The Amount of time it takes for teams to get product out the door is your most competitive edge and ultimately the indicator of whether you and your team will succeed.
Anyone who ever tried to tie a shoe, plan a vacation, or get a project done at work knows this basic principle off life–it takes way too long to get things done. Some processes exhibit precision–heating a donut in a microwave oven takes about 15 seconds–that’s physics. Other things we do take forever if we don’t know how to organize them. It’s all about how we use our time.
“Cheaper by the Dozen”, Steve Martin played Frank Galbreth, a 1920’s scientific consultant obsessed with time and how long things took. Frank and his wife Lillian raised a dozen children at a time when houses only had one bath and a single-car garage. Galbreth, whose children mostly adored him, ran his family with a pocket watch in hand, timing meals and baths.
Frederick Taylor, the Father of the “Efficiency Movement” Galbreth’s patron saint of cutting the time it took to do things was Fredrick Taylor, the father of modern consultants who help organizations with process efficiency. Taylorism–with its relentless call for efficiency–was ultimately rejected as a creepy process that dehumanized people by timing their every movement. The results of his work became the cannon fodder for social commentators to bash the inhumanity of the industrial world, with the accusation that people can’t be driven like cattle.
Taylor’s Work of Speeding Up the Process Reemerged as Reengineering and Total Quality Management – Yet Taylorism, with its effort to cut time and costs from processes, ultimately came back in the new forms of process improvement, total quality management, reengineering. The new software created was ultimately much more about managing people than processes, mandating the efficient order of operations and control codes. Taylor’s stop watch was substituted by software that relentlessly regulates the flow of human activity.
Teams Have Never Been Revolutionized as in Process Improvement – Yet high level teams have escaped the rigorous processes that have revolutionized manufacturing, banking, and retail. You can’t by a cup of coffee at Starbucks without the employee entering the code to get into the system, that determines price, does the accounting for the purchase, and precisely orders new inventory. Yet when it comes to teams in organization, efficiency and costs are thrown to the winds–and the costs are huge.
There is little process or measurement of any kind. Performance is linked to profits, but in a painfully indirect way that causes most organizations to fail. It is time to revisit Taylorism and to see how it applies to today’s business team. The cost of human interaction and its failure is the largest cost of business today. Make no mistake that most teams are failing. They are caught up in a mass of inability to cohere and move forward.
Teams are the Biggest Cost Centers in Organizations. The highest cost in business is most often the time teams waste on redirecting, reexplaining, and damage control from hurt egos and feelings is an enormous cost. The organizations that make team process work are the organizations that win. Making teams work–and radically reducing the time to market–is the new frontier of organizations. It has greater potential than the revolution in manufacturing that has changed the world, greater than the advances that Deming enabled Japanese manufacturing to make in the 1950s that lead to Asian domination of manufacturing.
Meetings–the Most Immediate Opportunity for Organizations – One of the areas of most opportunity is meetings–really low hanging fruit. Meetings, which are huge and hated, are the engine of everything. They’re not just formal meetings, but are also the “water cooler” version, and can be conference calls and sometimes email strings. Days and hours are spent on meetings with little or no prework, painfully inadequate agendas, no process for follow up, and no accountability. The cost is millions of dollars each year.
The New Horizon for Organizations–Innovations – Another is forward planning and innovation. Organizations die each day because there is no process of determining what’s next. There are literally hundreds of measures that organizations can take to revolutionize teams. Team success is not measured in meaningful ways. How and when they should move forward is often happens in the autopsy of their failure. Where is Frederick Taylor when you need him?