Timing our actions to address deficiencies as soon as they are perceived is more effective than waiting until we think a problem exists. The difficulty is in the perceptions of those that lead, including our leadership of our own lives.
Today, I had an executive “help” me with the backlog we have in inspection. This “help” is the direct result of a higher level executive being confronted with the recent facts. The inspection group for my business area has some items languishing for over 20 days when the goal for the average is seven days. We also have to pay our suppliers as quick as possible. For the past few years we’ve met our goal despite having items that age 20, 30 and even 40 days. It’s all in how the averages are calculated and managing those items outside the bell curve. However in this situation, we recently experienced a significant financial set back in the loss of a very big contract. Naturally, the sensitivity to efficiency and effectiveness is amped up.
The thing is, our inspection group has worked through more than half of the backlog without assistance even though some items languish. What’s interesting is we were applying additional resources three weeks prior to address the situation when our backlog was huge and were told to stop as those resources cost more than the normal inspectors. Comparing the potential cost of the engineers who are paid more than inspectors inspecting three weeks ago with the cost of high level executives and all the accounting personnel raising flags, which is more effective and efficient? A quick back of the napkin calculation shows the higher paid engineers applied as a proactive solution would have cost less. Furthermore, the levels of stress were increased in the reactive approach.
The timing of dealing with issues and problems directly impacts our effectiveness and efficiency. If we address issues before they become problems we reduce the stress in our systems. Being reactive is a form of procrastination. Obviously, we can not address all the issues that come up in our lives. However, we can focus on critical manageable things and drive our effectiveness up. The key is knowing what’s critical.
The same holds true for managing the business of you. When we are proactive, we are more effective, efficient and just get more done. So when faced with the issues that arise on a daily basis, we have to determine what’s critical and act. Simply said, but it’s not the easiest thing to do at first. After taking the approach many, many times, it becomes easier.
So, let’s work out our proactive-ness muscles and act in lieu of reacting.