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  • Writer's pictureJames

Smarten Up Your Hard Work

How to Work Smarter, Not Harder: Practical Strategies for Boosting Efficiency

“Do more with less”

“Work smarter, not harder”

“Free up resources to focus on value added work”

We hear these slogans all the time.

But what do they really mean and how can they apply to our day-to-day work in reality? Do these mottos hold different meanings to different businesses and functions? We’re all working hard, so how can you uncover the means to free up time and create additional value?

It’s a great ideal to aspire to. If we can achieve doing more with less this reduces waste: of time, energy, and costs. The inference of the motto is that whilst you may be working hard, you’re not being effective or smart. But being more effective does require investment upfront - in time, people, or technology - which may not be immediately available. It also means your precious time and resources may need to be reprioritised to achieve the greatest results possible.

The challenge

Without a measured and planned approach, one of the dangers of being pushed to do more with less is that we can get caught up with meeting the daily demands already placed on us, and we don’t always take the time, or have the opportunity, to identify a more efficient and effective process to achieve the best results. We settle for an approach that just ensures that the work on our to-do list gets done on time. We may even end up doing “less with less”.

That is when we hear other well-used phrases:

“Keeping my head above water”

“Running to stand still”

“Keeping the lights on”

This shouldn’t be the benchmark or a badge of honour. It doesn’t describe a team that has been freed up to focus their efforts on higher value, more rewarding work - you know, the type of work that you studied for, pictured yourself doing and that you excel at.

To find the value you need to understand the inefficiencies. Time simply invested in pausing, stepping back, and looking at what you currently do and asking why it’s being done that way, can be very rewarding, and revealing.

A thought experiment

Imagine you have been given the time to reflect and are presented with a large whiteboard. Would you be able to map out your team’s key processes and workflows? What would that look like? Once you had added all the different data sources, additional steps taken and multiple stakeholders involved, what would it look like then? Can you identify the bottlenecks and areas for improvement?

If you questioned some of the processes you had captured and ask a manager or peer for an explanation, would any of the answers be, “Because that’s how we’ve always done it”? Or are some of those key workflows only really understood by one person on your team?

Often this search for efficiency and value can feel like an insurmountable task. Your team are trying to break out of the status quo, but all the increasing demands made on them and limited resources available only serves to create a circular loop of working hard to simply get things done, using the same established approaches and achieving similar outcomes. If you answered “no” to any of the thought-provoking questions above, this might be a sign that action is warranted and the loop is in desperate need of being broken.

The challenges for department or industries can differ wildly. For a finance or tax department, some of the constraints can be obvious – non-negotiable filing and reporting deadlines and a reliance on other parts of the business to provide the data and information required. HR departments are faced with a working environment that is changing at lightning pace, with the rise of remote working and ongoing change management.

A large, multinational business has additional complications of time zones, local regulations and data volume. A UK based SME may require their teams to wear several hats, with employees constantly being pulled in different directions.

Regulated industries, such as banking, insurance or oil and gas will have additional complexities and rules to consider, whilst businesses in sectors such as retail or IT must be able to react quickly to the latest trends and developments.

While the challenges might be different, most businesses, no matter the size or industry, are currently faced with an increasing number of logistical and supply chain challenges and rising costs and are asking their departments to “do more with less”.

Embracing change

For many, the thought of the disruption caused by a far-reaching transformation project can be quite daunting. The costs may even make such a project a non-starter, and it doesn’t quite sit in the ‘do more with less’ category.

However, starting smaller with a focus on targeted improvements can provide more immediate impact and benefits., The reward for identifying and fixing a bottleneck, or addressing a fundamental source of frustration, can be wide-reaching and achievable. There is the comfort of knowing this has been mapped and recorded, the satisfaction gained that you are using your resources in a more impactful and effective way, and the benefits from automating a key process. A few small improvements can really result in a big overall change (see more on this in an upcoming article).

You’re already working hard, but although it may sound contrary, pausing and taking time to discuss, identify and implement process improvements could be the smart choice to make that hard work the most rewarding for you and your team.

Enter technology

If you are being asked to do more but can’t hire more people. If you are being asked to work quicker, but without sacrificing accuracy. And if you are being asked to work longer, but there are no more hours in the day. There is only one answer left, better processes through the application of great technologies.

Talk to us now about how we can help you to find the strategies and solutions to improve your current process and create value from your hard work.

“Doing more with less doesn’t mean working harder or longer. It means applying technology to amplify what you can do and ultimately what an organization can achieve amid today’s constraints”. Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO at Microsoft


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