I was first introduced to the term 'busy fool' by an old finance director when he was explaining how the business needed to focus on selling our products (we were an IT & Consumables re-seller) to fewer people at the correct margin rather than lots of people at a lower margin. We wanted to avoid being 'busy fools'.
Some of you out there may argue his logic, but the term has stuck with me ever since, and more recently I have taken to applying it to situations in the Digital Transformation arena and in particular business practices and processes which digital is trying to improve.
How to spot the 'busy fools' in your business
Most of these should be easy to spot, they are the person who prints the same thing out multiple times to send to different people. They are the person who is filing something twice (either paper or digitally). They are the person who is copying a template email and sending it out 20+ times a day to different customers and just swapping out the name. They are the person who is copy typing information from one system to another.
Any person who is doing a task that could easily be replaced by a small amount of automation or connecting 2 systems together and frankly could be spending their time doing something more productive is a 'fool' in a digital age.
A task that could easily be replaced by a small amount of automation...is a 'fool' in the digital age
It's not the people!
I used the word 'person' above but actually I don't feel that is fair , I do not think people who I may term as busy fools, are actually fools. Most of the time the problem is with the process and not the person, you could read all my statements above and swap out person with process and it still works.
An extremely common response I get when I challenge a process is "this is how I was told to do it" or "it works so why change it". The person may already know there could/should be a better way, but they don't feel they have the authority to change the process or the process may have been the best way when it was devised, but technology advancements may have provided a better way without the person being aware. However you have reached this state of a busy fool, I am a firm believer that you are where you are, no matter how you got there, lets move forward!
How to banish the 'fool'
Once you have identified some processes to review, speak to everyone involved to improve it, if needed draw up some story boards of the current process and get your clever people from IT to look at how your current systems or a new system can be used to improve it.
Stop being busy and start being productive!
Remember to calculate the time the process currently takes and compare it to your solution. This is key to really seeing if you are removing this busyness and being more productive.
Some 'fools' may be more tricky to spot, they may be so ingrained into your business that you start to believe they are your business. Don't be afraid to look deep into every process that your business operates on, especially the one's you are afraid to touch! These are the one's that even small changes can have a huge impact.
Sometimes it is useful to get an outside view on these processes, being so close to the problem can blind you to new solutions. Hiring in an external digital consultant to advise in this area may be the kick start you need to bring about real change.