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Sebuh Haileleul on how to make small changes to reap big wins in 2017

Sebuh Haileleul – Microsoft Country Manager


By Sebuh Haileleul – Microsoft Country Manager

While economic growth in Africa has risen steadily for the past 15 years, productivity levels across various sectors from agriculture and manufacturing to services still remains low.

This is according to a report from the World Bank which profiled 40 African countries included in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.

The report found that while rapid population growth holds the promise of a large emerging consumer market as well as a burgeoning labour force, Africa needs to turn this high growth into sustainable and inclusive growth by raising productivity across all sectors.

Regardless of the industry, improving productivity is one of the best ways to improve the bottom line, increase revenue and boost profit margins. Businesses therefore need to be on the lookout for the best tools to help their workers become more productive.

A key trend coming out of the region is the idea of making incremental or marginal gains to yield an exponential increase in performance and productivity that can be sustained over time.

The “marginal gains” policy

In 2010, the newest performance director for Great Britain’s professional cycling team, Dave Brailsford faced a tough task. Until 2012, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, and Great Britain’s performance on the international cycling stage was undeniably dismal.

After adopting a concept called the “aggregation of marginal gains” approach, which is about improving everything you do by one percent, Great Britain’s cycling team made a remarkable turnaround.

They started by changing the things you would expect like improving the nutrition and training programs of each cyclist, and optimising bike ergonomics. They then looked for other areas where they could make small improvements. These included changing the pillows and mattresses riders were sleeping on to improve their sleeping patterns, and ensuring riders used hand sanitiser daily to avoid falling ill from an infection.

Each weakness identified was an opportunity to make adaptations, and create marginal gains, which quickly began to accumulate. Not only did these marginal improvements help them dominate in the velodrome at the recent Rio Olympics and the London Olympics in 2012, but for four of the past five years, a British cyclist has won the Tour de France.

With the concept of marginal gains revolutionising the sporting world, many of the most innovative forward-thinking businesses are looking at adopting this approach in their businesses too.

The problem

It may seem like an obvious concept to adopt within an organisation, but there are many reasons why it has been slow to catch on. For example:

1. Once a company has put processes in place, it becomes much more challenging to make substantial improvements. When the main ‘productivity boxes’ are ticked, like staff training and the correct implementation of timesheets for example, there is the temptation to sit back and ignore the opportunity to address small measures of improvement.

2. Many businesses in Africa don’t have effective measurement tools in place to track staff productivity or incremental gains made through certain improvements.

3. Measuring workforce productivity is difficult. There are many variables to track, like time spent in meetings, email, focus hours, and after hours, which makes pinpointing real issues and improvements an arduous task.

The solution

In today’s data driven world, time is of the essence not only to us as individuals but also to the bottom line. Using technology to help employees better understand how they spend their time can maximise productivity.

For example, MyAnalytics (formerly Delve Analytics), a powerful new addition to Office 365, provides insight into two of the most important factors in personal productivity: how you spend your time and who you spend it with. The MyAnalytics personal dashboard gives you a comprehensive view of your time and collaboration, allowing you to make marginal improvements to make the best use of your time. You can also see how long you spent in meetings, who you collaborated with most and who you lost touch with. With the add-in for Outlook, you can see what percentage of your emails get read.

The metrics are tracked against goals you set for yourself, you also receive these valuable insights in a weekly report delivered in outlook. MyAnalytics is about getting your time back and leveraging the intelligent cloud, allowing you to focus on what matters most.

ATEÏS, a fire alarm manufacturer in the Middle East wanted to boost productivity among employees. As part of their journey towards achieving digital transformation the company decided to adopt Microsoft Office 365. The move ensured that employees were given access to tools like MyAnalytics that would enhance inter-office team communication and collaboration to increase productivity and competitiveness.

By putting metrics in place, and having tools to measure small improvements made over time, employees are empowered with unique insights into the impact small changes have on their overall levels of productivity. By revealing more and more issues over time, employees can target both large and small areas for improvement.
A change resulting in one minute saved during the day, can have a significant impact over time. This is especially apparent when combined with other multiple incremental improvements like improving management style, cultivating flexible workspace policies, refining processes and encouraging collaboration.

(Source: KPR Consulting)