You know those people who when you ask them how they are doing they respond with “oh, I’m so busy” and they are proud of being busy. I am 100% in support of success. I am 100% in support of being productive. I could care less if you are busy. If you are productive and busy great! If you are busy but not productive, I hope you are ready to make a change.
Narrow and Clarify Priorities
Do you know your priorities? Could your staff explain how what they are working on relates to those priorities? Narrow the list of priorities to a few and make sure anyone in the organization can explain how the work they are doing supports those priorities. I am not talking about general goals such as increase revenue 10%. I’m talking about the three things that must be accomplished this week in order to meet that goal.
Let Your Team Focus
Do you expect your employees or coworkers to read email within five minutes of receipt? Stop. Rarely are issues so urgent and if the issue is urgent you can walk to the team member’s desk to discuss or use the telephone. Multitasking is actually impossible. The more frequently we change train of thought, the less we get done. As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson put it in Rework “interruption is the enemy of productivity”. Make a cultural change to allow your employees to focus. Encourage meeting free blocks of time. Let employees turn off email notifications. Let people have some quiet time.
Validate and Test Concepts Early
Working in the apparel industry we all know that sometimes designs must be changed and improved. How you go about validating changes and improvements can mean the difference between being busy or being productive. A lot of loops, twists, and turns in your development cycle makes for a more artful flow chart, but that process is hardly productive. Doing tasks over keeps people busy but doesn’t allow them to feel productive. Changing a product a week before production is painful and costly for all stakeholders. If production is delayed, even the customer is impacted. Take a meaningful pause early in the development cycle to review sketches, 3D renderings, or initial prototypes. Allow time in your development cycle to make adjustments following this review.
When people feel like they are making meaningful progress toward a goal, moral soars. Clothing lines don’t make money until they are produced and available for sale. Spend less time planning and more time delivering strong products that your customers want.
Why wait until you have produced a whole line of product to find out what the consumer wants? Products can be tested without actually producing garments. 3D images can be created that look like real garments. Or if you want to test a new graphic t-shirt, use Photoshop to put the new design on an existing product photo. Reach customers via social media or post a customer survey on your website. If you are a wholesaler, send out a quick survey to retail buyers.
Do you have a PLM system? Are you using the system as a product lifecycle management system or a product data management system? A full lifecycle management system captures information from inception to delivery. All stakeholders including your suppliers and manufacturers have access to view and/or edit information. Workflow information such as development calendars and the status of each style is captured in the system and flags notifies if you are behind.
If you are too small for a PLM system, that’s ok. You are nimble because of your organization’s size. There are a lot of inexpensive tools you can string together and leverage. Excel or Google Sheets can capture garment measurements. Adobe Illustrator can be used for 2D CAD work. Pull all of it together into a PDF file and you have a techpack or use a cloud based tool like Techpacker. There are also inexpensive or free project management/collaboration tools such as Freedcamp and ProjectPier.