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Do You Have Great Job Designs?

Time is the ultimate constraint when it comes to improving organizational performance. We have reached the point in our organizations where we can rarely expect to get more hours per week out of our people, and as a nation, we already put in more work days and hours per year than most developed countries. Additionally, more and more people claim that they are too busy, or worse yet, stressed out and burned out. Maintaining a work-life balance is also becoming more and more important to our employees. With all of these factors in play, we still try to get more out of our people and repeatedly expect them to 'do more with less.'

If there was ever a time where we needed to 'work smarter, not harder', it is now. The high performing organizations - those that are truly sustaining process excellence - have figured this out. They have torn down their silos and replaced that way of thinking with one that is value stream and process focused. They have streamlined their team infrastructures, aligned and coordinated their meetings, and taken waste out of all key processes while also increasing customer value. Can all organizations achieve similar results? The answer is 'Yes, they can', but they have to be willing to rethink all of their organizational job designs, not just those of the people who work on the front lines. Our greatest organizational waste streams exist in the middle and upper management levels, but simply reducing headcount in these areas won't systematically change the manner in which work is done each day. We have to systematically change our job designs.

How to Improve Your Job Design System

Why are great job designs critical to high performance?
Where is the bulk of the time waste in your organization?
Do you like fighting fires?
Are you hiring for excellence?
How do you really spend your limited time each day?
What steps can I take to improve my job design system?
How can Great Systems help you improve your job design system?
Would you like to learn more about operational and process excellence tools and concepts?









Why are great job designs critical to high performance? Back to Top

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, and 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.

Safety System Weaknesses

Where is the bulk of the time waste in your organization? Back to Top

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, but 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 an disproportionate amount of time on the front lines, and 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?

Do you like fighting fires? Back to Top

My business learnings have led me to realize that every person in an organization spends their time on two types of things - processes and projects. As you go higher up in a company, you will find that a greater percentage of job time is spent on projects - or at least it should be.

Managers spend a lot of time in meetings for example. A meeting is either project focused or process focused. Some meetings are training oriented, but even in these cases, the training is focused on either process improvement or personal development (which is a project). Do all of your managers know what percent of their time they spend in meetings? Are they working to make these significant time investments more value added?

Unfortunately, we tend to spend a high percentage of our time on reactive, versus proactive, tasks - in other words, fighting fires. Making a shift towards process excellence also involves making a shift in time investments, as shown in the diagram on the right. This is not an easy shift to make however. It is possible, but you have to use your reactive time investments wisely by (1) finding the true root causes of those waste incidents that required reactive time investments and (2) implementing effective corrective actions that actually make your problems go away for good.

Shifting From Reactive to Proactive

In order to move towards process excellence, you have to shift your time expenditures from processes to projects over time. At first, the projects will be directed at putting out the fires for good. Once the majority of the fires are put out, the project focus can shift to benchmarking other high performers, developing skills, and defining and implementing innovative system changes. I think you see the potential dilemma however - if you can’t put out the fires for good, you can’t expect to go a whole lot faster.

A lot of managers and supervisors thrive on ‘living in a crisis.’ Their self esteem is largely rooted in solving problems. Fewer managers enjoy working on projects. Some do realize that true process improvement, which requires the implementation of one or more projects, helps eliminate the potential for crisis, but they just can’t find the time to work on them. They’re too busy fighting fires!

Are you hiring for excellence? Back to Top

If I had to pick one process that has the greatest effect on an organization, I would select the hiring process. A lot has been said about the need to shift cultures in order to reach higher levels of performance. While that is true, we often fail to realize that the hiring process, more than any other process, serves as the primary driver of culture, and in turn, organizational performance potential.

When an organization hires its first employee, it creates its culture - after that, it is all about shaping that culture. We would like to think that leadership, training, and meetings can serve as the main drivers of performance improvement, but if you really think about, the hiring process is what determines the fate of your business, school, health care system, or team.

This is particularly true in this day and age, where it is much more difficult to get rid of those problem employees that ‘somebody’ hired. Additionally, most supervisors will tell you that employee problems take up much, if not a majority, of their time on the job each day. The cost of a weak hiring process is both astronomical and long lasting.

Do you hire for excellence?

How do you really spend your limited time each day? Back to Top

Who makes more per hour, a front line employee or a manager? Does this wage rate increase or decrease as you move upwards on the organizational chart?

Who in your company measures their personal time use on an hour by hour basis, or has it measured by someone else? What are the reasons for measuring the low wage rate people to a high degree and only measuring the people that make a lot more money per hour only at times, if at all?

Would it help if you chose to make some changes in your time measurement practices? Are your managers truly spending their time in a way that increases customer value? How do they know?

These questions are important to consider if you desire to have a high performance workplace. You should also question the logic behind the two tables shown at the right if this is your goal. In high performance workplaces, people spend more time working with others than they do working alone. If you are going to be working more with others, shouldn't you all be holding yourselves to the same set of time monitoring and usage standards?

What Do Leaders Do Each Day?

What steps can I take to improve my job design system? Back to Top

Safety System Improvement Steps

How can Great Systems help you improve your job design system? Back to Top

Over the past 30 plus years, I have helped a variety of different organizations improve their job designs, both at the front line and management levels. Through personal experience and learning, I have discovered systematic approaches for reducing meeting and e-mail waste, creating high performance job descriptions, designing effective team infrastructures, and in general, finding more time for improvement. If you really want to accelerate your pursuit of process excellence, you have to eliminate the non-value added time investments you are currently making, and in order to accomplish this goal, you have to change your job design approaches.

If you are interested in the job design systems and tools that I have to offer, send me an e-mail at Better yet, give some thought to working further with me to help you improve your job design system via these avenues:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out workshop - If you really want to accelerate your organization's pursuit of process excellence, this workshop is for you. This one day workshop is designed to help each participant (all leaders) define the key processes they personally own, the waste streams that these processes contain, and the measures and actions that are needed to reduce process waste and increase customer value.

Stop Management Madness workshop - In this workshop, you will learn techniques for measuring meeting and e-mail communication effectiveness and costs in the same manner that we analyze the performance of front line work processes.  You will also learn how to define typical meeting defects and rework, and how to make process improvements that will reduce that waste.  Examples of systems that can be used to increase meeting process owner accountability, meeting alignment, and skills for leading effective meetings will be also be shared. Finally, you will learn how to significantly reduce e-mail waste and improve the overall effectiveness of your organization's communication processes

How to Improve Your Job Design System workshop - This one day workshop is designed to accomplish three goals - define and evaluate how additional time for improvement can be created, learn about best practice approaches to job design, and make key choices regarding how your leadership team wants to improve your existing job design system for better results.

Would you like to learn more about process excellence tools and concepts? Back to Top

Click on one of the following links to explore other ways you can accelerate the pursuit of process excellence in your organization:

Process Excellence From the Inside Out Workshop
Using a Leadership Index to Measure Leadership Effectiveness
Job Design Performance Improvement Articles
Process Excellence Certificate Process
Other Great Systems workshops
Other Great Systems workbooks
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Last Revised - February 25, 2015
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