There are two types of administrative activities, those that create value, and those that don’t (obviously). There are no neutral activities. Everything you do either brings you closer to your goal, or takes you farther away. In this post, we’re going to look at 8 activities that always take away value. We’ll call this 8 Deadly Wastes. You think calling this “Deadly” is overkill? Maybe, but maybe not when you think of the resources (mostly time and money) that you pour into certain activities. For every activity you choose to do, you’ve automatically said “No” to something else, that’s Opportunity Cost.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about administrative issues, not defects in a product. Defects in this case are usually procedural problems. This may include wrong data input, unjustified awards or punishments, or just flat out doing something wrong! For volunteer type organizations like churches and nonprofits this can be a big problem. Oftentimes technology is lacking and therefore volunteers will take the bulk of administrative responsibilities on. Combine this with under-equipping a volunteer and you’ll have constant procedural challenges. Steering clear of defects is simple but hard. Don’t mess up is easier said than done.
2. Rework and Double-work
This is the waste that I hate the most. This includes resending documents, drawing up policy more than once, or numerous people unknowingly working on the same assignment. Rework and double-work can come in many shapes and sizes. What makes rework and double-work so prevalent is that it makes us busy, thus making us think that we’re being productive. In reality, we’re not. Rework means not getting things right the first time and having to redo a project. Double-work means two people/teams doing the same project at the same time. This can be solved by communicating among individuals/teams before projects are started and by communicating expectations upfront.
Many believe that inspection is necessary, however, inspection is only necessary if you have constant problems with defects. If your team does it right the first time, there’s no need to inspect it. Since we’re not living in an ideal world, inspection is sometimes be appropriate, but over inspection is never a good thing. Inspection means that there’s someone who spends the bulk of their time reviewing outcomes of work. That person’s time isn’t being used to produce anything. And if that person is highly critical or a perfectionist, then work will often be unfairly critiqued for no good reason. Do you work in a “double sign” everything culture?
Waiting is a wasteful activity, or should I say lack of activity? Think of it this way. I turn in a reimbursement form on Friday. Our accountant only processes forms on Thursdays. That’s the most efficient process for her but it’s not efficient for me at all. I want my reimbursement processed ASAP. Just because a process is efficient for one person doesn’t mean it’s efficient for someone else. Someone will have to wait. For whoever has to constantly wait, it will be a deadly waste.
Inventory may sometimes be necessary, but it’s never efficient. That’s why companies work so hard to have great logistics people. It’s unnecessary to have more inventory than you absolutely need. We see this all the time with dated brochures. It drives me crazy when we, or any church, has to toss brochures because they’re dated. This doesn’t happen often because we work so hard to keep our printed brochures flexible and date free. However, it still happens. Sometimes we have a special event that requires unique promotional material. When it’s done, we toss the leftovers. This applies not just for products, but for policies also. Policies agreed upon but never implemented are wasted inventory. Think about it. You go to the trouble of developing a policy, getting senior leadership to agree to it, communicate it, roll it out, and then never enforce it as all your employees begin to violate it. It was all a complete waste, a deadly waste.
How many times do you pass someone off to your colleague? That’s probably transport waste. Or the inboxes and outboxes that an application or file sees before it gets to the decision maker. This doesn’t just apply to physical file or inventory, but also to people and emails. Every time someone or something must be handed off to another person, it was a waste. You should think to yourself, “How can we cut the middleman?” or “How can we communicate the right process the first time?”
Ever heard of the Law of Diminishing returns? Look it up. There are many people that would be much more productive if they followed it. This also includes things like “fattening” up a report that you hand in to your boss. I think we’ve all been guilty of rewording on school papers in order to hit a certain word count. Or when the government sends you a check for $1.62. Ask yourself, do you really get that much more value after putting in those extra hours on your project? Is it worth it? I’ve seen creatives be absolutely guilty of this time and time again. The difference between the third draft of a graphic and the ninth draft of that same graphic is minimal or inconsequential to me. However, to the creative who’s designing the graphic, it’s huge. The truth is, 99% of people won’t notice a difference or even care. It’s the same reason why you can give a talk or preach and you think of all these things you did wrong while people think you did great. For most people, a B- looks like an A.
8. Insufficient use of talent and creativity
This is the worst waste of all, yet the most difficult to correct. Leaving the creative potential of your team untapped is close to criminal. After a time of not listening to the people around you, they’ll stop talking. Do you know what it feels like to set off the alarm on something and have no one listen? It’s no wonder that so many great volunteers leave. Or worse, they stay and become bitter and cynical. It’s much easier to listen to your team and make an honest effort to improve things based on their feedback than it is to find new volunteers because the leaders you had wanted to be heard and left. Why do we pay attention (and money) to consultants, yet ignore the people around us? A friend of mine worked for a company that used to say, “Want to be listened to, quit and come back as a consultant!” Many did.