In the past 8 years, Cristian Rennella, co-founder and director of MejorTrato.com has tried 22 different work methods with the goal of optimising their level of efficiency as much as possible for their internal work tasks. Cristian tells Talk Business of the 4 changes that will improve your productivity.
After many mistakes and lessons learned, we finally stuck with 4 work methods that helped us grow sales by 204% over the past year, with our team of 34 people:
1) Begin by eliminating email
This first point involves completely restructuring the way you do internal communication in your company. You should understand that in 2016 you cannot go on using a tool that was created 23 years ago. Just think about how few technologies that were created over 20 years ago are still used in the work environment.
The problem with using email is that it creates an inefficiency that you may not be aware of at first glance, but is definitely impacting your company in a negative way. To put it simply: email destroys group interaction.
To begin, the biggest problem in using email is that all the information stays encapsulated behind closed doors to those that send and receive the message (no one else has access). This means that the rest of your organization cannot stay up to date in real time with this information.
Therefore, if tomorrow you want to take on a new team member for your project, this person will not have the ability to search in an organized and clear fashion everything that was discussed previously.
Based on this inconvenience, we decided to create our own internal tool for communication that is basically a complete list of the projects that our company has worked on. Every employee has access and can see what is being worked on in each project as well as the full history of interaction that has taken place within them.
Let’s suppose someone wants to join in on an ongoing project. Just by logging on to our internal tool and selecting the one of interest, they will be able to individually get caught up to what is going on and begin to work so that the project advances.
Additionally, something to consider is that you will not have to waste another worker’s time by having them explain everything that has been done up to that moment.
It is not a requirement for you to build your own tool for internal communication as we did, there are several available to begin using right now, for example Slack. This is a good option, we have begun to try it out and are satisfied with its functionality.
2) Continue by eliminating meetings
Once you have transformed the way you do internal communication, getting rid of email, the next step is to eliminate meetings.
In our company we first tried to reduce the time of meetings to 15 minutes or reduce the number of weekly meetings to a maximum of 1 per week, but this was not enough.
Even though reducing the number and length of your meetings can be useful at first so as to eventually eliminate them altogether, the primordial goal is in understanding that a meeting must be seen as an “interruption.” What does this mean?
It means that you are killing your work team’s productivity.
As a point of reference, for example, a programmer needs 4 continuous hours of work, with no interruptions, in order to reach maximum concentration and therefore achieve the best work possible. Ideally, they would need 4 hours in the morning and then 4 hours in the afternoon, leaving an hour in between for lunch. Without having to go far, this is the key that has taken us to our best results.
As shared by the well-recognised entrepreneur Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp in TED: “Why work doesn’t happen at work?”
3) Now it is time to eliminate bosses
If you were able to implement the first 2 steps: eliminate email and thus having all the information freely accessible so that your employees can contribute on a daily basis and secondly, eliminate meetings; why keep bosses?
As you can surely see in your own business, there is a big conceptual error amongst the majority of programmers who think that in order to obtain a higher salary they must be bosses. In reality, they are the ones who are responsible for the most important work done at the company.
On top of this, if their greatest strengths are in programming, what sense does it make to now make them lead other people? It is rare that these abilities are compatible and you will most likely be losing an excellent programmer while gaining a mediocre boss.
With today’s technological advancements, it is not necessary to have someone controlling us, looking over our shoulder all the time (which is what took place in the industrial age). If we all have access in real time to see what everyone is doing, it is crystal clear as to who is doing their job well and who is not.
In our company, we have no bosses, all of us are programmers and the truth is that it is easy to see who is doing an excellent job.
As Larry Page stated in this article: “Engineers shouldn’t have to be supervised by managers with limited tech knowledge.”
4) Lastly, eliminate 1 work day
You have surely heard much talk on “the balance between work and life.” It is true that it is an important topic, but in my opinion, few offer a real and concrete solution.
The truth lies in the fact that it is difficult to find a balance when the reality is that one dedicates 5 days of the week to work and only has 2 for everything else (family, sports, recreation, etc.), which is basically impossible.
But if you can successfully implement the first 3 points above in your company, you will begin to take note of the fact that your work efficiency has improved, and consequently, more work is done in less time. This was the reason why we were able to implement a 4 day work week (Monday through Thursday) and have 50% more time on hand for family (Friday through Sunday).
As a bonus, if you are able to carry out this change, you will find 2 additional advantages that we did not expect but were very positive:
- It ends up being a competitive advantage when looking to hire top notch talent to your company. Furthermore, it helps to retain your current team, as in today’s world the movement of labor from one company to another is a delicate subject.
- It drastically lowers the number of absences for doctor’s appointments, due to the fact that they can use Fridays for any appointment or procedure that needs to be made.
Try each one of these 4 points out, one at a time. This will be a huge paradigm shift for your business.
Carry out small trial runs at first and make adjustments over time. Take a trial run between 1 to 3 months of time, for example, in prohibiting the use of email for internal communication and only using an open platform. At the end of the trial, correct the mistakes and implement improvements and suggestions.
This is a change with challenging and interesting new initiatives but it is definitely worth the trouble. If you don’t do it, your competition will, they will be more efficient and they will be able to find the best talent in the market because they can offer better work benefits.
By Cristian Rennella, co-founder and director of MejorTrato.com in Peru