Bureaucracy must die: a beginner’s guide to workplace automation

Over the next four weeks we’re giving you a guide to workplace automation. Take the bureaucracy out of business and start increasing the value of your time.

Man surfing on paper: guide to workplace automation

‘Even companies that create innovative products rarely innovate when it comes to process,’ says Leslie Perlow.

Bureaucracy or your business: only one will survive

With knowledge workers spending an average of 41 percent of their time on ‘discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction,’ bureaucratic processes are stealing time, money and motivation from your business.

Bureaucracy masquerades as a painful but essential part of business because for so long it has been the only accepted way of handling processes like HR, purchases, communication and more. But while the processes might be necessary, the bureaucracy isn’t.

Over the next four week’s we’ll expose the hidden nooks and crannies where needless paperwork and mindless tasks lurk and show you how a little automation can go a surprisingly long way.

You can’t make more time; you can increase its value

posh gold watchTime is money. It’s an old saying, but a true one. Of course, any savvy business person should reply, ‘how much money?’

Time spent filling in forms or answering repetitive, pointless emails is worth a lot less than time spent closing a sale or working on a client project. Many businesses, however, fail to make the distinction and are throwing money away in the process.

A few organisations do buck the trend and ‘bring as much discipline to their time budgets as to their capital budgets,’ say Michael Mankins, Chris Brahm and Gregory Caimi. Such companies have identified the low-value, high-time tasks and set a very specific limit on them, putting approval procedures in place for any overspend as you would a normal budget. Doing so has not only improved the productivity of individuals, but has initiated an organisation-wide shift towards greater efficiency and value.

Make time for what matters

‘In today’s knowledge economy, competitive advantage is increasingly coming from the particular, hard-to-duplicate know-how of a company’s most skilled people…the goal is to redesign the role so that people are spending all their time at the high end of their skill set.’

This particularly succinct insight comes from a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on redesigning knowledge work, but the argument is applicable well beyond just knowledge workers. Virtually every position in a company should be earning its keep, adding to revenue or growth.

Take HR, for example. The department has no direct contact with clients and no role in product development. It is, however, responsible for the growth of the company and its skill set. Company culture, training, development and talent retention are vital to the success of the company, and that’s how HR earns its keep. That said, with so much bureaucracy, HR professionals rarely get to spend their best time on those tasks.

Going back to the HBR quote then, it can be argued that almost every person’s role should be redesigned so that they are ‘spending their time at the high end of their skill set.’

Important vs valuable

Identifying which tasks need to be automated, delegated or eliminated is relatively easy when you sit down, look at your to-dos and ask:

  • What brings me personal value?
  • What brings the company value?
  • Am I the only one that can perform this task?
  • Does this task even really need doing?

If you want a little help, the HBR even offers an assessment tool for figuring out what work matters.

Of course those that can be eliminated should be. Those that fall in the category of not high value to you or the business, but which still need doing, are ripe candidates for automation.

Your guide to workplace automation

Over the next four weeks we’ll cover the most common examples of high-time, low-value tasks and give you a guide to workplace automation for each. We’ll look at:

  • HR and purchasing
  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Admin

So be sure to watch out every Tuesday throughout April and start learning how to increase the value of your time.

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