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Simple in September

By Nayana Sen, MBA PMP

Image of a simple phrase "be happy."

It’s September, which can only mean one thing, the lazy days of summer are over. It’s time to rush around to get children to school, figure out how to meet those end of year goals, and then concentrate on the upcoming holiday schedule. In the midst of rushing around mindlessly, we also tend to complicate things in our lives. The more complicated something becomes; the less likely it is to become successful. Even the most complicated of projects, have to be broken down into simple tasks in order to be completed. The challenge for this month then becomes how to incorporate a simplicity mindset into your business. Let’s explore the 3-steps of incorporating simplicity into your organization including evaluating pain points, realigning workloads, and communicating more effectively.

Step 1: Evaluate pain points

There are processes in your business that are broken. These processes undoubtedly create work around issues and re-work for your team. Managers often tell their employees to be creative, and to seek out creative solutions to problems. The same managers often fail to correct the actual problem while creating multiple new solutions that cost the organization time and resources. Before creating one more work around or new process, take time to figure out exactly what the pain points are in your organization.

The best way to evaluate pain points is to figure which problems need to be solved. Not all problems need solutions, and it is always best to solve the problems that yield the best return on investment. Simply put, if it impacts customer satisfaction it needs to be fixed immediately. If it impacts employee morale or productivity it also needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Taking care of your customers and employees are the only two sure ways to improve profitability. Everything else can be solved later, and as budget or resources become available.

If solving issues for your customers and employees is priority, then understanding their needs become paramount as well. The best way to find an answer is to ask strategic questions. A good leader must have a general idea of what is and what is not working in their organization, however a good leader must not assume they know all the answers themselves. The problem may be entirely different to the person dealing with it, than to the manager tasked with solving it. The secret to solving the problem is to evaluate the problem from the perspective of the person experiencing it. Their solution may not be the right solution for the organization; however it is the starting point for every good decision.

Step 2: Realign work

Perhaps one of the most challenging ideas for managers to accept in the workplace is employees do not need to be kept busy. Some managers feel that if employees are sitting around idly, then it is time wasted. In today’s business environment, the idea is to do more with less. This has been the prevailing business concept in business for some time. The manager that insists on overloading their employees with constant busy work should also be prepared to the job themselves when the employee gets burned-out.

It is better to have productive employees that focus on a lesser work-load, than give them busy work that distract them from their goals. It is important to encourage downtime in a work environment, and to allow for team bonding during periods of down time. People that are happy at work are more productive at their jobs. It may sound counterproductive to say people are more productive in environments where they have fun, rather than where they are inundated with busy work, but the concept is very simple. Busy work does not produce consist results for an organization. It creates a sense of satisfaction for a manager that is not aware of how to lead people. It is better to align work to overarching goals such as improving client experience or growing revenue, for example.

Step 3: Communicate effectively

Communication as way to simplify things at work cannot be overstated. Improving communication among employees, and employers should be a priority for any organization. In a digital world it is easy to communicate, but many aspects of communication are lost including tone, depth, and meaning. Emails or any other form of digital communication will leave lots of room for interpretation by the other person.

One of the best ways to communicate with someone is still in person, but if that is not possible then opt to communicate via phone whenever possible. The simplicity of talking to someone has become complicated in a world dominated by texts, emails, and social media. In a work environment, a team needs to communicate often. This is not to suggest that a meeting is necessary for all occasions, however finding ways to ensure people understand each other and what is expected of them is crucial for long term success.

Managers often have to work with multiple personalities on a given team. Some people need more communication than others, but everyone needs clear and simple instruction on what is expected of them.

There are so many ways to simplify things at work, and it all starts with evaluating pain points, realigning work with larger priorities, and communicating effectively. There is never a bad time to simplify things at work or in life. Anytime there is a failure of some kind, take a minute to determine how complicated the process was to achieve the result.

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