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Northcote Parkinson, writing in 1955, semi humorously proposed his ‘law’ that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. This is very true.  Staff will often take as much time as is available to them to work on a project even though that might mean unnecessary embellishments. Even good staff do this because they want to seem to be busy and not slacking off. You have to learn how to judge been useful work and time-filling work. Yellow Belt

By this we mean that people will find something to fill the available time even if it is not an important task.

You are going to find this a lot in your business.

Good workers will find something to do if they are underemployed so as to ‘do the right thing’.

If they are not good workers, they will give every appearance of being flat out working as well.

Either way, there is a good chance that your staff are not being as productive as they might be despite every sign of activity.

The challenge for you as the boss is to not take busyness at face value.  Quite often, the work being done will be unproductive and could be done away with without adversely impacting your business.

You can get a crude measure of productivity by dividing your company income by your labour expense.

Over time, you would normally hope the resulting figure would go up meaning you are increasing revenue faster than you are increasing labour costs.  If you do this at, say, 6 monthly intervals you will be able to see any trend towards falling productivity and therefore Parkinson’s Law at work.

The old marketing adage “half my marketing budget is wasted but I don’t know which half” also applies to labour as it is hard, on the face of it, to spot where the excessive work is coming from.

This is where you would apply the The Amazing 80:20 Rule and techniques you can learn with Lean Management and Six Sigma.

The same principal applies to other aspects of your business.

If a section has a budget, you can be sure that expenditure will expand to consume any money left in the budget at the end of the year rather than returning it to HQ and possibly getting a smaller budget next year.

Refer to other articles on staffing from the Human Resources Menu.

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