Cut it out! The ‘It’ being wasteful work.

by | Sep 6, 2011 | Blog | 2 comments

“Intense busywork.” “Too much stuff.” “Crisis situations that could have been prevented.”

These activities are examples of wasteful work that gets in the way of strategic advisors’ ability to provide effective strategic counsel, as cited in the recent survey, Being a Strategic Communication Advisor.

Waste and other non-valuable work are definitely problems—when you don’t do anything about them.

You can take action though—by following a disciplined process and staying vigilant. (Waste has a way of creeping back in so you must keep monitoring it. Plus, your customers’ needs and wants change so you must make sure you’re always delivering what they value.)

As you find and eliminate waste, you’ll not only survive, but you can thrive. For example, you’ll have more time and resources to devote to more important, strategic work. You’ll get better measurable results. And your customers will be more satisfied.

Plus, you even have a shot at external recognition.

This June PRSA awarded Hewlett-Packard and Connect Consulting the Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for internal communications for “Redesigning HP’s Human Resources Communications.”

(The PRSA Silver Anvil trophy pictured here just arrived. It’s very clear that my do-it-yourself photography skills don’t measure up to my change leadership and communication expertise. But until I get a chance to get professional help, I’ve decided this will do, which is an example of Why “A” Players Should Settle for “B” Work.  Or in this case, maybe even a lower grade. Oh well….)

However, from a client perspective—which is what matters—HP and the other companies that have hired me for organization redesign work have adopted a more proactive, consultative approach that pays off.

After their redesign and retooling, they are better positioned to deliver complex changes on schedule and either on or under budget. They build more credibility within the business because communication stops sucking valuable time. Instead, through targeted, easier-to-use and action-oriented messages and two-way conversations, the communication staff is able to support people better in getting work done.

For instance, based on HP’s current size, the productivity payback has been huge. Saving each employee an average of even five minutes per week equates to more than $50 million annually. That more than justifies the investment in the HR communication team and its work.

So what do you do? Think and act lean and use LEAN COMMUNICATIONS® principles and practices.

And if you’re not prepared to go the whole way, at least embrace these P’s and answer these questions:

  1. Purpose: “What business are you in?”
  2. Process: How well can your communication infrastructure deliver on this purpose?
  3. People: Do you have the right competencies on your team? In addition to their technical abilities, are they applying emotional intelligence and have they built strong relationships?

To answer these questions accurately and thoroughly, you need to conduct research, such as an audit. Or, you can consult recent research and supplement it with interviews of your key customers. You don’t want to assume you know what your customers want.

Then you need to practice these principles of lean: leverage, eliminate waste, add value by addressing needs of customers, and nonstop, continuous improvement.

In my experience, the eyes of many communication staff members can glaze over when talking about all things lean, including LEAN COMMUNICATIONS® practices and principles.

However, by taking action, you have the opportunity to improve your situation and shape your future. Otherwise, you’re continuing to work in a less than ideal setting. You’re also running the risk that the leaders will bring in “outside experts” to reengineer and run your department.

For more information, read this IABC CW magazine interview, Leading and learning by example. Also, The 5-Step LEAN Communications System manual, published by Ragan Communications, can provide guidance.

Or, if you prefer personal help, contact me or check out the fall 2011 Strategic Action Group that starts September 16. We’re covering a number of issues. Eliminating waste and non-value add work will be key based on the research data.

Are you ready to cut out waste? If so, what steps are you taking?

And if not, are you willing to deal with the consequences of doing nothing?


  1. Jim Shaffer

    You’re so right, Liz. I see so many people in staff functions such as HR and Communication who are burried in waste–work that doesn’t add value to their organization’s core process of turning raw materials into something customers want to buy.
    The notion of becoming a strategic advisor implies a shift from taking orders to proactively identifying what work will be done and what work you’ll say “no” to because it doesn’t add value or it’s of little value. That’s all about lean, isn’t it? Thanks for a great message.

  2. Liz Guthridge

    Thanks, Jim! I appreciate you being an ally on this very critical issue.

    As we think about how we spend our time, we also should remember Occam’s Razor: “It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.”

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