Business Cost Alignment Using the Work-Out Process

By Adam Rampton, Joe Hanson | May 28, 2020

Key Takeaways:

  • The Work-Out process eliminates non-value adding work and increases employee engagement.
  • To achieve targeted cost-reduction, Work-Out provides a quick win.
  • Other benefits of Work-Out include: increased productivity, clarified roles, reduced operating costs, streamlined processes.
  • Can be adapted to work with virtual teams in today’s environment.

In many industries, especially those facing the sudden decline in demand brought on by the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, companies are continuing to look at ways to cut costs. Many businesses which have not yet cut costs are having to prioritize investments and make strategic decisions around where to make cuts. Alternatively, businesses who have made cost cuts already are often scrambling to figure out how to change the work for reduced resources and ensure customers still have a great experience, despite having fewer people to do the work. Each of these situations requires identification of prioritized work and streamlined processes.

The key question in any reorganizing, redesigning, and restructuring project is, how do you find and eliminate the least value-added work? A Work-Out process is a powerful and engagement-building tool to help businesses do just that. It is even more powerful when implemented with RBL’s outside in logic.  

Applying Work-Out Effectively to Different Cost Reduction Scenarios

Below are two scenarios we have used with clients to help them reach their cost targets.  

- For a target cost reduction up to 10-15%, Work-Out is a great tool and can generate some quick wins. Whether across business functions or across the organization, leaders within different functions (and those responsible for multifunctional processes) can bring teams together and identify cost reductions and efficiencies to achieve those types of success targets.

- For a target cost reduction greater than 15%, Work-Out is best used as part of a broader or more comprehensive organization diagnosis and design implementation process, which would lend itself to more holistic approach.

Even when business processes are multifunctional or interdepartmental, cost reduction targets can often be met by simply involving those who are close to the day-to-day work. Once the target is set, the Work-Out process involves a thorough look at the current systems, brainstorming solutions, and ends with implementing a process to review in the future. Specifics of this process are outlined in the image below, and can be found in more detail in Work-Out: An Approach to Streamline Processes and Eliminate Unnecessary Work.

Work-Out Process Overview

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Benefits of Using Work-Out as Part of Cost Reduction Efforts

One worthwhile benefit of Work-Out is that it empowers those who interact with these business processes or systems every day. With various alterations to work life right now (ie: remote work, customer demand fluctuating, etc.), leaders can ease these new transitions by providing the resources that give internal stakeholders the power they need to align priorities and streamline processes. In the peak of remote work and social isolation, individuals and team members need to feel engaged, connected, and empowered; Work-Out will benefit your organization in that way.

While ensuring that employees are engaged and involved is important, the benefits are much more far-reaching. As mentioned previously, Work-Out is a tool used to achieve cost cutting and improvement targets. In our work with top tier global organizations, we have helped companies achieve many success goals, including:

- Eliminating non-value adding work. A few years before reaching out to The RBL Group, one company had made across the board budget cuts that resulted in sizeable staff reductions. They met the immediate need of reducing cost, but did not take the time to consider non-value add work that also should be eliminated or reduced. Fewer people were now expected to do all the work previously done by many before the layoffs. Fast forward a few years, and the bureaucracy and expanding roles were suffocating the organization, causing individual burnout and organizational confusion. RBL Group partnered with them to apply Work-Out to identify specific areas of non-value add work and create a go-forward plan to help leaders and teams reduce and eliminate this work. Eliminating non-value add work simultaneously reduced burnout, improved engagement, and increased efficiency.

- Increasing productivity 20% while maintaining service standards. A hospitality client used Work-Out to challenge its team of guest services representatives to achieve greater productivity while maintaining service standards. The team had to maintain guest service standards and improve productivity. They examined their business processes and workflows using Work-Out to identify areas of inefficiency that could be streamlined or eliminated. Others from within hotel operations team were invited to participate as needed. As a result, productivity and employee engagement increased. As process improvement changes were made, guest feedback and service standards improved as well.

- Creating role clarification to increase efficiency and effectiveness of team outcomes. An energy company in California had lots of overlap across different roles. Work-Out played a key role in achieving clarification which improved efficiencies and effectiveness of those business roles.

- Removing barriers between functional groups to improve operating outcomes. One organization used Work-Out to bring together different parts of the business to enhance the customer experience. Traditionally, sales, implementation, client services, and product development were siloed and didn’t work together in an integrated way. Each area optimized its own processes and KPI’s rather than integrating to optimize customer outcomes. The Work-Out process brought together proponents of the various functional areas to identify customer touch points, breakdowns, and competing internal priorities. Next, the team brainstormed recommendations that could be implemented during the next quarter to increase NPS and customer experience scores. When these traditionally siloed areas came together through the Work-Out experience, they engaged in new ways around in a common cause – the customer!

- Simplifying and streamlining inefficient or broken processes as well. A key goal of an organization we worked with in Saudi Arabia, was to dramatically decrease the timeline for bringing in new talent. At the time, it took nine months or more bring in ideal talent. After nine months of that type of process, candidates oftentimes would find a job elsewhere. We worked with the HR recruiting team, business line leaders, hiring managers, and others involved in the hiring process. Implementing Work-Out, we were able to help them reduce that cycle time down closer to 90 days. The quality of the candidate also improved. During the process, we also identified other challenges the organization was able to resolve.

In-person or virtually, RBL has the tools to help you meet your process goals to get the work out, engage your employees, and align to a target cost structure. Contact us to start a conversation about the next steps to achieving the success goals that will most benefit your organization.

Adam is a Principal with The RBL Group who combines his global experience and domain expertise to help clients advance business priorities through organizational design, leadership development, and strategic HR alignment.

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Joe Hanson is a Partner with The RBL Group and an experienced consultant recognized for his work leading businesses through turnaround and transformation.

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