Get Organized, or Face the Financial Consequences

By Jene' Hong

Failure to set priorities—and ensure ways to review and update them—can do far more harm than you see on the bottom line.

When Ingram’s invited me to write this article, I had to smile. Not only is this topic—the hidden cost of disorganization—one with which I frequently assist business owners, it’s personal: Even after years in business leadership, I’m always working to address lapses in my own effectiveness. I focus my professional efforts striving to grow the value of a business, both to hold and grow as well as to unlock value upon potential sale.

This could be starting from inception, a reboot of sorts or upon M&A activity. The ultimate cost of disorganization: losing your business due to lack of vision and planning, as well as aligning daily activities with that vision throughout the organization. Would you agree it is important to evaluate where you are and where you’re going as an organization? How often is that put on the back corner of the desk?

Borrowing from the familiar Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey, do you have a methodology for sorting out what is “Not Urgent” and “Important” versus “Urgent” and “Not Important”? Could someone else assist or possibly better address some items so you can spend your time on higher value activities?

With all the technology/communication forums we now have; there is an expectation for constant, immediate response creating more activities that feel urgent. We agree we cannot simply ignore communication, but how, when and by whom these communications are addressed is a choice. Do you answer each message as it arrives, or batch these communications to where you can focus on a project at hand? As a leader, you must constantly assess important issues that will become urgent if you do not. Are you changing with the world? Have you outgrown your current technology? Are you adding people where it may be more profitable to grow after evaluating efficiency and relevance of current systems that could be automated? I recommend bringing a person external to your organization to assist you
in answering these questions.

Why is it we have become dependent on a GPS to get places but we are not willing to build a GPS for our business? This focus on urgent yet sometimes unimportant items could be just dangerous in business as in a car when focusing on an urgent but unimportant text or call while driving.

I am frequently surprised how few business leaders can tell me where their company is going as an organization. If the leader does not know, how can the team support this vision? How can the team ask themselves if the time and resources they are using support this vision? When you look at the activities, communication and exchange of information throughout your organization, you will be surprised how much duplication of effort, multiple entry of the same information, and irrelevant information is being produced because it has always been done that way.

A very simplistic example of time and money wasted is seen in a simple e-mail chain: 10 people on an e-mail chain each spending 1 minute per email, and there are six responses to all: That is 10x1x6, or one hour of time. Must all of those people be involved?

At first, this evaluation takes time and cost money. However, both leaders and team members find that it will lead to a decrease in busy work, in favor of completing more productive important work. In addition, with becoming more organized in the way communications are handled, most team members find they have more time on their hands and no longer feel owned by technology.

I recommend asking yourself the following questions at least quarterly:

•  Do I allocate a portion of our time regularly, at least monthly, to defining where we are going and where we are along the road to our destination?

•  Do we review the activities our team spends the majority of its time and resources on to support this journey or is it just getting through a list of items, some of which should not even be on the list?

•  What is the plan and timeframe for each person addressing different types of communication within your organization? Is there someone who can answer on your behalf, leaving you available for items truly requiring your intervention?

The goal of your re-evaluation should be clarifying which activities are important for you to accomplish driving your business forward and what assistance you need to address other items that may be addressed by others.

In working toward that goal, consider not only on what you do best, but what you do worst. I recommend hiring someone with skills opposite from yours, someone who enjoys doing what you do not, and is strong where you are not. Keep your eye on your GPS!  

About the author

Jene' Hong is a principal at O’Keeffe and O’Malley, a Kansas City-based business consultancy and brokerage.