A lean workforce ensures that wage bills are controlled, specialization is realized, accountability is enhanced, and utility expenses are kept at profitable levels.
By CPA Samwel Baraka Ochieng
On 11th March 2020, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. Businesses, from small traders to multinational corporations reeled under the impacts of the pandemic-induced economic fall. To terminate the pandemic, WHO advocated for equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. In Kenya, since the first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine arrived in March 2021, data by the Ministry of Health as of 17th November 2022 showed a proportion of fully vaccinated Kenyans at 36.5%.
The best vaccine uptake proportion by County is 54.7% for Nairobi. Sadly only10.5% of the Mandera
County population had been fully vaccinated by that date. In March 2022, a year later and approximately
two years since the pandemic’s avowal, mandatory Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. At the presser, the then Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Health Hon. Mutahi Kagwe reiterated that while Kenyans ought to remain vigilant and adhere to public health protocols, the use of face masks was no longer mandatory.
Many a citizen grew excited at the prospect of resuming the “next normal”. Often, as was experienced, businesses and livelihoods get severely impacted during pandemics. To create a turnaround, businesses
need to recognize challenges, consider changes, innovate, build cohesive teams — and have all encompassing leadership that is able to tap into the unique talents, and skill sets of their workforce. So, to
deliberately seize with careful precision opportunities stemming out of the recovery and achieve more.
There is an urgent need to restructure operations, convalesce lost revenue, quicken digital solutions adoption, and discard the busywork culture from the workplace. Ideally, there may exist more tasks
on a workday than time — resources may allow them to be accomplished, and in each new calendar, we contend with a dilemma that, in the words of President Eisenhower “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important.
The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” In the ensuing passages, we
shall explore how enterprises can work with the Eisenhower model to reduce wasted time and enhance efficiency in the post-pandemic workplace. To thrive in the ‘next normal’, higher-ups need to continually keep the organization’s bigger picture big. Foundationally, in order to remain within the confines of urgent and important tasks, and avoid drifting into unproductive busy work, organizational objectives need to be clearly defined.
Make-work is work that typically appears productive and/or of intrinsic value, but actually merely keeps employees occupied (Merriam-Webster). It neither achieves an organization’s objectives nor enriches
its ethos. Higher-ups, therefore, should recognize that true value is measurable by results rather than by busyness. For instance, lately, the installation of punch card time clocks, open-plan office layouts, and surveillance cameras has gained traction but has failed to yield desired results for some clique of
executives who use the tools to monitor busyness in a workday.
The United States Award-winning Staffing & Recruiting Agency firm, Celarity Inc., writing on leadership and management underscores the need to set goals and recognize staff achievements. They posit that employees as human nature want a challenge since they want to acquire new skill sets and new developments as they work towards and achieve succinctly communicated goals. According to professor Kent Sanders Ph.D., new challenges present opportunities for growth in skill, value, relationships, and job satisfaction.
He argues that new challenges help employees to be creative and that growth is a vital component of creativity. Uncreative employees often become stagnant and irrelevant. Subsequently, when employees undertake unproductive tasks — busy work, they get enervated and become too expensive for an organization. Concisely defined goals achieve an objective progress assessment and give a criterion for appraising workers. Achieved tasks yield a feeling of accomplishment and ignite the zeal to achieve even more goals, something a profitable organization would lose an arm to realize.
Traditionally, higher-ups are obsessed with busyness, and lethargy at the office is execrated though, in the post-pandemic era, to ensure executives never flinch on purpose as they tap into the rivulets of the ‘next normal’, make-work in all its forms must be starved —to extinction. Equally, the 34th President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower had to make hard decisions continually about which of the many tasks he should focus on each workday. Mr. President finally invented the famous Eisenhower decision matrix, which when adroitly applied may help higher-ups to organize tasks by urgency and importance.
The matrix has four quadrants categorizing tasks as illustrated;
The Eisenhower matrix is suitable for evading the urgent and important tasks’ dilemmas since it identifies activities to focus on, besides the ones you should ignore. Important tasks are tasks that allow us to be proactive toward achieving whereas, urgent tasks are reactive in nature since we react to situations in the
organization that need our immediate attention. Urgent tasks are time-sensitive or deadline-driven.
The first quadrant is of the DO FIRST tasks and entails tasks with deadlines or consequences; thus they need to be prioritized and completed immediately. The tasks are both urgent and important and should be allocated maximum resources (i.e., priority time, and skilled staff) to realize their full feat. For example, ordering of inventory, and or filing of statutory returns (KRA, NITA, NHIF, etc), etc., have strict deadlines and pose punitive consequences. Secondly, the SCHEDULED quadrant.
This quadrant allows organizations to focus not on problems but on opportunities and general growth since it is a quadrant of quality, according to Stephen Covey. Stephen says, “The key is not to prioritize
your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”. Here cluster all tasks that are important to the organization but are less urgent and should have all tasks that may help the organization achieve longterm goals — and don’t have a pressing deadline.For example, planning, longterm business strategy, relationship building, and future product launches.
The to-be DELEGATED tasks according to Eisenhower, are tasks that are urgent but never important to the organization; regrettably, they may be mistaken for being important. For example, when the office phone rings — it’s urgent, but it may turn out that the message was never that important, or delivering files to various users, etc. A study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (2007) found that many
managers don’t delegate much as about 50% of the surveyed 332 companies had concerns about time management skills and delegation skills of their managers.
Learn to delegate, an effective executive should underscore that some tasks are better done by others, or may be done more cost-effectively by others than them. The Business Daily newspaper reported that the Agri-tech start-up, Twiga Foods has outsourced some of its services by adopting an agent model in its operations and recruited its laid-off staff in the category — by converting to agents, the former employees.
Competitively, a post-pandemic organization needs to maintain a lean workforce. This will ensure that wage bills are controlled, specialization is realized, accountability is enhanced, and utility expenses are kept at profitable levels. Contingent employees may then be engaged occasionally when demanded
or outsourced cost-effectively. Further, to guarantee savings on staff turnover costs and raise productivity, personnel need to be venerated as people over personnel as workers.
Empirically, to maintain a cutting edge in the industry and achieve more efficiency in the new normal workplace; organizations must know what shouldn’t be done. In the last DON’T DO quadrant, Eisenhower apprise s that all tasks that fall outside those thatare important and urgent, important but not urgent, and urgent, but not important, are busywork, and shouldn’t be done. He suggests that engaging in such activities only consumes resources, luxurious, unnecessary, and distractive.
Obviously, if you are a tech-savvy coder or developer, you will agree with Kevlin Henney that in sooth
there is no code faster than no code. Put differently, the fastest way to get something done is to eliminate that task entirely. Once you have clarity of purpose, you will be much better able to create a clear roadmap and avoid all the time-consuming distractions along the way. Businessman, Thomas
Edison postulates, “Being busy does not always mean real work.
The object of all work is production or accomplishment, and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” As has been demonstrated, in the“next normal” each day is a blank cheque presented in your honour; the value you attach and claim against it entirely hinges on how well you recognize, prioritize, and master your tasks — use the Eisenhower matrix.
CPA Samwel Baraka Ochieng is a Member of ICPAK