Raising the Bar: Four Value-Added Activities That Can Make You More Productive

“If you don’t know your own value, someone will tell you your value, and it’ll be less than what you’re worth.” – Bernard Hopkins, American middleweight and light heavyweight boxing champion.

Every time you make a task, product, or service cheaper or easier, you’ve added value to your organization. The same is true if you invent something new, creatively solve a problem, or find a way to do something more efficiently. Every gain boosts your productivity, and enough of these gains improve the organization’s bottom line.

Some researchers put a heavy emphasis on focusing on value-added activities at the expense of all else, so you can keep pushing your productivity higher. Others de-emphasize an aggressive focus on value-added activities, because let’s face facts: in most jobs, you have numerous “have-to-dos”, often daily operational tasks, you can’t improve upon and that add no direct value beyond maintenance. Some people say their jobs consist of all non-value-added activities. Of course, one can argue these tasks also have value, if only because they save future expense and keep an organization running smoothly. But you can still try to add value by everything you do better and more efficiently.

Sometimes a value-added task can be as simple as NOT doing something. Let’s look at a few ways to increase your value, starting there.

  1. Fire TIM WOOD. This concept emerged from lean manufacturing, but works in most workplaces. “Lean” gurus have identified seven wastes: Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-Processing, Over-Production, and Defects. To go into detail on them all would require a very long article, but here’s an example including the first four: rather than dump all inventory in one place as it comes in and move it later, when you receive materials (whether a pile of lumber or new computers for your team), put them exactly where they belong from the start. All this takes is a little thought. On construction sites, workers often move the same group of materials multiple times as the project grows or they need space for something else (T, I, M, W). Each move wastes dozens of person-hours that translate to hundreds or thousands of dollars spent on activities adding zero value to the project. Bad planning costs you, so think twice before rearranging the server room or moving all those filing cabinets, because if you don’t, you may waste a lot of money fixing it later.

  2. Establish a system for data handling and stick to it. When you declutter and resolve the confusion on your desktop, on your computer’s desktop, and in your filing system, you speed up your ability to find things, adding value to all your tasks. You can use a variety of methods to do this, from my 6-D System (Discard, Delegate, Do, Date, Drawer, Deter) to the classic OHIO (Only Handle It Once), to make more time for the work that matters.

  3. Refocus on your most profitable activities. According to a 2013 study reported on in The Harvard Business Review, workers spend up to 41% of their time on “discretionary activities that offer little personal satisfaction and could be handled competently by others.” The authors suggest this is due largely to inertia; it’s easier to cling to tasks that “make us feel busy”, even as you get more work as your superiors continue to try doing more with less. Plus, it takes time to delegate a task to someone you can trust to do it competently. Grit your teeth and do it anyway. Identify your low-value tasks, offload them, and reallocate the time to more valuable tasks.

  4. Value effectiveness over efficiency. Always seek to do the right things right, but at least do the right things. So what if you’re superbly efficient at doing a particular task if it falls into the low-value category? Even if it only take 15 minutes a day, there’s a quarter-hour you can focus on a high-value task that directly generates revenue or helps generate revenue—even if you don’t do the task especially efficiently. If you’re a software designer, pounding out code makes you money, not archiving old projects or reading up on the latest computer languages, no matter how efficiently you assimilate do the work. As difficult as it can be to wrestle with code and debug, that’s your value-added activity.

Value, Added

If you can’t think of any immediate ways to add value to your work, then apply the tips above to each task or project. If nothing else, do your best to get your final product to the end user or consumer as soon as possible, while retaining high quality. Speed itself is a value-added activity that serves you well.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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