A university comprised of an efficient team of teachers, admin staff and managers will have credibility and the respect and of its students.
A business comprised of an efficient team of sales, account management, HR, finance, technology and support personnel will have credibility and the respect and of its clients.
A hospital comprised of an efficient team of consultants, registrars, junior doctors, nurses, and support personnel will have credibility and the respect and of its patients.
A government comprised of an efficient team of ministers, politicians, advisors, and civil servants will have credibility and the respect and of its people.
I am a firm believer in efficiency and team work. I believe they are the key building blocks to any successful system – be it the mechanical and physiological system of the human body, receiving the correct response to a query from an institution, or the decision making process of the steering committee at the most senior corporate layer.
Efficiency and team work form the bases for a driving force behind constant positive change.
Efficiency of a system will always dictate the credibility and reliability of that system.
Let us consider an example. Let us review the efficiency of a team in finalising a project they agreed (or “promised”) to complete by a certain time/date (“deadline”). Whether or not that team is able to keep to that promise (and therefore maintain the respect of their external members and build/maintain their reputation) is very much dependent on their A) “internal” and B) “external” efficiencies.
A. “Internal efficiency”
By internal efficiency, I am referring to the “individual” efficiency of each team member.
“The rate of any process is dependent on the rate of the slowest internal process.”
I remember the above from my biochemistry titration classes at school. For a team to perform efficiently, each individual member should compete to be the most efficient member to ensure that he /she is not the “slowest” one holding a process. Positive competition will always yield efficiency in the long run.
Now, to ensure “individual” efficiency, one needs to address a few aspects, which I will list below:
We all agree that in the modern age, technology plays a big role in our ability to perform well. Individual efficiency is dependent on i) the appropriate technology and ii) the appropriate skill set for that individual to utilise that technology in the most efficient manner.
2. Time management
The modern world, mainly the internet has brought about a lot of “distractions”. It is therefore of paramount importance that the individual understands the concept of time management and role that plays in their ability to perform in the most efficient manner.
For an individual to perform well, their internal systems need to work in the most efficient manner. The individual is responsible for ensuring they are “fit” – both mentally and physically – to perform their individual tasks in the most efficient manner.
For an individual to perform well, they need to have the appropriate level of communication skills (in the appropriate language) and it is the individual’s responsibility that he/she is developing these on an ongoing basis.
Appropriate level of persuasive and assertive skills are essential at “individual” level to effectively manage internal communications.
5. Management and organisation
This relates to a certain extent to time management but is more encompassing as it also relates to the general organisation in life. The individual members of the team needs to manage their respective parents, girlfriends/boyfriends, husbands/wives, their children, friends and hobbies. It is only the ability to manage and organise these aspects in a sensible manner that will lead to an efficient “individual” efficiency.
Each individual team member needs to endeavour to be the most knowledgeable and socially aware member as to not slow down a process by wasting time for “explanations” for things they could have managed to educate themselves on, in their own spare time. The internet is a great source of knowledge – it has revolutionised the way we seek and define knowledge.
B) “External” efficiency
By “external” efficiency, I primarily refer to the ability of the team (and not the individual) to manage the process through correctly managing their external interactions. Some of the key elements that need to considered to ensure a successful “external” efficiency include:
1. Parallel versus series
The team should be able to establish which individual processes could be run at parallel versus series at the outset.
There is a famous saying that a “process will take as long as you allow it to take”. A deadline is a date (and time) collectively agreed by a team of individuals for the completion of a process. Deadlines for each individual process are important to ensure discipline. It also acts as a great “speedometer” for the rate of process and therefore a great measure of efficiency.
3. “Follow up”
Frequently following up on processes are important and particularly essential for missed deadlines to ensure a smooth process. It is not just the responsibility of the deliverer to deliver but also a responsibility of the recipient to “follow-up”.
4. “Next steps”
Agreeing on “next steps” is important because they provide “directionality” for a process. Next steps need to be discussed and agreed by the team both i) at the outset and ii) after each “mini” deadline.
The least efficient process is that which does not prioritise. The team need to establish the key priorities on an ongoing basis.
The interaction with the “external world” need to be appropriately managed to ensure that the reputation of the team is maintained.
In a team, there should always be a “leader”but this leadership should always be “fluid” based on the knowledge / expertise / experience of the team member discussing the topic at hand. ” “Suggestions” or “recommendations” from the team leader should be “discussed” and “agreed” and this process of “discussion” and “agreement” should be as quick as possible as to not delay the overall process and to ensure that the team completes their project on or before the deadline.