Services Procurement

What are Your Tasks on the Axis of Significance?

Hello! It has been a while since I posted anything because… holidays!

Mine were wonderful – how about yours?

I started to write this post on productivity last week but think I confused productivity with procrastination and, frankly, I’m not the only one who sometimes confuses the two!

How so? Well, answer the following for me:

Have you ever written an item on your To Do list that you have completed just so you could check it off?

Have you ever thought, there must be a better way to do something but just keep doing what you are doing rather than stop your “FLOW”?

Have you ever worked late into the evening cleaning out your in-box?

Have you ever put off training a team member on some important work because it is easier to do it yourself?

Have you ever broken out in a cold sweat when your manager asks you to consider applying Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to some tasks your team is performing?

I’ll bet you answered yes to at least one of those questions or you wouldn’t still be reading this post!

And so, you, like me, often confuse productivity with procrastination! We keep busy rather than getting on with what really needs to be done to make real dramatic progress.

We call our busy-ness being productive.

Perhaps we cringe when we hear the work productivity is because productivity is the gift that keeps on giving – year-round – to employees of all types of companies. How to ‘do more with less’ is the new normal.

Several years ago, P&G was going through a challenging time and our CEO promised Wall Street that we were going to deliver $10B in productivity savings.

“Productivity is the fuel to enable P&G to make critical investments, while also delivering on the Company’s profit and cash flow objectives. P&G over-delivered on its first $10 billion productivity goal and is well positioned to deliver an up to additional $10 billion in savings.”     Sept 2017

That initial $10B we over delivered on was a significant challenge. As a senior manager, I was responsible for eliminating jobs… this is not a task any leader wants to do. Thankfully, I was working with a very caring boss and a great Leadership Team. We did our very best to find the best outcome for all involved.

Now we are well into the next $1B… like I said, the gift that keeps on giving!

Even outside of work, it seems there is no end to the number of consultants who make a living helping people be more productive.

Scott Young, entrepreneur and blogger famed for completing MIT’s 4 year Computer Science curriculum in 1 year (on his own, gaining all the benefits and none of the debt) recently posted an article Getting Over Productivity Guilt where he essentially apologizes for bloggers like himself who seem to be inciting the never ending quest for doing something meaningful with each waking moment.

And here he is offering his advice on Social Media.  

I felt guilty reading his advice instead of starting that on-line MIT course I have always meant to take. 

A while ago, I came across an HBR article about Sir Dave Brailsford, the coach of the British Racing team responsible for ending “nearly one hundred years of mediocrity” by breaking down all the steps in cycling and improving each by a small 1%. His theory of “incremental gains” proposes that all these little %’s will take you from losing to winning. And maybe he is on to something – across a 10-year stretch, British cyclists took home 178 world championships and 5 Tour de France Victories.

“We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage.

Well, it’s 2019, so in case you made a resolution to be more productive this year (and I’m hoping to get my Christmas cards out as Valentines!), let me make a suggestion that you think about productivity in a different way and actually choose to do a bit of ‘strategic procrastinating’!

I’ve been an expert practitioner of the Eisenhower Matrix – a productivity tool to help you prioritize tasks based on their URGENCY and level of IMPORTANCEDo, Schedule, Delegate or Ignore.

If I’m an expert, why are there are times when cleaning out my in-box seems far more important to getting a good night sleep?

This year, I invite you to join me in adding another dimension to the Matrix – SIGNIFICANCE.  This is a measure of the long-term impact or the strategic nature of the task. Where Importance presents a current state dynamic, Significance is future oriented. It helps you move from busyness to true productivity. The kind of productivity that is a gift to yourself and your work place.

What are those important tasks that keep buyers buried in the details? As buyers, we are typically adding ‘touches’ to the procurement process. At P&G, we were so busy adding touches, for years we out off make the choice to implement a better system. We finally decided to act on that task that was high up on the “Significant” axis of the matrix.

We moved all Indirect Procurement to Coupa. It has been a game changer made up of many little 1% improvements across several billion dollars of indirect spending.

We have great insight into our spending, we have several automation tactics that have saved buyers tons of time. And, the best improvement is that employees love the tool.

Why did we take so long to make this move?

I believe it is because we were so focused on productivity – we had eliminated roles, several of them procurement jobs. We were delivering savings but weren’t focused on the future.

Smile IMG_6255So, for a better 2019 – “Just say no” (strategically procrastinate) to the in-box clean up, to the resistance to learning the latest IT craze that is RPA, or to putting off that trip to the gym. Your future self will thank you!

What are your biggest productivity challenges or hacks that have moved you further along the matrix of significance?

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