Every day, we’re being asked to do more with less. There are more deadlines, fewer resources and the time constraints can make completing projects on time seem like a miracle. In the technology and marketing worlds, we sometimes refer to periods of heightened activity as sprints, but in a fact-paced environment, it seems like the sprint never ends.
As a technology leader, I am responsible for ensuring that my team has a healthy workload. As a result, I strive to create as much breathing room as possible for the team – this keeps morale high and fosters innovation. I find that as I work, I repeatedly ask myself two basic questions:
Can this be automated?
Can this be outsourced?
As a company grows, inefficiency builds. This is natural – tasks and procedures are added and changed. We press on to get the job done, but after a while we seem to get bogged down with these extra tasks. It’s a great idea to step back regularly and ask, “what are we doing that isn’t efficient?” Every inefficient task is a potential waste of time and money. That doesn’t mean that these tasks should be eliminated completely, but it does mean that there might be a better way to do it. Asking the two questions above is a great way to streamline work and create more breathing room.
The first question - “Can this be automated?” - is becoming easier with custom workflow software, automated information systems and even free web apps (one of my favorites is ifttt.com, a free service that automates dozens of tasks). The more that can be done without human involvement, the less work needs to be done. Even eliminating the quickest and easiest tasks will make a difference over time.
The second question - “Can this be outsourced?” - is equally important. I’ll admit that I am a staunch advocate of keeping core business functions and support services in-house wherever possible, but sometimes it just isn’t possible, especially in the current economic climate. Outsourcing functions that have nothing to do with core business functions (such as office admin support, technology, and resources for temporary projects) will certainly free up full-time resources. In many cases, outsourced service providers are very good at managing themselves, so the amount of supervision needed is minimal (a huge productivity boost for managers).
Give it a try. In my office, I have a piece of paper with these two questions taped to the top of my monitor. They remind me to stop and think. I invite you to come back and post comments on your experience!