Why is great job design critical to high performance?
Most organizations have job descriptions, but many fail to specify in those one or two page documents how time on the job should be spent. It is more often the case that expectations are listed along with regular job tasks, but no reference to the percent of time that should be used in these areas is provided. Why are time percentages necessary?
Time percentages are necessary for two reasons. First, time and money are the two main things we spend on the job each day. In turn, when we spend our time in areas where we don’t need to, or in areas that don’t give us that much performance improvement leverage, we are creating waste. When we identify expectations in job descriptions, but fail to also include time percentages, we are assuming that people will spend their limited time wisely. Unfortunately, humans have proven to be less than dependable when it comes to wise time usage.
Second, most people do not do a very good job of tracking how they spend their time each day. This is especially true if you work in a crisis focused environment – as you get caught up in a crisis, your emotions overwhelm your mind’s ability to keep track of time. Similarly, if you are intensely focused on performing a task, it is difficult to track the minutes and hours that go by. Time is the ultimate constraint to process excellence and high performance. We can’t go to the bank and get more time. It is also unreasonable to expect our people to give us more time than they are already giving us. In turn, if we want to go faster and get better results, we have to use this limited resource more effectively.
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Where is the bulk of the time waste in your organization?
Over the years, most organizations have invested a lot of time and money in defining how time is spent on the front lines. As an Industrial Engineer, I personally measured down to the tenth of a second how long it should take to do such work. On occasion, I would be asked to take a similar look at a middle management level job. This practice was much more the exception than the rule. In our current applications of lean six sigma and process improvement approaches, we have continued to focus a disproportionate amount of time on the front lines. We have largely ignored the waste that exists in our higher wage rate managerial jobs.
I believe that we have reached a point in the evolution of business where we have nickel and dimed the front lines to death. At the same time, we have largely ignored the time inefficiencies of management, with this ignorance becoming greater the higher up you go in a given organization. What are we assuming here? Are we assuming that because we pay these people so much money, they should and do make sure that they are spending their time in the best way possible? Think about it!
If you aren’t spending enough time with people and on process improvement (primarily projects and data analysis), you can’t improve. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, in most organizations, only limited time actually exists in the prevailing managerial job designs for formal process improvement. Until we ‘find time for improvement’ by taking waste out of these jobs, we will struggle to make the shift from reactive management to proactive management. By improving our job design approaches, we become much more aware and focused on where this waste is and what changes are needed to eliminate it, in turn creating more time for improvement. Do you need great job designs?
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