Written by Robin Dehondt
Happiness is tied to a sense of accomplishment while accomplishment itself is a result of being productive. As such, improving the productivity of your employees will ultimately make them happier and that’s why managers should ask themselves this simple question more often: Am I doing all that I can to enhance the productivity of my people? BrightWolves created a simple 5-step framework to help managers in this endeavour. Want to know more? Keep reading!
1. Match outputs to inputs
Remove extra processing (such as having to reformat a document) in downstream processes by matching the requirements of the (internal) customer. Make it a habit in your organisation to state the desired outcome up front.
The Brightwolves experience: During a sustainable lean project in a service centre, our consultants identified that one of the employees lost half a day matching received customer documents with internal reference numbers. After discussing this with the customer, it was apparent that they could already put the internal reference numbers on the documents. Matching the customers’ output with the required input was an incredible gain in productivity (10%).
2. Create standard work
Document the best way to perform the different tasks within your company. Make it visual in nature so that someone who has never worked in the organisation before is able to complete them. To increase the effectiveness of the team, do not forget to include the prioritisation method.
The Brightwolves experience: During another sustainable lean project in the insurance sector, our consultants stumbled upon a curious fact. The most veteran employee, who was perceived to be the most productive, was the least productive. Closer observation revealed that the most veteran employee had to assist the other employees 60% of her time due to lack of documentation. A newly created manual freed up the veteran’s time and increased the team’s productivity by 10%.
3. Create processing cells
A processing cell is a fixed dedicated timeslot where people come together to process certain documents, such as approvals, in a continuous flow. Creating processing cells does two things: the structure helps people to be more productive as well as reducing the time spent waiting for other people.
The Brightwolves experience: A maintenance company was struggling to receive approvals from customers that were necessary for invoicing. It could take up to 3 months to receive the required approval. BrightWolves consultants installed a biweekly processing cell in which the company goes over the necessary documents with the customer in order to receive the approval. The result was a reduction of the accounts receivables by 30%.
4. Visualise flow
It is important to visualise where every item is located. Visualising the workflow has three benefits. First, it becomes easy to spot and remove bottlenecks. Second, it gives everyone a sense of ownership and accountability, which are essential for productivity. Third, it removes the need for the manager to ask for status updates, which improves productivity even more.
The Brightwolves experience: A company in the repair industry was reporting long lead times for their repairs. After BrightWolves consultants visualised the flow, two steps within that process were clearly identified as the bottlenecks. After further analysis, solutions were implemented to elevate these bottlenecks and the lead time was cut in half.
5. Handle variations in demand
The normal way of working should satisfy 80% of demand. Higher demand ‘spikes’ should be completed by operating in a different way. You can add interim workers, route work differently, skip certain approvals, etc. The key in this step is the ability you have as a company to respond and adapt quickly when facing sudden changes in demand.
The Brightwolves experience: An insurance company was in extreme distress each time a storm hit the country. BrightWolves consultants developed a different process, one wherein the work is routed differently, and extra employees are called in for handling storm cases. Now, the company can process the storm cases 5 times faster and can go back to normal operating mode 2 weeks after the storm hit the country.
Although it might be an unconventional approach, increasing productivity could be the secret to a happier and more engaged workforce. The key is identifying and addressing the barriers employees face in their daily interactions. Furthermore, involving them in your sustainable lean project will increase your chance of success as they learn what gets in the way of their work. So, are you doing all that you can to enhance the productivity of your people?