At AccelaWork, we’re always fascinated by the way people organize their work and prioritize tasks. Recently, we learned that one non-profit had assigned culinary duties.
To protect all those involved, the names have been changed. But here’s the gist of the phone conversation between Jack, the external accountant for the group, and Francine, the programs director:
Jack: I’d like to come by next week and go over the annual budget. What’s a good time for us to get together?
Francine: No can do. I’m out for the next two weeks.
Jack: Taking a vacation? Any place that would make me jealous?
Francine: No, I will be in town, working. I’ll just be at home cooking for the spring fundraiser.
Francine: Yes. We looked at catering the event, but it’s just too expensive. So I’ll be making and freezing cookies and soup at home.
An old saying reminds us that productivity isn’t just doing things the right way, it also requires doing the right things. Sure, a professional caterer comes at a price. But it’s hard to imagine that it’s really cheaper to pay Francine’s salary for two whole weeks plus the cost of materials. It’s just easier to characterize her time as a fixed cost and characterize the event fees as a variable cost. We’ve got to keep Francine busy anyway, so why shouldn’t it be in the kitchen if it seems to save money?
It should be apparent, however, that this tactic doesn’t result in savings. Not only is the organization likely paying more in total wages and benefits, they are sacrificing overall efficiency for someone who is probably, at best, a competent amateur. Catering companies prepare meals for hundreds in a few hours. Francine is taking a full two weeks away from the job she’s been hired to do in order to stay at home and make food. Something there just doesn’t align. Unless she’s a severely underpaid employee, the costs just don’t add up.
The greatest price, however, is the opportunity cost. Francine is not an expert in making soup and cookies. She is an expert in designing and managing exceptional programs. If she can find two weeks to cook, she can find two weeks to dream big and put together something amazing. That’s what she’s been hired to do, so if you’re not letting her do it, then who knows what the company is missing out on. As great as her cookies may be, the benefits her actual, employable skills would bring about are likely much greater.
We understand that the smaller your organization is, the more likely it is that employees have to wear multiple hats. There may be instances when someone is feeling stuck in their current work and wants to take on another task in order to refresh and clear their mind. But still, we believe that having people outside their area of expertise is a major waste of resources and talent. The times when a process like this would work out for the better are certainly the exceptions, not the rule. While you may think of money, supplies, and other tangible things as your company’s manageable resources, they usually aren’t nearly as valuable as time is. Finding efficient ways to manage your time and talent will ultimately lead to greater productivity and to achieved goals.
At AccelaWork, we help both companies and non-profits find ways to increase their focus on their core business. If you find yourself busy “cooking to save money” (and you don’t work for a restaurant or catering company), contact our business improvement consultants. Improved productivity begins by making contact.