Cultivating an Efficient Work Environment

By Sean Brown | June 17, 2017

It’s no secret that many companies and corporations operate very inefficiently. And to some extent, they can’t help it. Even if a higher-up figures out how to make one of their operations more efficient, oftentimes they can’t actually implement the solution due to the shear investment it takes to move a huge company over to brand new process.

Fortunately, the startup landscape is very different. The beauty of working at a startup is your ability to transform the workspace with ease. There’s no need to be constrained to the paradigms developed over the past decades by the megacorporation’s of the world – most of the time they aren’t even applicable for what you are trying to accomplish.

You can instead plan out and implement a strategy that will both optimize efficiency and be adaptable as you continue to grow your team.

Learn How to Evaluate Efficiency

The starting point for improving your team’s efficiency is being able to properly evaluate your work output.

The most common shortcoming here is the overreliance on “the hour,” or the notion that work output should be based solely on units of time. The tendency to cling to the idea of “output per hour” is strong because it’s what many people are used to. While this might make sense in a situation like a factory, where workers will be producing a certain number of widgets over a given time span, the work you’ll find yourself doing at a startup will go far beyond that and may not even be quantifiable.

The type of creative work and problem solving required to tackle the many challenges you face daily simply can’t be put into terms of how much you accomplished in an hour. Instead, a good approach is to utilize the principle of a mission.

Using Missions to Establish Achievable Goals

Everyone is already familiar with the idea of a mission statement, and developing one is routine in creating a pitch or business plan. This should encapsulate what your goal is for the startup as a whole. But when it comes to being productive, the idea of having a mission can be slightly adapted.

Instead of relying on the grand mission statement, a mission can be put in place for each separate focus of your startup. Or if you are far enough along to have multiple teams, a mission would be established for each individual team. You can essentially ask yourself, “What do I need this team or group of people to accomplish,” or “What type of output do I want to see from this specific group of people.”

Simply putting in time doesn’t work at a startup. If you want to breed an efficient work environment, it’s a good idea to shift the culture of your startup towards focusing more on what is actually getting accomplished. With an underlying mission in mind, each team member knows what they are supposed to be doing when they start working each day. Every action they do can be put into terms of how much closer they are to accomplishing the goal, and the focus is shifted away from the length of their timecard. Running down the clock may work when employees can hide among a sea of hundreds or thousands, but with a startup, you want your employees’ sole focus to be how their actions are working to accomplish a task.

Iterating on Your Mission

Transitioning to a goal oriented system better allows you to determine which strategies are more effective in bringing your team closer to reaching their desired result. As with any task, there will be strategies that will be successful as well as ones that will fall short. By fostering communication and getting feedback from each team member, you’ll be more equipped to determine which strategies work and which ones don’t. Startup-wide communication is the key to efficient work.

Your goals will most assuredly change over time, and communication is also helpful for formulating future ambitions. If one team was able to accomplish their goal of increasing sales by 50% over a 3 month period, they will probably have some ideas about continuing their successful strategy and further optimizing for even better results. Documenting successful strategies will be helpful down the road and allows you to develop repeatable frameworks that breed success at future teams.

Establishing Your Core Values

At the end of the day, the power of having established core values can’t be understated. If your employees are passionate about the startup, they will be passionate about doing any work that makes it better. After all, ideally everything will be structured in a way that ties into the overarching goal of pushing your startup forward.

If someone is given the task of working with marketing to help increase the adoption of your new technology, the benefit of completing that task for the company as a whole should be immediately apparent. As a result, if the person undertaking that task is passionate about pushing the startup forward, they will also be passionate about doing everything they can to get the job done.

If there are inefficiencies that pop up in the work flow, it’s your responsibility to iron them out. If you want to build an efficient workflow, you and your team members must strive for things like accountability, integrity, and execution. Additionally, remove the possibility for excuses. Asking for help is encouraged, but missing a deadline and coming up with an excuse isn’t.

The specific values that you strive for, which will make up the culture of your workplace, will obviously differ depending on the type workplace you are trying to create. Regardless of which qualities you prioritize, you should understand that they will have a drastic effect on how the members of your team get work done. With the right culture, it’s easy to have a highly efficient team without having an overbearing and stressful work atmosphere.