The author elaborates on the most efficient style of working based on his work experiences
We all work for almost 50 years of our lives. But we realise the most efficient style of working towards the end. I give below a few tips/tactics which I have learnt over the last 40 years or so.
The single biggest tip to succeed is delegation. It is said that one who delegates, multiplies himself. Delegation creates leaders and reduces work load of the boss. The biggest delegator I have seen personally is our Hon. P.M. Narendra Modi. When I met him in February 2013, he was sitting virtually free although the Legislative Assembly was in session! One practical golden rule is: ‘Never do anything what others can do for you’. Many bosses are afraid to delegate fearing that the subordinate will make mistakes. Here, the boss should allow subordinates to make mistakes, say once or twice, but thereafter they will be of immense help.
A boss needs to train the subordinate and give him or her full information and power to carry out the delegated tasks. The boss should handle only extremely important tasks and delegate the rest to subordinates/colleagues. Having a smart secretary goes a long way in delegation. N Chandrashekhar, Chairman of Tatas was formerly executive assistant to S. Ramadorai, the then head of TCS.
Processes/Standard Operating Procedures
Define these clearly with detailed steps, stages, and timelines so that minimum human intervention is there. Revise these from time to time and importantly, train the staff as to exactly what they should do in respect of these. This saves a lot of time, smoothens the work flow, keeps the stakeholders (importantly customers/suppliers) happy, and eventually boosts profits as well as morale and image of the company. There should be total objectivity and minimum subjectivity. These should be well documented and available to all stakeholders.
Automate any operation/work which can be automated. Be it by using computers or other equipment/machines. Do this on a continuous basis. Internet can give you many tips on automating. Automating increases quality/accuracy enhances speed and most importantly releases the time of the bosses. So, the moment any work arises, a boss should ask himself two questions (a) can anyone else do this for me (Delegation). And (b) Can we automate this work? (Automation).
At any point of time a boss will have anywhere between 10 to 100 different tasks to be done. Time is always short. So the boss must prioritise say five tasks which he will do on a particular day and focus thereon rather that spreading himself too thin on tens of tasks. This tip was given to me by a CFO who was adjudged best CFO of the year. A common mistake is to prioritise urgent work and postpone important work which is not urgent. One needs to strike a fine balance between urgent and important. This requires monumental expertise and maturity. Worst is when the boss does any work which surfaces from time to time without bothering about other work which could be more urgent and/or more important.
Pennywise – Pound Foolish
The boss should never use his time on minor matters. He should focus on important things and time permitting, go on to handle any lesser important tasks. But, I have seen over last 40 years, many bosses who use up precious time, money, effort on minor matters due to which the business suffers. Imagine a family is shifting and the truck (carrying their luggage) is filled up with small goods, there will be no place for big furniture/equipment! When one handles major matters, big money is saved or earned. But when one indulges in minor matters, little money is saved or earned and worse, major decisions suffer!
Now, determining what is major work and what’s minor requires experience, skill and more importantly an open mind along with the will to do so.
Devise an appropriate reporting system which covers the most important aspects of your business. Some could be daily reports, some weekly, and some monthly. Most importantly, keep the reports simple. Complex reports preparation consumes time of subordinates and soon the boss stops reading complex reports.
The Boss need not read all reports. Even if he reads 20% of the reports randomly, that suffices. The very fact that boss is reading the reports will keep the subordinates on their toes.
I am told that a top politician in Delhi does not normally read any document/report of more than one page. He asks someone else to read these and report to him. Another important and innovative report is as below:
Above report will make the boss aware as to how much he has lost, due to abnormal reasons from time to time,
Rely on Experts/Outsource
Typically a small entrepreneur does all possible work himself. He has to realise that in case he hires experts and/or outsource part of his work, he can focus on more important work. Secondly, experts will do quality work which will help the business and save his time and that of subordinates. Outsourcing is a form of delegation. Globally outsourcing is in vogue in order to cut costs.
When you ask anyone to do a task, always take a completion date from him and if possible, stage wise completion dates. Thereafter ask the person to email to you the stage wise progress with time over runs. This will keep him on his toes. This stands, even if you see a mere 10% of the said emails and your executive secretary sees rest of the emails. Instead of OR in addition to emails, you can ask for reports by WhatsApp.
I know of a professional who learnt a computer course at the age of almost 80 years!
One should always tune oneself to latest advances in technology. The biggest gain of working in this pandemic is the video conferencing.
People can meet and converse or even give training by using video conferencing. This saves massive time, money, and effort. One should go beyond the thinking that a personal meeting is always better! Similarly, WhatsApp, of which I am a huge fan, the conversations can be done on groups on WhatsApp.
One can use an idea as follows
Send a clear, detailed WhatsApp message and then follow it up by a phone call to clarify if needed. In most cases such phone call is not needed. It needs to be noted that one can dictate a message on whatsapp something which I do quite frequently. Reminders on the mobile, checklists on mobile (in notes compartment) can relieve the stress on your mind. An immensely preoccupied mind tends to forget. Forgetting an important task can be costly.