Alberta is in an unprecedented economic time. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the energy and other sectors is already rippling out, and individual businesses are facing a perfect storm of money-sucking problems.
We’re re-doing our “Deadly Waste” articles—but we’re taking it up a few notches to help business owners like you adapt to this storm. The cost-saving ideas in these articles may be uncomfortable, but growing pains can hurt even when we know it’s for the best. We hope this helps.
Waiting is the hidden waste. It’s the time/money spent sitting in lobbies, waiting for orders and files to get to us, and wondering when a client will return our calls.
We’ve talked about cutting waiting waste before, but waiting out COVID-19 means that we can’t afford to wait out anything else unnecessarily. Here are some ideas for hacking away at this waste before it eats more of our profits:
It’s a Boss Thing
The first step towards tackling “waiting” waste is taking a long look in the mirror. How much waiting waste happens with us, the leaders? How long do files sit on our desks and do our phone calls go unanswered?
It’s not exactly our fault. As bosses, we’re eager to get things done and, for the sake of pushing the needle as far as we can, we may take too much on. But often our minds are so preoccupied with big-picture issues that we lose control of everyday routines.
It may be our desks, voicemails, and inboxes that are racking up the waiting waste. The cure is being honest about it and making changes. If we know it’s going to continue, we need to delegate what we can and focus on what we do best. If we know adjusting our behaviour is all it takes to trim that waste, it’s in our best interests to do it.
Embrace the Digital
The COVID-19 Crisis will change how our economy functions for years ahead. People will continue to work at home more, travel less, and increase the use of digital communication tools.
Knowing our digital tools gives us tremendous abilities to slash waiting waste. Here are a few key examples:
- Instead of playing phone or email tag to bang out meeting times (virtual or not), a simple app like Doodle can get everyone to agree to the same meeting time.
- Virtual meetings reduce travel time, waiting in the lobby time, and a host of other tiny wastes. Google Hangouts or Zoom are popular tools for video conferencing. By meeting virtually, we can work on other tasks while we wait for clients to log in. (Make sure to hit the mute button before you commence the noisy typing!)
- Important documents can be signed online instead of using courier, mail, or other time-consuming methods. There are several tools available for signing documents electronically, including Adobe Acrobat.
How Much Do You Need to Travel?
Travel is the granddaddy of all waiting wasters. From losing anywhere from a few hours to a full day’s productivity (each way!) to cab rides, hotel check-ins, and a list of other stand-in-line hours, travel often costs more than it brings in. And of course, this crisis has laid bare travel’s health risks.
It’s time we laid out the real price of travel. Examining the cost of our recent business trips in terms of total expenditures and time loss can be a hard pill to swallow. However, if business travel isn’t offering a concrete return, we need to be honest about whether it’s worth it.
Timing Your Processes
Knowing your processes is the highway to efficiency. Other blogs in this series have mentioned the need to “whiteboard out” our processes to flush out redundancies, define roles, and empower our teams.
In every business, there are interconnections of processes that files, products, or services move through like an electrical current. We have waiting waste when a link further down the chain is waiting for an earlier link to catch up.
We can cut that out by establishing a simple baseline of how long each part should take. This way, the team included in the later steps can plan accordingly. As a bonus, laying out a timeline will give everyone a metric for efficiency in their own roles. It might be just the change needed to build the urgency we’ve been looking for.