A different way to increase productivity

Bill Lee sales & operations - boss

Never before have business people wasted more time than they do today. And all that wasted productivity will continue next week, next month and next year until workers make a major commitment to focus on the real keys to success.

Depending on your job, there are certain actions you can take that will create positive results. Odds are you know what these things are, it’s just that you allow one of the productivity hogs to take over, and before you know it, an hour or two are lost, never to be found again. Lost time is lost forever!

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One mistake many managers and salespeople make is focusing too much on outcomes and too little on the behaviors that create outcomes. When we focus exclusively on results, we often allow the nuts and bolts of what we do every day to become a bit rusty. As an example, virtually all professional golfers spend more time on the nuts and bolts; that is, hitting balls on the practice range, than they do playing in tournaments.

Sales, operating expenses as a percentage of sales, accounts receivable collection days, new business, etc. are the result of behaviors many of us don’t carefully monitor. While achieving the objectives you forecast is usually how success is measured, perhaps the disciplined performance of daily— often mundane—tasks are the real key.

A high level of inventory accuracy is achieved when multiple operations personnel become disciplined at maintaining their focus on seemingly insignificant factors. Receiving against the company’s purchase order versus the vendor’s shipping papers is a great example. Receiving the correct quantity of the wrong material promotes inaccuracy, not accuracy. What should be measured is how closely the delivered merchandise compares to the products listed on the purchase order.

Likewise, when salespeople focus on what customers don’t purchase from them instead of exclusively what they do purchase, the company’s share of their customers’ total purchases is far more likely to increase. While increasing sales by any means is what everyone is striving for, growing the company’s share of its current customer total purchases is the easiest and most reliable way to grow sales.

My good friend and business consultant, Minneapolis-based Mark LeBlanc, taught me something several years ago that has meant a great deal to my success. It’s the importance of focusing on high-value activities and the discipline to minimize low-value activities. Note that I said high-value activities, not high-value results.

Picking up the telephone and calling a prospect is a high-value activity. Impulsively checking Facebook is not. The more high-value activities you can string together is an important key to developing momentum. A high-value activity for drivers might be keeping score when they return from a delivery, by recording the amount of time it takes them to get back on the road with another load. How did this month compare to last month is a good measurement for several positions. Work on month-over-month. De-emphasize year-to-date. Keep your time frames small enough so that even small improvements are significant.

Create a routine so that when you arrive at  work  you are prepared to hit the ground running. Have your list of high-value activities for that day prepared and ready to execute. If you can include three-to-five high-value activities in a day filled with solving problems and putting out fires, you’ve had a terrific day.

Don’t allow yourself to gravitate to the “easy things.” Work on the hard things. If you are a salesperson, what do you want to sell more of? Now, focus your high-value activities around that objective.

Your time is extremely valuable, so treat it with great respect. Conserve it and use it in such a way that you will earn the greatest return on it.

Resist shooting from the hip.

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