Do More with Less: 5 Steps to Capitalize on the Resources You Already Have

It’s a tale as old as time in the business world. Project workloads increase, resources strain to breaking point, and CEOs are left with two choices: hire more people or push back deadlines.

Here Chris Vandersluis, a public speaker, project management industry expert, and President and Founder of HMS Software, explains why you already have the solution to your predicament.

What if the solution could be found within your company’s existing resource pool? What if you could ‘do more with less’ and avoid the need to grow your staff simply by looking more closely at where employees spend their time during the work day, and then, creating ways for them to work smarter?

It’s not about monitoring lunch hours or breaks. It’s about discovering what employees are doing when they’re not charging time to project-based tasks. The more you can learn about how they spend their time between tasks, the better you can identify where there’s room for improvement.

It’s not about monitoring lunch hours or breaks. It’s about discovering what employees are doing when they’re not charging time to project-based tasks.

A large Midwest manufacturer, for example, found that people were spending an inordinate amount of time walking between different parts of its campus to participate in weekly project status meetings. By reducing meetings from weekly to monthly, and introducing newer, more automated methods to keep teams up to date, the company saved the equivalent cost of hiring 100 people.

Any size company can improve its resource capacity without expanding its staff by following this five-step process:

  1. Start collecting time data. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The first step is to gather good, accurate information about how people are spending the productive hours of their work day. It’s not enough to know that they put in eight hours — you need to collect information down to the activity level. One effective way of doing this is by incorporating a user-friendly, mobile timekeeping system into your workflow.
  2. Apply business intelligence to mine the data. Once you have time data collected in a system, apply business intelligence to look for patterns and commonalities, and identify unproductive or unnecessary activities. View the findings in an easy-to-digest dashboard or chart for a clear overview. In our experience working with CEOs, they are often surprised to learn that time is not being spent the way they thought it was.
  3. Review findings with the team. Share the analysis with the departments and teams involved, and solicit their input on ideas to free up time. Perhaps there’s a prioritization problem and people are spending time indiscriminately to deal with issues as they pop up. Maybe people are assigned to tasks they aren’t trained to do and are therefore taking more time to complete them.
  4. Implement changes to daily workflow. After you’ve arrived at a consensus, introduce changes to ensure improvements. If you discover much of your staff’s time is spent putting out fires, consider that it takes 24 minutes to get back on task after an interruption and try scheduling ‘emergency’ time each day instead. Reviewing the time traditionally allocated to tasks is another effective solution. Using this exercise, a steel company was able to shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off its scheduled plant shutdown — which traditionally costs the company $100,000 to $200,000 per hour in lost business — simply by making functional changes that required fewer hours be spent.
  5. Perform routine time audits. In order to keep productivity at its highest, introduce a periodic time review process to monitor the changes you make and assess whether employees are actually accomplishing more. Timekeeping data provides a validating, auditable source of information to back operational decisions and keep everyone working at maximum productivity.

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