DiBona & Associates
DiBona & Associates

Seven Steps To Stop Your Team from Doing Needless Work

13.10.22 03:00 PM By Noel DiBona

Productivity is all about getting more done without adding people to your team. Across all industries, most companies are losing 20 to 30% productive output, according to multiple studies conducted by Bain, McKinsey, and many other public and private think tank organizations.

If you are managing a team or multiple teams, consider how your teammates work has evolved over the last several years. Chances are that your teams have experienced lots of changes in their work scope and how they do their work. Businesses are forced to evolve to maintain relevance in their market space.

These necessary changes have a deep impact on all teams. Consider how your team has evolved over the last several years.

The number one complaint we hear from clients is that there isn’t enough time in the day for them to complete their work. They are overloaded and burning out.

Here is a proven method that is going to free your team of doing needless work.

Step #1 – Define Your Team’s “Core Work Buckets”
Let’s define exactly what your team is responsible to produce. We do this by defining core work buckets that only your team is capable of producing. It’s important to understand if your team is taking on the work of another team.

As you go through this process of defining core work buckets, ask yourself the following questions:
      • Do managers in your organization compete for resources and budget?
      • Do managers in your organization collaborate with each other on a regular basis?
      • Do teams in your organization fail to pursue goals together?
      • Does your organization lack clear goals?
      • Does your organization have KPIs but fail to regularly report progress?
      • Does your company culture tend to restrict frequent collaboration?
If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you likely have teammates that are doing needless work because of them having to create a workaround for more systemic issues of dysfunction in other parts of the company.

As an example, consider a General Manager’s core work buckets:
      • Revenue Growth
      • Profitability
      • Workplace Safety
      • Providing leadership and mentoring direct reports
      • Work execution by area or work type
      • Quality of work
      • Customer Satisfaction
This is a good exercise to go through with your entire team. Once you have defined the major work buckets in your own mind, invite your entire team to identify the key work buckets and have some detailed dialogue on the definition of key work buckets. The team needs to own their key work buckets.

Step #2 – Define Your Team’s Deliverables Under Each “Core Work Bucket”
Now that you have defined your core work buckets, we need to list the next level of detail. What are the primary deliverables or primary activities under each core work bucket.

Some examples may include:
1.) Safety as a core work bucket:
      • Weekly audits
      • Toolbox talks
      • Monthly safety meetings
2.) Revenue Growth as a core work bucket:
      • Review sales plan with sales team
      • Review key account plans
      • Support sales team with operations personnel
      • Identify key initiatives
3.) Profitability
      • Update lean tools for more expedient problem solving
      • Evaluate technology to improve work execution
      • Submit financials to Corporate
      • Conduct project reviews
      • Lessons learn on key projects
This is another good opportunity to bring the team back together and begin contrasting and comparing their views as to what activities and deliverables fall under each core work bucket.

You will be surprised how much additional clarity they will gain by going through this exercise.

You will undoubtedly be asking questions like:
      • Why do we do this?
      • Why are you having difficulties obtaining this information for another team?
      • Don’t you think that work should be done by another team?
      • How can we get better cooperation from the other team?

As these discussions unfold, you will want to have some conversation with the managers of the other teams that are affecting your teammates. These conversations sometimes will lead to making agreements that change the work that your team is doing.

Step #3 – Log Time for Four Weeks
Once your satisfied that your key work buckets and major deliverables and must-do work activities are properly defined lay them out on a spreadsheet and have each teammate, including yourself begin logging time spent in each area and activity for four weeks.

It is important for each participant to list any time spent outside of the core work buckets. This is called unproductive work.

Here are some examples:
      • Any meeting that doesn’t support a core work bucket.
      • All time spent on emails (inside or outside of the core work buckets).
      • All time spent in meetings (inside or outside of the core work buckets).
      • Interruptions of any sort.
      • Personnel issues.
      • Equipment problems that disrupt work.
      • Any other issues that disrupt work.
      • Any problems.

Step #4 – Evaluate the Data Each Week
As these logs are being completed roll up the data and share the data with your team. Begin to gain an understanding of how much time is begin spent in productive versus unproductive work.

Pareto the unproductive work to look for trends of systemic issues that need to be addressed. There are many insights you will gain about the competency of your team, where they are having challenges, and where their strengths are.

Step #5 – Appropriately Modify How You are Forecasting, Planning, and Assigning Work.
With the insights you gain from your 4-weeks of logging data, you will likely want to change how you are assigning work and how much work you can count on your team producing. As you look ahead and forecast work during to accommodate peak periods or times when there is a lull in work, you will have a better understanding of resource leveling your team and using that labor on other work.

Step #6 – Update Your Work Management System
      • As you refine how your team delivers its work you will want to make some changes to your work management system to reflect:
      • Changes in who is doing the work on your team.
      • Changes in what work was transferred back to another team.
      • Elimination of unnecessary work processes.
      • Changes to core work processes to reflect enhancements uncovered during the data logging exercise.

Step #7 – Evaluate Your Leadership and Your Team
Finally, you will want to reflect on everything that has taken place through this process and rate your team in several important areas:

1.) Individual competencies will affect your training, hiring, moving a teammate into another job or another team.
      • Top performers
      • Average performers
      • Bottom performers

2.) What degree of psychological commitment to you have from the team – level of engagement?

3.) What have you learned about your leadership?
      • Any changes in how you work with your team?
      • Communication?
      • Delegation?
      • Are you properly engaging your team?

4.) What have you learned about the organization, your peers, your management?
      • How can you better work within the company culture to expand your sphere of influence and the influence of your team?

Some Final Thoughts
This exercise should be done annually and be looked upon as an important part of the team’s responsibilities. Allowing a team to evolve without the thoughtful consideration of how it impacts a business is a sure-fire way to invite poor performance and disappointment to the organization.

Your most important core work bucket is to lead your team and what better way to achieve your goals by eliminating needless work that saps your team of energy and hurts morale.

Top Ten Percent Teams enjoy their work; they gain a deep sense of fulfillment knowing their work is making a difference to the organization. People want to be on winning teams.