No matter what your job, almost surely it can be made easier than it is now. The trick is to find better and simpler ways to accomplish what you are now doing.
Here is a five-part program that can be applied to virtually any job.
- Pinpoint a job problem. Ideally, choose something that currently requires a lot of time and energy and that may be slowing up your productivity.
- Break it down to its component parts. This means dissecting each detail of the job for analysis.
- Question each detail with inquiries like: is the step absolutely necessary? Why? Can it be done by a subordinate? When should it be done? Why? How often? What would happen if the step was omitted?
- Develop a better way. This is where ingenuity comes in. Any change will doubtlessly require consultation with—and suggestions from—others, as well as test runs to determine if the change is practical and to make sure quality is maintained. Your new methods may eliminate steps or actions, combine functions, rearrange sequences, change time, place or persons, and use new facts, substitutes, procedures or tools.
- Apply the improvement. If you diligently take the first four steps, this fifth is practically inevitable. Having determined what should be done, do it or see to it that it is done by others. A word of caution: when a new way is introduced to employees, it’s important to reassure them that they won’t lose their responsi-bilities or jobs as a result of the change.
Try for Personal Zero Defects
Some people always do their best. They are driven to compete not only with others, but with themselves. Toward this end, they follow a personal “zero defects” program, always trying to perform flawlessly. Even when they do not live up to their own high standards, the very attempt at perfection pays off in work of higher-than-average caliber.
They seldom settle for the first idea that occurs to them. They view every task, big or small, as a challenge to be met in a superior fashion. They may not do anything until they have drawn a mental list of three, four or more possibilities, then eliminate those that appear most flawed. The remaining strategy is clearly the one to be adopted.
They anticipate problems. If one approach will require too much time, they choose another. If they foresee a need for help, they check on the availability of other people before plunging in. If the effort to be invested in a job does not promise a sufficiently high payoff, they search for another solution.
They work hard, for it is results they are after, not leisure time. If an extra hour or day will yield what they are seeking, they are happy to spend it, knowing that there will be other hours and other days in which to do other things. Above all, they want to experience the heady sense of achievement that doing a job extremely well gives them. For them, there is simply no substitute for that feeling. You?
Talking to a Prospective Employee
As the economy improves and companies increase their number of new hires, you may find yourself engaged in interviewing candidates for jobs. Some reminders on what you ought to cover with prospective employees:
If you are talking to an individual to learn about him or her, it is equally true that the individual is there to learn about you, as well as your department and your organization.
You therefore owe that person certain information. In order to live up fully to this responsibility, you must be completely familiar with, and up-to-date on, such areas as your organization’s policies, benefits program, what it expects from employees, its training facilities, and so on.
Part of your job, remember, is to do some low-pressure selling of your firm to the prospective employee. There is sometimes a temptation to overdo this by exaggerating opportunities or benefits. But if you can’t impress the interviewee by sticking to the facts, you’re far better off finding that out during the interview period than after hiring the person, when mounting disappointments will sour the new employee on the job, on you, and on the organization.
Paint as accurate a picture as possible, therefore, of the work the prospective employee will be doing in this job, the people with whom the prospective employee will be most in contact, and his or her work location and hours.
If possible, show the interviewee where he or she will work. If he or she will occasionally, or frequently, be asked to put in overtime, work on weekends or change shifts, tell the person right now. It is obviously not only basic honesty; it is also self-protection for you, should he or she be hired and later complain about working conditions.
Clearly, you should never misrepresent a job. Nor should you make promises that you cannot possibly keep. Fundamental to effective employee-manager relations is mutual trust based on mutual honesty. You will get neither if you do not give them first. And the interview, being your initial meeting with an employee, is the place to begin.
In a nutshell: stick to the facts; tell the truth; don’t make promises you cannot keep.
Keep Your People Out Of A Rut
No one likes to feel that there is no chance for advancement at his or her place of work.
But advancement isn’t always in the cards. Not everyone is qualified to move ahead. For one reason or another, there may be no openings in the organization in the foreseeable future. Or the nature of the work may be such that no advancement is realistically possible.
Under such circumstances, what—if anything—can a manager do to soften or prevent a state of hopelessness from engulfing people? Suggestions:
- Look for hidden talent. Before throwing in the towel, look at your people’s records. Do they possess any skills that haven’t been used in their current positions, but might be applied elsewhere within the company? Ask them to tell you about their interests. These may suggest new possibilities.
- How about job enrichment? Can you add to current responsibilities in some way? You may be able to incorporate related or, with some imagination, even unrelated work into an individual’s regular routine.
- Can you put them in business for themselves? That is, can you give them a feeling of independence by granting them more autonomy in what they do? Less supervision means added prestige, status and, usually, more self-confidence too. This can be especially effective with senior employees.
- Remind them of the importance of their jobs. A mundane job can be made more palatable by helping the employee to see the connection between what he does and the rest of the company…and the connection between what the company does and the needs of the community or country.
- Try improving employees’ methods. An old job can sometimes be transformed into something fresh and challenging by increasing the employee’s efficiency, thereby giving him a sense of progress in the job. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to help your people streamline their methods.
Improve Your Decision Making
We make decisions every day, on the job and off, despite the fact that we almost always have work from insufficient data. Result: even our deepest thinking fails to deliver 100% foolproof courses of action.
Yet, we can’t stop making decisions. Is there any way to load the dice in favor of making the right decision? Here is one possible approach:
Determine how important the problem is. Then you can decide how much time you can reasonably devote to it. Don’t make a snap decision in any case. If time is important, speed up each of these steps, but don’t eliminate any.
List the symptoms that tell you there is a problem. These may be effects rather than causes, but list them. Find out if a similar problem has ever been solved before, and how. After you have gathered a reasonable number of symptoms, search for the reasons behind them, Talk to everyone involved in the problem and narrow your information down to the two or three most important points.
Compile some tentative solutions and think about them one at a time. Then decide which of these is best and act accordingly. You may be surprised by how much better your batting average becomes.