Since the onset of the GFC in 2008, many Australian businesses have exhibited a cost-cutting mindset, with a particular focus on “cutting heads”. Productivity, performance and efficiency expert Cyril Peupion has an interesting take on this trend.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review, he observes that while many people have left roles and not been replaced, workloads have not diminished dramatically, leaving less people to do the same amount of work.

“This has created two simple issues: a productivity issue with not enough people to do the work and a work/life balance issue with people working long hours and feeling stressed”, observes Peupion.

Peupion sees productivity as something of a magic bullet – he observes, however, that the default has been to work harder, “which can work for a while but is not sustainable”.

While strategy and action planning is crucial, and is usually undertaken by Australian companies, one of the biggest gaps in the area of productivity is execution. According to recent studies, two-thirds of corporate strategy is never executed.

Bain Consulting carried out an interesting study on strategy execution, surveying nearly 2,000 large companies. Seven out of eight failed to achieve profitable growth, though more than 90 percent had detailed strategic plans. The strategic plan is only the beginning; execution is what lies beneath and what will enable businesses to perform.

According to Peupion, “companies might be clear on their strategy, on where they want to head. But if you check what people are doing on a day-to-day basis, what they spend their time on hour per hour, you realise there is often a big gap between what they are doing and what they are supposed to do”.

 

Peupion’s suggestions to work smarter rather than harder include:

Clarify – Come together, at least on a quarterly basis, to be clear on what the team is trying to achieve and to agree the two or three things each person needs to do to get there.

Focus  Former Prime Minister, Paul Keating once advised Kevin Rudd to focus on getting three big things right rather than drown in detail. Most people and teams try to do too much, taking on too many priorities and struggling to deliver on any of them. Focus on two to three priorities per quarter – don’t just decide what you must do, decide what you will not do.

Discipline – Protect your priorities from other temptations such as interruptions, distractions, last minute requests and crises, emails and meetings via a structured work day. For example, only open emails once or twice a day and log out of the system.

 

Other key things to guard against are messy desks, multi-tasking and the open office. Peupion often asks clients to do two tasks one after the other and at the same time – clients typically take three times as long if they multi-task.

iHR believes appropriate HR strategies are crucial to effective strategy planning and execution and offers advice around team development, performance management systems, leadership and organisational culture.

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