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Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Get Things Done Despite Single Point Failures

Imagine a scenario where you are full of enthusiasm to start working on a task or a certain part of a project. You are really ready to kick some butt… until you realize that your hands are tied: Perhaps you can’t start working on the task because someone else’s input is needed first, or maybe a network drive which stores your project files is inaccessible because of a hardware failure.

Since you are unable to continue with your work for now, the next logical question is: How are you going to prepare for these kinds of scenarios the next time, so that you won’t end up wasting your time again?

Are you too busy to prepare?

There is one obvious reason why you are experiencing the frustration over what just happened: You weren’t prepared enough for a scenario like this. Exactly why you were unprepared was a result of two reasons:

First, you didn’t allocate enough time for the preparation. Since you were busy with your other stuff, you neglected the preparation—even if you knew it was necessary.

Perhaps you even thought that preparing was unnecessary in the first place. You didn’t understand the importance of it and you didn’t bother sitting down and thinking of your plan B for your task or for your project.

So there you are, and you don’t know what to do next since you don’t have any secondary plan in place.

Trusting too much that things go well

You have now realized that the unprepared route you have taken is not a professional way to do things, and simply assuming that everything will go OK is not a solid plan.

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It goes without saying that you need to learn to appreciate the planning part as well. It doesn’t matter how good your task list looks; if the tasks are not executable because of unexpected dependencies, you can trash your task list this very moment.

When you learn to see the big picture and allocate enough time for planning, only then are you able to avoid the roadblocks and stop wasting your time.

Learn to stop (in order to keep on going)

From now on you should do certain things to secure the smooth execution of your tasks and projects.

First, take enough time to plan your next move. In fact, FORCE yourself to take the time for planning. It will pay off handsomely, especially when things are not going as planned.

Understand that planning time is actually working on the task already: It’s preparing for the worst-case scenario and making sure that everything goes well if something unexpected happens.

Secondly, see every part of the task: Who is involved, which systems are being used, and which parts are integral to your work?Seeing this in advance is crucial, because it gives you a better level of preparedness later on.

Thirdly, imagine every possible scenario before taking action. What happens if a system goes down? What about a situation where you need another person’s input before you can continue with your own work?

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Once you have considered these scenarios in advance, you can continue with your work without minimum downtime. And believe me—it’s more than possible that you are going to experience the unexpected, something that wasn’t written on your task list.

Keep the ball rolling by preventing these 4 common SPOF scenarios

SPOF stands for Single Point of Failure, and it’s a fancy way of saying that if one part of the system collapses, it takes the whole system down.

Apply this knowledge to your project or a task the same way: If your work is dependent of something or someone and the person or system lets you down, then your work gets delayed and time gets wasted.

Here are the four most common scenarios that you can prevent with some planning. Be proactive on these and your work will continue as smoothly as possible.

1. Task cannot be continued without someone else’s input first

Oftentimes your work can only continue when someone else has done his/her part first. To make sure that this is the case, spot these kinds of tasks in the early phases of your project and prioritize them if possible.

The sooner you start with the delegation, set deadlines and communicate clearly why the task is important to take care of, the bigger chance there is to have the necessary input completed before you are starting your part.

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2. You have lost your work

Do you take backups regularly? Is it easy to restore things back to normal if your hard disk crashes? If you answered no to these questions, then make sure you fix the situation as quickly as possible.

First, try saving your content in the cloud. For instance, I’m saving all the important documents not only to my hard drive, but also to DropBox by using its client software. If my hard drive happens to crash, the backup copy is available on the cloud.

Then, buy an additional backup system for your computer. In many cases, this can be bought as a service that is offered by your Internet Service Provider. You can also subscribe to an onlinebackup system.

3. You realize you can’t do the task yourself

Have you ever realized that completing a certain task will actually require expertise that you don’t own? And since you don’t have the expertise, the task can’t be done right now? Well, I have run into this issue many times before, and with a little preparation this can be avoided.

In this situation everything comes down to the planning, where you actually go through the different scenarios (as mentioned before). During this phase, you also understand whether you can do the work yourself or if you have to hire an outsider to do the work for you.

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Be absolutely honest with yourself about this: If you have any doubts that you can’t do the task yourself, it’s better to outsource it. Nothing is worse than doing a mediocre job yourself, when the results could be outstanding by an outsider.

Be sure to gather the required expertise well before you start working on your task/project. That way you are not wasting your time on doing the task yourself.

4. Your idea is lost

You have this great idea that popped into your head while you were at work, but now you can’t remember what it is. Had you stored it immediately, you’d still have an idea and it could potentially add a bigger figure to your bottom line or save hours of your work.

You owe it to yourself to write down the idea immediately as it pops into your head. You could use traditional pen and paper, use your mobile phone to store it temporarily (even if it hasn’t got Internet access) or even use your smartphone for storing the idea directly on Google Docs or EverNote.

Don’t convince yourself that “I’ll remember the idea when I get back home”. Most likely you’ll forget it and feel annoyed and frustrated.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many things that can halt your productivity and cause you to waste your time. Don’t let this happen and create a fail-proof system which lets you continue with your work – even if one part of the system collapses.

Make sure you spend enough time by going through the different scenarios in advance. You’ll thank yourself that you did this when something unexpected happens.

Over to you: How do you make sure you can continue with your tasks – even when part of the system collapses?

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Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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