Updated: Oct 20, 2022
"I'm too busy. If I spend this extra time to create new processes now, I will have more work to do piled onto my backlog".
Familiar? You are are not alone. These are one of the many reasons why the current workforce is not using technologies and tools already available to them, to create efficiencies and automate their work tasks.
The first driverless car was invented in 1994. Automated livestock milking technology was used from the 1990s, yet more than half of dairy milk farmers are milking their livestock manually. Solar panels have been around since 1984, yet only 5% of the world's energy is produced from solar.
So why is the pace of change so slow when the potential benefits are so obvious? In corporate, it is usually because of the lack of an incentive, or the manager with a lack of passion for improvement, or the change-adverse attitudes in the team, that things have still been done as they were 10 years ago, despite the clear emergence of multiple improved methods and technologies that enable them.
Perhaps the best way to instigate change is from the top down. When management sets continuous improvement as a deliberate goal, budgets will be allocated specifically for improvement initiatives. Automation and continuous improvement goals will be introduced into manager and employee performance indicators, and as a result a significant rise in efficiency year on year when staff ar forced to find ways to improve current processes.
Not a manager? Instigate that change from the bottom up by showing your manager how you can do the job better.
Let me leave you with 3 tips:
1) Intentionally block your time in your calendar for continuous improvement
While I was in a processing intensive role, I couldn’t wait to automate all my tasks. After completing month-end, I would go back to each process I did, map out all the inputs required, and started building a workflow system to have the data flow seamlessly to each output. I blocked out 3-4 days at a time to build these workflows. Within 6 months I had automated my job down to 2 days a week.
I understand flexibility in your weekly schedule isn’t possible for everyone, and if so perhaps schedule that improvement time down to the hour, say 4-5pm everyday. Finish 8 hours of work in 7, or talk to your manager about adjusting expectations. If your backlog of work is not on a daily deadline, 1 hour of a day will not cause a significant business impact.
2) Be the one to start the journey
If you are a manager, try advocating to place continuous improvement achievements as part of your team’s goals. What gets measured gets done. Also be sure to support your team members when they attempt to learn new tools and methods to improve their work process. This is new ground for them, and they will need all the support they can get to stay motivated. If there is no budget for training, there are plenty of online resources that are completely free.
If you report to a manager, and there are no clear performance incentives for continuous improvement, have a chat with your manager to add this into your work incentive list. I would be very surprised if your manager did not welcome this suggestion. I would go even further to say that even if this does not get added to your official incentive list, to go ahead and start the journey anyway. Sometimes your progress and achievements alone will be enough to drive the change in your incentives. And if not, you can enjoy the benefits from a reduced workload.
3) Get hands-on, be ready to explore and learn new tools and methods
By exploration, I don’t mean simply hand the learning process to an external consultant, your manager, or your team members. I suggest getting involved with the discovery process. There is nothing better than to learn the technology or solution yourself, so you are better equipped to apply this to your next project.
Having hands-on experience lets you understand the real constraints, or even understand additional functionalities of a solution that you may have overlooked at a high level. You may identify bigger opportunities with bigger time savings throughout the experience.
Let me leave to you with this these thoughts
If you don't start automating, your competitors will. If the pricing of your core service or product is a high function of internal man-hours, your competitiveness will be at risk.
When staff members are removed from the mundane repetitive tasks and are left with more analytical work, they improve the actual quality of work that they produce. Copy & pasting data does not improve work quality.
Automation is coming. If you haven’t already automated your mundane tasks, someone else will. It should be you rather than someone else, so that you can upskill, and control the change happening in your role. Trust me when I say this, that you will never be made redundant from automating your own tasks. You will be giving better skilled responsibilities to do, and will impress your managers around you.