Last month, I wrote “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There!” and suggested that no matter the status of your business, it would take different actions to get to the next level. One frequently used management tool used to gauge action is to ask an employee “What are you doing?” But the more important question is, “What’s the result of what you are doing?”
If you’re working at Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers installing tires on a customer’s car, for example, the link between action and result is pretty clear. Once the tires are on and the car is off the lift, the customer is going to pull out a credit card and the company will have earned revenue (and profit margin assuming that they have a good understanding of their costs and have priced their product appropriately).
But many of us work in office environments, and the link between job tasks and result is far less clear. To further complicate matters, the link between physical action and what someone is actually doing can be almost none existent. While it’s pretty easy to see what the person at Dobbs is doing, it’s often not possible to tell what the person sitting in front of a computer screen is actually doing! It could be anything from highly valuable work to playing Solitaire; the latter being one of the reasons management asks “What are you dong?” and is comforted by any answer that sounds like work!
But I would suggest that it’s far important to consider the value of the tasks being performed, not just whether they fit into the broad category of “work”. After all, that is the category where the vast majority of time (and therefore dollars) is spent.
If someone in marketing is sending out a direct mail campaign. Management should know the response rate, the number of eventual customers, and the resulting profit margin. How do these numbers compare to the cost of the campaign itself?
If someone is producing a report, then management should understand both how that report is used in decision making (assuming that it is used) and the cost of producing it. In large companies, a frequently used tactic to understand how reports are used is “the scream test”. This is accomplished when someone stops sending out the reports and simply waits to see who screams about it! It’s remarkable how little screaming is actually heard.
So, instead of asking “What are you doing?” consider expanding that question by adding “And what is the result?” How does it add value to the company? Does it directly result in revenue or lower expenses? Does it fulfill some regulatory need? Does it provide valuable information to management to allow for decision making? Does it serve the customer?
As we enter another work week, take a moment to ask yourself and those around you:
What are you doing? What’s the result?
If you need help with your business, financial plans, or goal setting, please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to And, remember . . .
your cash is flowing. know where.
Copyright @ 2007 Homza Consulting, Inc.