Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cutting the Fat - Best Management Practices for Leaders


Best Management Practices - Cutting the Fat!

No, I'm not talking about my latest weight-loss fad. I'm probably not the right person to listen to in relation to that. I'm talking about cutting the fat in business. Let me explain.

I spoke with a political leader whose Government was recently voted in across their state. As he flew to a remote town to conduct business, he noticed that five different small planes, from five different governmental departments had flown to this small town on the same day. There were twelve people all together, all fulfilling different functions within the government. Step back for a minute and notice the problem. There's a leadership problem here. Five different departments on five different small aircraft. The politician went and spoke to one of the pilots. He asked whether it would have been possible to fly all 12 people in a slightly bigger plane to the same town. The man mentioned, 'Oh, of course.' Think about the savings! One slightly bigger plane, as opposed to five pilots, five tanks being refuelled, etc, etc.

If this particular state government learns to cut the fat in this particular situation, they will save thousands of dollars! I'm not even talking about cutting jobs, offending people or anything sinister, I'm just mentioning about how to be a good leader and steward of the resources given to you. Sure there are four pilots who are not flying in that particular instance, but I'm sure there would be other flights to fly. This is cutting the fat. Making the business lean. Cutting away the excess. It's a best management practice!

My father for instance has a black belt in Six-Sigma (What is Six Sigma?). I barely know what that entails, but I do know that it involves coaching businesses on how to improve their policies and processes in order to bring a greater quality end product, in a quicker space of time to the end customer, with a greater profit margin. To do that, you need to cut the fat. (It is also linked with intuitive leadership.)

Why is it when you order a bunch of books from an online retailer (Amazon, Book Depository, TheNile, Dymocks, etc), some businesses will have the product on your doorstep in one or two days and other businesses will take ten or more days? That's no doubt because the latter business has terrible lag time between the order being made and the product being sourced, and then terrible lag time between when the product is packaged and to when it is sent. Let's cut to the chase - you need to cut the fat.

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In Christian circles we get touchy about talking on such matters, like organisational and leadership structure is some sacred cow that was instituted by Jesus himself. We somehow believe we are being unfaithful to the movement/denomination that God birthed if we make systemic changes. No.

After reading some of Neil Cole's Organic Leadership, I got fired up about this. I'm not advocating the Christian church simply start meeting in houses and become anti to everything that smells of Christendom. What I am saying, is that we need to do more to be intentional about being good stewards of our resources, and finding ways to cut the fat in our bureaucracies. Some may argue we need to flatten the hierarchies. I would argue we need to ensure quick, sound, decision-making occurs, and if that can happen within a hierarchy then there's no issue. By cutting the fat we may well place a whole other bunch of people from administrative desk jobs, to front-line missional practice.

Leadership in all fields of work should embrace this best management practice of cutting the fat.

Meanwhile, I will work on bringing you the latest weight loss literature to help those who need it! God knows I do.

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* The most important truth about leadership
* Leadership and Management Similarities/Differences

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