'. One example is single sign on i.e. A user authentication process that permits a user to enter one name and password in order to access multiple applications.
In organisations that don't have single sign-on think how much time is wasted in the process of
a) creating a new password every 12 weeks that has to include upper case, lower case, numbers, letters, symbols and be between 12 – 20 characters for multiple applications
b) going through the password retrieval/reset process when you forget what the password is because you forgot to write it down or can't remember where you did write it down – we are not supposed to write down passwords but most of us don't have a photographic memory and I don't think we have a password keeper – but I could spend time checking that.
My list of avoidable organisational costs includes any activity that involves form filling, authorization processes, policies and workarounds. Although many of these could be tackled by LEAN techniques these rarely question the underlying validity of the process or policy. Acting in more in favour of 'better sameness' LEAN and similar continuous improvement methods aren't likely to ask the bigger question of 'Are we holding onto something that is no longer relevant or necessary? (See my blog on horseholding).
It's hard to purge an accepted business activity but it can be done. Accenture worked out that their performance management process costs much more to deliver than it is possible to show it adds value so they are ditching their current process in favour of something completely different. (As have/are several other big name companies).
Some organisations are starting to purge the avoidable costs of a employing a human workforce, introducing robots and other technologies. A speech given by Andy Haldane, Bank of England on 12 November 2015 gives a full and startling picture of the extent to which this is happening which was summarized in headlines such as 'Robots threaten 15m UK jobs, says Bank of England's chief economist'
As I started to think about organisational avoidable costs I also started to think about personal/individual ones. There are many books on personal organisation – I wrote about Marie Kondo's one. It seems that the same principles that Marie Kondo et al ask individuals to apply in their lives could also be applied to organisations. Here's an example of what one individual learned from Marie Kondo's book which is equally relevant to organisations:
Tackle Categories, Not Rooms. Applied to organisations this covers looking at activities across the whole organisation rather than within silos. See Gillian Tett's book The Silo Effect on this topic.
Rediscover Your Style. Organisations that divest of sidelines they've acquired are applying this principle also known as 'stick to the knitting'. See this article for some examples.
Nostalgia Is Not Your Friend organisations that look to the past rather than staying alert to future trends fall by the wayside. A recent often quoted example is Kodak. Nokia and Blockbuster are others.
It feels so good to purge Organisations that are able to purge of avoidable costs, keeping transforming, and staying alert and responsive to future trends are few and far between. The UK's John Lewis is one example.
What's your view on organisational and individual avoidable costs? Rather than trying to reduce them should we be purging them and to what extent? Let me know.