Why Your Admin Team is Wasting Half Their Day – and How Zero Base Can Fix It

Service and administration is a critical component of the business world, whether they’re supporting a manufacturing company or the key team of a services firm.

Yet studies show that S&A staff can spend up to half their day on non-value add activities. Incito’s S&A Analysis estimates that admin employees waste as much as 300 minutes per day. Even at a conservative estimate of just 1/3 of that time, your team could be losing 433 hours annually of productive time. That has a significant impact on your bottom line. When you eliminate unnecessary waste, spending goes down, productivity goes up and S&A employees add real value to the organization. Let’s take a closer look at strategies for using “zero base” philosophy to redesign S&A teams and reimagine what they’re capable of contributing to organizations.

Understanding Zero Base

Zero Base thinking turns traditional decision making paradigms on their head. Managers typically look at strategic challenges like under-productivity through the lens of: “What adjustments can I make to the current scenario to improve the situation?” Zero base invites you to take a step back and approach the problem differently. Instead of looking at your challenges and asking how you can make incremental improvements, it invites you to completely reimagine the organization’s potential. Taking this approach has an important advantage when dealing with S&A-related challenges.

Traditionally, there’s sometimes a bias in organizations against S&A roles, which are often viewed as cost centers. Service and administration employees are critical for keeping things moving; however, since they’re not seen as contributing directly to revenue, they’re the first area that companies look at when cutting costs. By applying zero base thinking, managers take their strategic thinking to the next level. You’re no longer simply asking how to remove dollars from the budget; instead, you’re asking how can we optimize our S&A to make a maximum contribution to the organization? In this way, S&A roles are streamlined, and seen as a critical asset to your company.

If you’re dealing with a services and administration organization that’s under-delivering, you may be tempted to look at what changes you can make to the status quo. For example, a pool of managers may currently be supported by three administrative assistants with good salaries. By evaluating what needs to get done and how they’re spending their time, it may be possible to implement technology systems, streamline business processes, and develop a new conceptualization about the role of administrative support. Within that context, it may be possible to reassign those resources in new ways and reduce the administrative support to just one person. Resources are then focused on the activities needed to achieve the company’s goal, and you’re assured that you’re getting a positive ROI for the money spent on admin support.

What’s a Non-Value Add Activity?

When you’re evaluating productivity and staffing, it’s important to look at how your team is spending their time. Every position – especially those that fall within services and administration such as assistants, finance, and human resources – manage a wide variety of tasks. However, it’s critical to evaluate whether those tasks actually create value for the company or whether it’s simply wasted effort. A great definition of a non-value add activity is one that can eliminated without negatively impacting a process.

There’s a perception that wasted time is related to distractions; this can be true, but it’s also important to look for fundamental inefficiencies. For example, your finance team may be entering receipts into duplicate databases or holding non-essential conference calls. Applying zero base thinking helps you move beyond simply identifying those gaps to solving the root problem.

This can only be accomplished by developing and optimizing behaviors that enable the entire organization to embrace continuous daily improvement as a habit, rather than a project or a program.

How to Apply Zero Base Thinking to Redesign Your S&A Organization

Does your organization need to rethink the roles of services and administrative employees? These steps can help you deploy zero base thinking to address the challenge:

Establish your True North:
Determining your organizational compass is an essential part of making this process work. What is your organization’s top priority? What is your mission? From there, it’s possible to see how each S&A department or position needs to contribute to make that a reality.

Define Value:
At a high level, it’s important to define value from the perspective of your customer. What does value look like to the people that you serve? At a more granular level, how does each role that you’re considering contribute to your ability to deliver? Create clear guidelines that can be turned into actionable roles and processes.

Define S&A roles with “value” in mind:
Often roles evolve to fulfill tasks. As work is created, people are hired to address those issues. However, zero base thinking approaches it differently by asking, “How can each role be defined to deliver maximum value?” With the company’s organizational goals and the customer value proposition in mind, it’s possible to see what’s essential in each role and eliminate excess.

Zero base thinking is the best approach to ensuring that you’re developing an S&A structure that can support your long-term plans for growth. Are you ready to explore how to streamline your own services and administrative organization? Contact Incito Consulting today to learn more about our work helping leaders apply creative thinking to their company’s most challenging business problems.

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