Efficiency undoubtedly has different meanings for different people, but improving efficiency was not necessarily just about ‘big gains’.
That was the message from Nigel Davies, Promar national consultancy manager, who said greater efficiency was about ‘little gains’ and he encouraged farmers to look at how ‘habits’ were important to overall efficiency.
“I have identified nine habits which can help on the journey to becoming more efficient.
“The first of these is the ability to fight unproductivity.
“For this you need to know what or who represents the bottom 10 per cent. This might be the bottom 10 per cent [of] cows, fields, or even staff. But, ultimately, it is about understanding what you need to do with this group to improve performance.
“It does not necessarily mean getting rid, it is about working out how to improve performance. The key is to measure in the first place.”
Mr Davies said another habit was to have clear goals which could easily be translated into a few easily understood key performance indicators.
While Mr Davies conceded benchmarking was nothing new, he said it was commonly a habit of the most efficient.
“However, make sure you are benchmarking like against like.
“I often advise benchmarking in comparison with what the business did last year, rather than against other people’s businesses,” he said.
Mr Davies also encouraged the delegates to take time away from the business to spend with family and on leisure activities.
“A lot of studies show us efficiency actually improves when time is spent away from the business.”
He said it was also important to take time to reflect on the positives of the business and look at how you were operating in terms of your priorities.
He advised the delegates to assess which category they normally operated in when working – important and urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, or not urgent and not important.
“You should be operating in the ‘important, not urgent’ category as much as possible as, if you deal with issues when they are this category, they will never get to the important and urgent one.”
He also said it was a good habit to give staff responsibility, recognise improvement would not be pain free and be able to say ‘no’ in order to control your time.
“My advice is to ‘do, plan, eliminate or delegate’. Planning is key to this, and these habits will establish themselves best when you are well informed and can occasionally step away from the business.”
The nine habits identified by Nigel Davies
■ Fight unproductivity – identify the bottom 10 per cent
■ Have clear goals
■ Give staff responsibility and trust
■ Recognise that improvement might be coupled with some pain
■ Say no in order to control time
■ Take time out for family and leisure
■ Give gratitude
■ Address important issues before they also become urgent