Eliminating Waste in Knowledge Work: Redesigning How We Work for Greater Productivity

McKinsey research shows that 50% of our day is wasted on on-value work (3-year-old stat, probably 60% now) and that we spend up to 1.8 hours per day searching and gathering information.  It is worth having a discussion about waste elimination.

Our economy is made up of both industrial and knowledge work, and workers in both types of work have unique challenges and benefits.

Knowledge work has great flexibility benefits, career growth due to its dynamic nature, high earning potential due to specialised skills and positive work environments in comfortable office settings (or home) with access to modern technology and resources (in most instances).

Industrial work has great skills development in specialised skills in manufacturing, machinery and other technical skills. Benefits are the tangible results, workers can see the direct results of their work which can be satisfying.

Having vast experience in both, there is a key difference between knowledge and industrial work which is the actual visibility of work.  In industrial work every transaction is managed meticulously with the objective being to deliver a great product (outcome), do it in the most productive way possible and reduce as much waste out of the system.

In knowledge work the objectives to deliver a great outcome, do it in the most productive way and reduce as much waste out of the system are exactly the same.  Challenge is we do not have the same visibility of knowledge work and this is why we need to redesign how we work.  This is showing up in the fact that many global metrics show Australia is lagging in both productivity and technology adoption.

A waste reduction focus is highly valuable.

In my experience waste reduction is a great catalyst to get leaders and teams thinking about where the waste is occurring.  To become effective waste warriors, we need to question everything: rework, double handling of work, duplication of work, and really, things that frustrate the living daylights out of us; this is where waste will be found.

Here are some idea starters to help leaders and managers take the initiative to research, review, and come up with a strategy to eliminate waste.  Leaders do need to lead this initiative, it’s not something that can be abdicated to team members alone, it’s a highly valuable commitment.

  • Look for inefficient processes. How do you streamline workflows and have a consistency of planning and prioritisation and how technology is used across the team.
  • Most criminal waste is the waste of time.  After 17 years in Asia where time is valued over and above money, in Australia, it’s quite the opposite. Here it’s all about the cost (input) and very little about what the outcome delivered on the investment of that cost.
  • Heartbreaking is the inconsistency of technology adoption. Whether it be MS Office 365, CRM’s, DMS, Financial Systems, Project Management Software, MS Teams or the most basic of Word, Excel and other tools. Due to a lack of proper digital skills, technology is used in a random and ad hoc way which severely diminishes the productivity gain that technology can deliver.

Effective use of technology is a wonderful thing to see. I love ChatGPT, have been a fan of Google Search from the very beginning, drive all over the Country with Siri and love my Apple watch telling me how I slept and how far I ride my bike.  These are all productivity tools to be harnessed and help us to improve productivity and eliminate waste.

In this blog, we have only touched on a few waste reduction ideas. I’d suggest that you ask ChatGPT the following two questions to understand the full benefits –

  • What does waste elimination mean in a knowledge workers world?
  • How does waste elimination work for leaders and team members in the knowledge world?

Truth of the matter is we can no longer say we don’t know. There is an abundance of available solutions, what is now required is action.

A great saying that I’ll leave you to ponder on!

Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing they can‘t afford to lose.

– Thomas Edison

Waste reduction by itself is a great process that helps improve your productivity, yet combined with the abundance of productivity processes TimeSmart provides, a massive jump in both individual and team productivity can be achieved!

Don’t delay in contacting us for a TimeSmart demonstration. Every minute lost is a minute that will never be regained.

Speak soon,
Christine