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Improving Your Executive Efficiency

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In communicating with a commercial publisher confirming my inputs for a forthcoming book project, I received a task from a junior editor working on the project. Her role is to assure my understanding and compliance with various policies and laws associated with publishing through their company. It seems reasonable enough; she’ll be my concierge through the process—or so I thought. I will call my “concierge” Linda to protect identities.

Linda forwards me an email with several attachments. One is a 56-page handbook of the publisher’s “process.” This handbook describes how we do business, it claims. The handbook depicts graphics, timelines, definitions, and flow charts. I could see where referring to a standardized process might have value when dealing with multiple authors. But the guts of the 56 pages were entirely focused on the internal requirements of the publisher.

When processes and meetings are combined, how much time are you and your team devoting to advancing things that improve revenue and profitability? Share on X

One flow chart was worthy enough to be broken out as a PDF file, at least in Linda’s and the publisher’s eyes. This particular one deals with “third-party content.” Its focus is to allow an author to check for themselves whether their material is plagiarism or may otherwise be copyrighted material. The offending chart has over forty bubbles, divided accordingly with yes/no decision points. It could be simplified dramatically with an attestation that the work is my own.

The handbook and charts reflect a culture consumed by process out of fear of an error slipping through the cracks. 

Does Process Consume You?

Executives spend more time on internal issues than they’d like to admit. MIT’s Sloan School of Management and The Harvard Business Review confirmed that 50% of executives’ time goes toward meetings during a given week. An average executive workweek of 47 hours adds up to real time spent in meetings.

It might be easy to conflate the process with meeting attendance. Meetings might be about process, but not all processes require meetings as above with the publisher. When processes and meetings are combined, how much time are you and your team devoting to advancing things that improve revenue and profitability?

The government processes associated with obtaining budget authority, funding, and a contract are intense. The complexity of the process has grown over time, but it has not grown more complicated. The federal process is derived primarily from acquisition law that generates acquisition policy. It would be great if we could streamline it, but that’s not the best use of your management time.

Improve Executive Efficiency by Focusing on 2 Things

You are better off improving your executive efficiency by focusing on two things:

  1. Learn more about the federal process so that you can comply with its provisions as quickly as possible, thereby avoiding the failure of doing it twice.
  2. Focus on your internal practices. How many Linda’s are dutifully executing what they believe are the requirements of your company’s processes?

We can lament that government bureaucracy wastes time and wrings us dry. We can try to “fight city hall,” but we’re better off acknowledging that the federal process is what it is. Conserve your executive energy by asking the hard questions required of #1 and #2 above. If done correctly, they can have a tremendous return on your investment.

The Make Your Move podcast is a multi-season series devoted to the lessons learned of military members in their post-active duty lives. I hope you enjoy the stories of the men and women brave enough to share their transition stories so publicly. Listen to the latest episode here.

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