Upon returning to the office from the record-setting Dealership Minds Summit — Next Level Service Management — in Iowa City this summer, our staff started planning how we’d turn all the great presentations into a solid report for this issue. Mike Lessiter came to me with a unique idea … let’s apply what we learned about tech efficiency, time estimates and service management to what we do here as editors.

Everyone who contributed to the report (from the top down to outside writers) was told to track their time from start to finish — research, writing, editing, working with designers and proofing. As the primary editor on the project, I also tracked all the time I spent editing each article and directing staff on this special report. 

Several Summit presenters said, “Productivity is the job of the manager, efficiency is the job of the technician.” In this exercise, it was my assignment to study our team’s productivity and determine how we can improve it — for every task from here on out. 

While I’m still tallying up the results, it’s fair to say we definitely learned something about efficiency and management during the exercise. And there is certainly room for improvement.

I was excited about this experiment but really was unsure of how it was going to go. What was it going to reveal? Were we really going to learn anything from applying KPIs for the farm equipment service department to publishing? The answer is yes. 

One of the biggest lessons I learned from the project mirrors what was preached at the Summit and by industry trainers and consultants — service managers can’t be out turning wrenches but need to be optimizing the productivity of their staff. In this scenario, I served as the “service manager,” but I still gave myself a writing assignment. I was turning wrenches but still couldn’t ignore my duties as a manager — personnel issues, planning, organizing and reporting back to leadership. Those managerial duties slowed my progress on the assignment. Can you guess who was last to turn in her article? 

I was able to get it done, but it was late and my “billable time” was lost and couldn’t be made up. In retrospect, the assignment could’ve been handled by a more junior staffer (B tech) or freelance writer (C tech) more efficiently than me. Plus, it would have been done at a lower labor rate. 

Managers need to remember, just because you like to do something (writing an article, working on equipment, chatting with customers) doesn’t mean that is where your time is best spent and may not be what is best for the organization. 

Once the dust settles a little on the issue, I’ll analyze the results and write a blog about the overall results of the project and what we learned. 

Ultimately, what we can apply here internally goes beyond comparing our jobs to yours. It should help us find areas of capacity and efficiency, see our own strengths and weaknesses and get better at our job — to better serve you.