As organizations grow larger and larger, the amount of work needed to maintain the status quo and keep all members of the organization informed becomes exponentially larger.
When starting a company or even during the small business phase, executives and workers alike may have ideas like "Why would I ever need a full report on this?" or "I can just tell everyone myself, no big deal."
This is a dangerous mentality!
Keeping this mentality through mid-size and enterprise scales can also be damaging to a business as a whole. Employees need a level of standardization to their work, and a way to communicate about their work effectively.
This often gets termed "busy work" - work that employees feel adds no value to the customer or their own personal responsibility.
We can take this type of work and divide it into two critical categories - there is work that does add value only in ways not seen by the employee at hand, and there is work that absolutely does not add value and could be considered waste.
To handle the work where the employee simply has a misconception about the importance, effectiveness, or overall goal of a particular task, the simple answer is visibility. Educate employees on where their work goes when it leaves them - even the menial tasks like reporting and pivot table color coding - why is it important? Who sees these things, what decisions do they effect, and why? Is there a real example of a time when that report was crucial to a decision in a value-adding moment, or can visibly and reliably be traced to customer growth?
The answer is yes for the work to have been in this category in the first place, and the employee just needs reassurance that the work is worth doing. This suddenly ceases to be busy work, and now is not only critical work to be done, but considered valuable and fulfilling by the workers!
The second type of work as categorized before - work that does not add value and truly is "busy work" (also to include work we thought was part of the last section but it turned out was simply wasteful), is a bit harder to deal with. Let's break it down into individual steps of analysis:
- Does the task need to be done at all, and why? - if it does, move on; if not, eliminate it
- Since the task needs to be done, can it be automated? - if yes, automate; if not, move on
- Can the task be done in fewer steps with fewer resources? - if yes, simplify and improve the process
All of these steps, of course, are standard for discovering if waste is present in your organization or if a task is truly value-adding - many of the principals of Lean, Agile, and other management systems fall into place with these goals, and they are strong ways to remove the waste and "busy work" from your company.