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Time-cost analysis and organisational control

A flat reporting structure is often seen as a real advantage to companies moving fast and scaling, the theory is that it allows people to work autonomously and make decisions without burdening management with every single issue. 

But there are a lot of caveats related to this, should we be giving this level of autonomy to someone without sufficient or relevant experience?

Is it any surprise then that when a company gives autonomy to those not ready for it, the results are either inaction or lots of mistakes? But, as with anything, the reality is more nuanced, we need to strike a balance between top-down control, bottom up autonomy, speed and stability. 

As organisational leaders, what matters is understanding what aspects should be controlled, how best to control them and what processes can be used to automate and maintain consistency.

One of the ways to start this is to understand the impact of time on an organisation- Time is a proxy for both productivity as well as a store of human cost, vis a vis, the more efficient the staff and the more productive their time the more efficient the business and the more work its able to handle.

So if you understand what tasks individuals are working on, how long they take and how much time is allocated to the tasks, you can get a picture of just where your most precious resource is being allocated… then you can start to think about if this is the most efficient allocation of resource, you can adjust this to take into account seniority or expertise. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done, so by surfacing how much time individuals spend on tasks, you’ll have clarity on both their comparative productivity, and their focus. Flipping the analysis, you can also see which tasks take up the most resource and cost the company the most, you can understand where the bottlenecks are.

Once you have a matrix of the time cost of each task by position and individual, you can start to discuss if this time allocation is reasonable or where there are opportunities to make time savings or drive human efficiency. You can start to do comparative analysis of individuals by task to set averages, and use can group tasks by resources needed and use this to estimate reasonable pricing for clients. Once you’ve got time-cost vs pricing estimates, you can use that to work backwards from revenue targets and us it to figure out what positions need to be hired.

Once you have this data segmented in this way, you can start to have discussions with individuals who are accountable for certain areas of the business, you can start to empower them to think about where processes, technology or other efficiencies can be applied to streamline the steps and the time-burden of each step… empowering individuals here, you can also give them freedom to determine which steps owned by other individuals need to fall under their control since outcomes are dependant, this automatically give you insight into which positions need to report to which individuals based on task dependancies. 

Ultimately, by analysing the business on a task vs time cost vs individual basis, you’ll have data available to ensure that you have the right people focused on the right steps, with the right organisational controls (reporting lines) and you’ll be able to see which steps need to be optimised.

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