Productivity expert shares know-how

CornerStone Dynamics

Adriana Girdler Speaks about Productivity in Timmins By Benjamin Aubé, The Timmis Press (March 2013) – Adriana Girdler speaks about productivity at a conference in Timmins …

Adriana Girdler Speaks about Productivity in Timmins

By Benjamin Aubé, The Timmis Press

Adriana Girdler(March 2013) – Adriana Girdler speaks about productivity at a conference in Timmins on March 27, 2013. The Timmins Press picked up Adriana’s well received talk to the  Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) delegates. 

TIMMINS – It might be an overused cliché, and it may be horribly outdated, but it still rings true almost every time; you just won’t get very far with the carriage tied to the front of the horse.

When it comes to business, productivity and efficiency should be the horses pulling most of the weight. When the weight gets in the way, it’s hard for the horses to do the work.

Enough metaphor for you? Enter the experts.

Business process analyst, public speaker and organization guru Adriana Girdler was in Timmins during the week to discuss internal productivity with local business owners.

“The biggest thing I would say from a learning perspective is focus on improving your productivity. Focus on being more efficient, because you can’t be innovative if you’re not productive and efficient,” said Girdler, summarizing some of the points she covered at a luncheon seminar organized Wednesday by the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

“If you’re struggling just to make ends meet to get product out the door, it makes it very difficult to give yourself time to be creative. You need the time and space to do it, and you need to have the comfort to be able to do it as well. If you’re running around trying to get things done, and putting out the small fires – or the big fires – you don’t have time for anything else.”

An author and a mother, Girdler is also president of Cornerstone Dynamics, a Burlington-based company specializing in “business efficiency and helping leading corporations streamline internal processes to work smarter and improve productivity.”

At the Dante Club luncheon, Girdler engaged a group of local entrepreneurs, business owners and managers in open dialogue and conversation about how to do just that.

“A lot of organizations are so focused on their end product,” she explained. “They’re focused on their customers, they’re focused on their service. I get that.

“What they forget is, if you don’t work on your internal ways of working, ultimately it will catch up with you.”

Girdler detailed how the shift from neighbourhood- and region-based economies to the global economy we live in today has made the business world more competitive across the board. The solution?

“One of the ways to be more competitive is, instead of cutting your profits and shooting yourself in the foot and ultimately failing, you need to be more efficient,” said Girdler. “You need to build your processes so it allows you to make the same product with the same quality or even better, but quicker and cheaper so that your profit margin is not impacted. That’s where productivity shines.”

A native of Windsor, Girdler said she’s attuned to how it is to work in a region that relies largely on one or two primary sources of industry. However, no matter which business she has worked for – major corporations or small start-ups – she said there are three common themes that always stand out when companies can’t seem to move forward.

“I’ve seen it over and over again, repeating itself in organizations where efficiency and productivity have failed,” explained Girdler. “If you don’t have good leadership, if you don’t have good processes, and you don’t have the proper support for your people to have job satisfaction, it will fail.

“That’s why you see these companies go with the ‘flavour of the month,’ and they try these initiatives and they fail, then they try another one and it fails. It’s because the leadership hasn’t bought in, the processes themselves haven’t been streamlined or there’s none at all, and the people haven’t been given the job satisfaction and the empowerment to feel like they can make a contribution and really enjoy what they’re doing.”

More than two years ago, the TEDC’s productivity and innovation committee was formed. Since then, committee members like Ross MacDonald have been working towards giving local businesses a central source of information and help when it comes to increasing their efficiency.

MacDonald explained they’d “been working for some time now on building capacity towards establishing a Productivity and Innovation Centre.”

“We’re still working things out, whether it’ll be a physical centre or a virtual one,” he said. “It involves a lot of capacity building and just knowing there’s going to be that expertise to help guide companies towards being more productive.”

MacDonald said the project could move ahead as early as this coming fall if the various funding agencies the committee had applied to come through.

“We’re confident they’ll see the value we see in productivity in innovation,” he said.

Fellow committee member, Tori Hanson, said it quickly became clear to the board that productivity and innovation were areas that could be of service to essentially all business-owners in the Northeast region.

“We see it especially with mining, where there’s so much opportunity worldwide to expand businesses based in our region – this is where there’s mining expertise – yet people are so busy running to catch up with just their current orders or jobs that they don’t have time to even think about expanding into the global marketplace,” said Hanson, who is the director of trades, technology and applied research at Northern College. “If they do, they’re doing it at the edge of their desks, a little bit here, a little bit there.

“I used mining as an example, but that’s not the only thing that goes on here. We felt a Productivity and Innovation Centre could be something really valuable and useful to a variety of businesses in Timmins.”

Both Hanson and MacDonald explained that Girdler’s visit and advice helped hammer home the value of what they productivity and innovation committee has been working on for the past two years.

“There’s a lot of talent in our region, there’s amazing ideas, a lot of hard workers who create their own businesses and so forth,” said Hanson. “But so often, they’re so busy doing that they don’t have the time to work at their business. That’s what we’re trying to get out there.”

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