At a recent visit to my ophthalmologist, I was struck by how little time the doctor spent with me and nevertheless how satisfied I was with the visit. Of the 75 minutes I lingered, five were spent with the receptionist, and an hour with two medical associates. One of them conducted measurements and gave me instructions and education pertaining to my eye surgery; while the other removed the bandage from my eye, administered drops and checked my vision before walking me to the administrator who then explained my insurance coverage, prescription options and fees. Following a few minutes’ wait, the doctor showed up, scanned the data, peeked through his instrument, scribbled something on my file, and spent ninety seconds reassuring me and answering questions. I could only be impressed with his delegation skills.
The doctor spent less than four minutes on my case doing the bare essentials: diagnosing, confirming, evaluating, post-selling me on the surgery and being present, attentive, friendly and accessible. I figured that four minutes of his time supported $800 of billing by his team. Assuming his hours are worth $500, he turned $33 of personal time into 24X its value through organization and delegation.
Naturally, his team has processes in place that ensured that no minute was wasted and everyone’s actions were purposefully directed. I wonder how many CEO clients of mine achieve a comparable degree of delegation and organization. Granted, the medical profession is highly regulated and all procedures are governed by standard protocols that medical personnel must follow, with no or minimal deviation.
Business situations tend to be less standard and it might appear unreasonable to regiment them to a similar extent. However, variations are definitely finite and it could make sense to designs “plays” that can be executed with precision and discipline by human, or AI “professionals”.
To a great degree, this is happening already in all of our lives through the use of computers and cellphones. We have all been delegating a wide variety of tasks to technology with minimal manual input: sending emails instead of typing and mailing a letter, or feeding it into a fax machine. Scheduling our calendar appointments are outsourced to pre-programmed web apps for a couple of bucks a month, or for free. Supplies can be ordered at the push of a button.
Four years ago, the production and mailing of this newsletter took several person-days of work, including printing and sticking labels on envelopes, and shipping magazine copies from printer to the post office. Now it can be done in minutes, by uploading a pdf file and a mailing list into the cloud. Arranging travel can also be done at the click of the mouse without a travel agent, using services like Google Flights or Booking.com.
I found my ophthalmologist through researching the internet and he won me over with educational videos and articles posted on his site. His claims were not hyped and his testimonials felt genuine even reading through the lines. Clearly his front end was fully automated, letting patients seek him out. That is the equivalent of delegating the sales function to technology.
Effective delegation no longer depends on budgets, as much as on committing to getting organized and the discipline to processize every repeating task at the earliest opportunity. For more complex work, freelancers are readily available at competitive hourly rates. I used five different freelancers in the past six months to build my website, research a database for this newsletter, edit videos, optimize blogs for search engines, and design this publication.
For knowledge workers, there is no longer a valid excuse for being snowed under by paperwork and monotony. If it is boring, there most likely is an app for it, or a cloud service to take it off your shoulder for an affordable monthly fee. The challenge is tracking down worthwhile solutions that make a difference and really work, without wasting time. Unfortunately, the best solutions don’t always market themselves well, and it takes digging and discernment to find the gold nuggets.
Be the doctor, not the nurse. Figure out what only YOU can do and delegate the rest to other people, to processes, to your “do not do” list and to technology. Your job is to seek out the people and the solutions that can deliver the results you need, not to spin your wheels working on low value tasks.