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Jon Kennard


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The power and value of execution pt5


In the penultimate of his six-article series, Jonathan Kettleborough concludes his look at the key ingredients for ensuring flawless execution within a successful L&D department.

In the first article in this series I looked at the three key issues that L&D professionals need to focus on to ensure they execute flawlessly. These were:

  • always deliver to meet expectations
  • make sure the front line is really empowered
  • work tirelessly to improve productivity and eliminate excess waste

In the first four articles I talked about the importance of meeting expectations and ensuring your front line is really empowered. In these final two articles I’ll be looking at how you can improve productivity and eliminate excess waste.

Work tirelessly to improve productivity and reduce excess waste

When, honestly, did you last take a really hard look at the processes within your business and see if there’s any opportunity of eliminating waste or making the process better? The chances are that you, your processes and your way of operating have changed little since you first put them into effect. Perhaps it’s time to spring clean your processes and operations using techniques that enable lean operation.

The concept of lean is nothing new. It was started by Toyota after the Second World War and to this day Toyota is still seen as being the pathfinder for these techniques. Lean is all about doing more and more with less and less, by eliminating waste. 'Muda' is Japanese for waste, so Toyota’s focus is about reducing muda in as many places as possible. 'But surely,' you’ll cry out, 'as L&D professionals we don’t waste resources. After all, we’re not making steel or power stations; we’re just helping people be better at their jobs!'

L&D professionals probably don’t think that they create waste; after all how much waste can there be in a coaching session or an elearning course? However we all create waste, we are all inefficient in the way we go about our business and it’s this waste – this additional hidden overhead – which prevents us from the flawless execution we should be aiming for. 

Before we go any further, let’s stand right back and have a really good hard look at where we’re generating waste (muda) on a daily basis:

  • sending too many emails or emails that are information- rather than action-based
  • sending emails that are too long or contain too many attachments
  • failing to pre-screen candidates via telephone interviews
  • ordering too many dinners or coffees for workshop delegates
  • making people travel unnecessarily to meetings and workshops
  • failing to make the best use of virtual meetings and web-based communication technologies
  • wasting hours in meetings by not sticking to the agenda or having no agenda at all
  • sending out materials to staff that are going to end up in the bin
  • failing to use both sides of a piece of paper

The list naturally goes on and on and on. . .

Ha, I hear you cry – emails don’t waste time or money – they are an effective form of communication. If you think so, then take a look at some facts regarding the environmental impact of electronic communications and processes:

  • the carbon footprint of an email is 4g of CO2
  • the carbon footprint of a long email with an attachment is 50g of CO2
  • an email has the carbon footprint of about one sixtieth of a letter. Great unless you mail shot sixty times more emails than you ever used to do with letters
  • according to Gartner, data centres already account for 25% of carbon emitted and all energy consumed by the ICT sector
  • Google’s Oregon data centre, when full, will consume about the same amount of power as the city of Newcastle, UK
  • even a mortgage (£100,000 @ 5%) generates 800g of CO2 per year

So, even with emails and data storage there’s an opportunity of reducing waste. A client discovered that the largest increase in electricity use at their head office resulted from the additional requirement for more servers caused by people storing more data. This is known as the rebound effect, i.e. when something becomes easier or cheaper then we tend to do more of it. Because people didn’t clean out their electronic storage the client was facing a potentially uncontrolled rise in electricity use. It’s not always easy to deal with these issues, but the positive results are clearly measurable for the business.

And if you want to see a company that’s totally focused on the reduction of waste then look no further than Ryanair. The waste-eliminating culture permeates the whole organisation.  Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary says he bans the buying of biros. 'Hotels are great companies that offer free biros,' he says, 'so I regularly purloin my biros and pens... and I'm happy to supply hotel pens whenever I can.' Customer service director Caroline Green says this isn't just another piece of O'Leary spin designed to get a bit of free publicity. 'That one is true. Wherever we go, every piece of stationery is taken from the meeting room. It's just a corporate culture now.'

But Ryanair isn’t the first to eliminate waste in this way. When he was head of the Storehouse group, Sir Terence Conran only allowed head office staff to use the lift if they were with a customer and allowed all staff to have as many biros as they wanted – as long as they brought the old, empty one back. Simple steps but ones that really reduce waste.

This series concludes next week. For previous articles in the series see the Trainers' Tips homepage

Jonathan Kettleborough has over 25 years’ experience in the learning and development profession. He has held senior positions and worked with clients in the nuclear, retail, financial services, stockbroking, business and technology services, telecommunications, government and integrated learning. Jonathan can be contacted via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Jonathan’s new book, Seeing Eye to Eye is available via Amazon and a number of other major online booksellers in hardback, softback and all major electronic formats

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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