In my previous two articles about productive management, I focused on two key areas – ineffective meetings and the number of tasks being worked on at any one time. In this article we want to concentrate on a third way to make you more productive as a manager.

As managers if we identify all the tasks we do then then we can usually identify which are adding value for the customer, and which are not. We should be able to detect which ones can be simplified and which can be delegated to others, or eliminated completely. It is always an interesting exercise for any manager to write down what they actually do.

As with all roles in an organisation, it is amazing what you discover. In some instances we fill our days; in others we do tasks which actually are no longer required. How many times do you generate a report that is never read? Or spend time planning a project that is then scrapped?

We would suggest that you make this list over a week or two and then spend some time thinking about it. You will be astounded at how much time you can save.

List your tasks

When you have your list the first thing to think about is which tasks are adding value to the customer (value-added) and which are non-value added. Value-added are things which your internal or possibly external customers are interested in. For example, if the MD or CEO asks you to complete a weekly report then that is potentially a value-added activity (provided they read it!). If you have to spend time looking for presentations on your laptop then that is non-value added.

The definition of value-added is quite difficult when we look at what managers actually do. Value-added is normally defined as things which a customer considers important or would pay for. As managers, we normally don’t touch the product being made or interact with the customers we serve, so arguably we actually don’t add any value in the traditional definition.

The good news for managers is that this isn’t the case, which is why we have a further classification; essential non-value added. These are tasks which actually don’t add any value but without them the business would not function or the customer would not get what they need. Managers hopefully carry out lots of these activities. You might check a proposal before it goes to the client to make sure it is accurate and effective. You will spend time motivating your staff or developing the strategy for the business. You might have to report to an internal stakeholder.

The secret is to write down each activity down and then assess which of the classifications it falls into. If it is value-added then you should be able to identify the customer that thinks it is important.

Are you adding value?

Obviously the first thing that will make us more productive is to eliminate or stop doing the things which are clearly not adding value. This might be easier said than done, but it will save you time and increase your productivity.

You can then look at the other activities and review if they can be simplified or generated automatically. We constantly overcomplicate tasks or over engineer products to do more than the customer wants or needs. By simplifying we’ll do them quicker, but we must maintain the quality from the customers view point. Does the CEO actually need all the graphs in your report, for example? Do I have to go to all these meetings or just a few of them?

Now it is time to look at your list and think who else could I empower or train to do these tasks in order to share the load. I believe that ultimately every manager’s role is actually to make their own job redundant as they have eliminated the need for everything they do. They have made it obvious what has to be done, so people don’t have to ask you. You’re no longer firefighting, you’re running the team or department effectively.

However, we must be careful not just to move a non-value added task to other person in order to get rid of it and, throughout the process, we must maintain our focus on quality.

By understanding what they actually bring to the business and how they add value for customers, managers become more focused and, as a result, more productive. It’s not easy to identify which tasks are adding value, as we’re often too close to the job to analyse it objectively. Our 7/8 Wastes training is a great way to learn what non-value added is, and how to accurately identify it at work.

Making managers more productive is not a hard task but it does take time. Spend some time looking at what you do and follow the rules above and you will become more productive, less stressed and more effective.