In the working world, business managers and owners often relay how ‘time is money’. And generally, this saying is correct because the more time we waste the more we could lose out on potential customers.  Taking longer to do the work also increases the opportunity cost.

It’s understandable that we have this ‘love affair with quick’. Of course, companies can’t act fast if their employees are slow. They can’t adapt rapidly to change if employees resist. We often embrace the concept of being ‘accelerators’ of the organisation and believe that we need to be quick with everything we do to push more productivity out of every hour.

“Businesses are partly to blame for this mind-set, but so are consumers as we live in a society where instant gratification is key,” says Heléne Vermaak director and co-owner of The Human Edge, a consultancy, that specialises in corporate culture.

While speed is essential to relay efficient and cost-effective services and products it’s more important to focus on reducing the time that workers within the business waste, according to Pritchett, an American affiliate of The Human Edge.

Some experts say that as much as 92 percent of our work time is wasted. Research by Tor Dahl, former chairman of the World Confederation of Productivity Science, shows that the average American business wastes or misdirects work time as follows:

  • 23 percent wait for approvals, materials, or support
  • 20 percent do things that shouldn’t even be done
  • 15 percent do things that should be handled by someone else
  • 18 percent do things incorrectly
  • And 16 percent fail to do the right things

“America is not the only country to make such common mistakes and I believe that South African workers are also guilty of misdirecting work time too. It’s no good doing something quickly when you shouldn’t even be conducting that task in the first place.

“I believe it’s more important to work smartly than it is to work quickly and erratically. We’re so worried about getting the work done that we’re less concerned about the most efficient way to get it done.

“We live in a world where innovation and technology has more than halved the time in which products and services are conducted. For example, in 1880, it took more than 20 man-hours to harvest an acre of wheat land. Now it can be done in a matter of minutes. However, according to author Jeremy Rifkin who highlighted this example – today’s farmers are ‘busier’ than ever,” says Vermaak.

Vermaak adds, “With the increasing complexity of this world, we must learn to streamline and abandon the expendable. Much of what seduces our attention is unimportant clutter. The more our attention wanders, the more our time slips away. We need to focus, operate with a clearer sense of priorities and simplify the way we work and delegate.”

“At The Human Edge we offer several public training programmes that teach companies how to ensure that their employees have meaningful conversations so that they focus on high performance and work smartly instead of just quickly. Working intelligently instead of frenetically and speedily will set you apart from your competitors, improve accuracy and cut down or even cut out delays.”

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