Do You Know Your Company's Biggest Hidden Cost?

Feb. 7, 2015
Employees spending time on unimportant tasks is a huge unrecognized cost to companies today, say FranklinCovey experts in a new book on time management and productivity.

Read an article or invested in an app lately to help with time management? You'd be in good company. Trying to find more hours in the day is a national obsession, particularly at the beginning of a year when our thoughts turn to the great American quest to “get ahead of the curve.”

Improving our time management and productivity is not just a personal issue, but one that has a vast – and often unrecognized – impact on companies of all kinds.

In a six-year FranklinCovey study, 351,613 respondents from around the world indicated that about 40% of their time was spent on things that were not important to them or their companies. For a typical 500-person organization, the authors estimate, that means 832 hours per person are wasted annually at a cost of $20 million.

So if one month in to 2015 you’re feeling a little panicked, or looking for solid ideas to improve your team’s productivity and lower its stress level, you might want to pick up a copy of The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity (Simon & Schuster, 2015), by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne, all associated with FranklinCovey Co.

The biggest hidden cost in organizations today, the authors write,” is the cost of people spending their precious time, attention and energy on things that don’t drive your most important results.”

What is causing this lack of focus? They point to three major causes. The first is the changing nature of work, which has moved from manual labor to what they call “creative mental labor.” That results in more decisionmaking, in fact much more than many people can handle.

The second is that our attention is under constant attack.

“All the beeps, buzzes and banners that invade our mental space come at a cost to our ability to focus on the things that really matter,” the authors warn.

And third, they note, trying to keep up with all the information and make decisions about it is draining our energy and making it easier to succumb to mindless distractions.

The 5 Choices offers a system designed to help people focus on what is important. It is based on FranklinCovey’s popular Time Matrix, a decisionmaking tool intended to help people focus on higher-impact work rather than reacting constantly to the crisis of the day or falling victim to needless interruptions or trivial work.

The book offers a plethora of ideas for improved decision-making, goal-setting and planning. It attempts to help employees in even the most counterproductive work cultures find ways to increase their effectiveness and improve the functioning of their teams.

Part of being a leader, The 5 Choices notes, is “to recognize your own responsibility for your team culture.” In other words, are you contributing to the massive waste of time that is going on in many companies? The book encourages leaders to think carefully about their own priorities and share them with their team. To help leaders with that process, the authors offer these questions for consideration.

  1. Are my team’s goals and priorities clear to everyone?
  2. What am I doing (lack of planning, preparation, etc.) that puts people in crisis mode?
  3. Am I asking people to do things others should be doing?
  4. Are there reports, processes or systems that are outdated and no longer necessary but are taking up people’s time?
  5. Do I create a safe environment where people can challenge and change what we are doing in order to better achieve our goals?
  6. Do I encourage people on my team to pause and clarify the value and impact of a new project or assignment before diving in to get it done?

Working through these questions could be your first step to taking the stewardship steps that can make you and your team more productive.

About the Author

Steve Minter | Steve Minter, Executive Editor

Focus: Leadership, Global Economy, Energy

Call: 216-931-9281

Follow on Twitter: @SgMinterIW

An award-winning editor, Executive Editor Steve Minter covers leadership, global economic and trade issues and energy, tackling subject matter ranging from CEO profiles and leadership theories to economic trends and energy policy. As well, he supervises content development for editorial products including the magazine,, research and information products, and conferences.

Before joining the IW staff, Steve was publisher and editorial director of Penton Media’s EHS Today, where he was instrumental in the development of the Champions of Safety and America’s Safest Companies recognition programs.

Steve received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College. He is married and has two adult children.

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