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小点子也能省大钱

Anne Fisher 2014年04月01日

有时候,不一定需要大刀阔斧的改革才能提高公司的效率、增加公司的利润。改变日常运营中一些不起眼的细节,经年累月,就有可能给公司创造数以亿计美元的效益。它们是树上最容易摘到的果实,转变观念,方法对路,就能轻轻松松收获这些成果。

    《轻松摘取的果实:提高生产力和利润的77种新方式》(Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits)的合著者杰里米•艾登和特瑞•龙在开篇之初就援引了沃伦•巴菲特的话:“我不指望能够跳过7英尺高的围栏。我四处寻找那些我抬脚就可以迈过的只有1英尺高的围栏。”

    这两位作者主张,这些提高效率与利润的小步伐就是任何公司都可以轻松摘取的果实。他们写道:“很多经理深信,经过多年的压缩成本之后,他们很早就已经摘光了那些容易摘到的果实。”遗憾的是,通常情况并非如此:“压缩成本通常漏掉了那些容易摘取的果实,相反,它只是裁枝剪杈,完全不管树上留下了些什么。

    曾任麦肯锡(McKinsey)顾问的艾登和曾任银行客户服务高管的特瑞•龙现担任芝加哥咨询公司Harvest Earnings Group的联席CEO。过去二十年中,他们一直在服务《财富》(Fortune)美国100强公司客户,这本鲜活的著作就是他们对这些公司成功经验的浓缩和提炼。他们推翻了一些不容质疑的清规戒律。

    比方说,这两位作者就认为标杆学习“完全是浪费时间”,因为就算两家公司的业务看起来完全一样,将其中一家公司与另外一家公司做比较更多情况下也是“在为现状辩护”,而不是促进改变或创新。

    艾登和龙指出的另一个错误观念是,在一个问题投入更多技术,问题总能得到解决。他们提供咨询服务的一家公用事业公司曾经准备上马一款价格不菲的软件,为公司修剪电力线周边树枝的团队安排时间表。而一名线路主管建议了一种“简单且无需技术”的解决方案:直接让现场员工在需要剪枝时进行汇报,因为(他们)能比那些软件程序更好地评判状况。“取消安装软件和只在需要时派遣树木修剪人员所产生的直接节约就达:100,000美元。

    两位作者写到,这样的解决方案不太可能来自于会议商讨。实际上,他们建议,公司让那些最接近问题的人们探讨那些你很可能都不知道的问题,然后设定截止日期,找出解决方案。

    举例来说,PNC Financial不只是鼓励提建议,还要求员工寻找和解决效率低下的问题。结果是,他们取得了2,400项小改进,综合起来每年新增4亿美元的利润。2008年,PNC与National City合并后,两家公司对合并后的新实体实施了“相同的、建立在事实基础上的高速响应,又实现了另外20亿美元的运营效率——约为银行分析师预计值的两倍。

    矛盾的是,有些时候,人们应对这些每天面对的低效行为方式太习惯于“一直以来的老规矩”,没有注意到就在我们眼前的那些容易摘到的果实。应对这种惯例的一种新方法是:要求人力资源部门提供最近12个月新聘用人员的名单,“包括从大老板到收发室人员的每个人”,然后让这些新人指出,他们注意到任何可以做得更聪明、更迅速或成本更低的方式。

    供应商也是通常被忽视的可以提供深入见解的资源。因为,他们通常通盘了解你所处的行业——包括你的竞争对手可能比你做得更为高效——供应商通常是“完美的外部观察员大军”。

    想让员工放松自在地指出需要改进的方面吗?请注意你的身体语言。艾登和龙发现,一些经理在时间压力下无意之间发出了明显的信号,抑制了好主意的提出。“第一条规则是注意姿态、转动眼球、(和)明显的漫不经心,”他们写道。“员工们通常会留心潜台词,肢体语言跟大家嘴里说的话一样重要。”(财富中文网)

    Early on in Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits, co-authors Jeremy Eden and Terri Long quote Warren Buffett: "I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars. I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over."

    Those small steps to greater efficiency, and fatter profits, are low-hanging fruit that any company can pluck, the authors argue. "Many managers are convinced that, after years of cost cutting, they picked their low-hanging fruit long ago," they write. Alas, that's often not the case: "Cost cutting often leaves the low-hanging fruit and instead lops off branches without regard to what is left of the tree."

    Eden, an erstwhile McKinsey consultant, and former bank customer-service executive Long are now co-CEOs of Chicago consulting firm Harvest Earnings Group. Their lively book distills what has worked for their Fortune 100 clients over the past 20 years. They knock over a few sacred cows along the way.

    Take, for example, benchmarking, which the authors contend is "a complete waste of time," since comparing one company to any other, even in what may look like the exact same business, is more often used to "justify the status quo" than to spark change or innovation.

    Another wrongheaded notion, by Eden and Long's lights, is that throwing more technology at a problem will always solve it. One utility company they had advised was ready to put in a pricey software program to schedule teams to trim tree branches away from power lines. Instead, a line supervisor suggested a "simple, no-tech solution: Have crews in the field report when trimming is necessary, because [they] are better at assessing the situation than software programs are." Immediate savings from skipping the software and dispatching tree-trimmers only when needed: $100,000.

    Fixes like that are unlikely to spring from getting people together in a room and asking them to come up with problem-solving ideas, the authors write. Instead, they suggest that companies get the people closest to the work to talk about problems you probably don't even know about, and then following up by setting a deadline for solutions.

    PNC Financial, for instance, didn't just encourage suggestions but required employees to find and fix inefficiencies. The result: about 2,400 small improvements in the way things were done that added up to $400 million a year in extra profits. After PNC merged with National City in 2008, the companies applied "the same fact-based high-speed rigor" to the new entity, which gave rise to another $2 billion in operating efficiencies -- about double what bank analysts predicted.

    Sometimes, of course, the people dealing with small inefficiencies every day are, paradoxically, too accustomed to "the way we've always done it" to spot the low-hanging fruit that's right in front of them. One way to get a fresh take on long-established habits: Ask human resources for a list of everybody who's been hired in the past 12 months, "anyone from the corner office to the mail room," and then ask those newcomers to point out anything they've noticed that you could be doing smarter, faster, or cheaper.

    Vendors are another frequently overlooked source of insight. Because they usually know your industry inside out -- including what your competition may be doing more efficiently than you are -- vendors are often "the perfect army of outside observers."

    Want to make sure your employees feel comfortable pointing out areas of improvement? Watch your body language. Eden and Long have observed that some managers, pressed for time, inadvertently send not-so-subtle signals that squelch good ideas. "The first rule is to be careful about gestures, eye-rolling, [and] apparent inattention," they write. "Employees are often looking to read the tea leaves, and body language becomes just as important as the words that are said."

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