Lloydminster – Oilfield managers faced with having to do more with fewer resources in the current low oil price environment need to learn how to become productivity ninjas.
Ninjas do better work in a day rather than more work with the available resources.
That’s the creed of Rachel Murray, a self-taught “productivity ninja” who shared some of her secrets with 87 business managers from all walks of life at a breakfast workshop on Feb. 18 at the Lloydminster Golf and Curling Centre.
The first mystery she clarified for the benefit of Pipeline News is what is a productivity ninja?
“It’s on my business card, and it’s really hard not to smile when I introduce myself and say ‘hi I’m Rachel Murray and I’m a productivity ninja,’” she said.
“People kind of look at me funny, but it’s almost a childhood dream. We all wanted to be ninjas when we were growing up, didn’t we?”
As a productivity ninja Murray said, “I get the best work done that I can with the time and resources that I have.”
The enemy she said is information overload and that applies to harried oilfield managers faced with budget and staff cutbacks who can learn to fight back as productive ninjas.
“They need to keep in mind that there are only 24 hours in a day and they only have so many resources to get the job, and that people are human,” said Murray minutes before starting her presentation.
“It’s tough and there are cutbacks, but we can still get it done.
“We’re concerned about you’re doing your best work with the time that you have and the resources that you have, and feeling good and not being too stressed out about it.
“We still need to take care of our body as well as get the job done. There’s a balance that needs to be met in the oilpatch right now.”
Having a Zen-like calm to deal with pressure is one of nine characteristics of a productivity ninja taught by Murray who allows for some group discussions.
Her workshop helped managers make individual action plans and left them with practical tools to boost productivity and reduce stress levels so they can be more productive at work and in their personal lives.
When it was suggested that companies could just hire her as a productivity ninja to get the work done, Murray replied with a smile, “Well I’m here to help people. “I can’t be everywhere at once. I wish I could.”
Murray is a business software training consultant and a productivity ninja who offers “think productive” workshops to a variety of industries in Alberta.
The Lloydminster workshop was hosted by the Regional Business Accelerator that connects, coaches and mentors entrepreneurs and businesses on both sides of the border city.
Marya Pettigrew, executive director of the accelerator, said the workshop was timely for oilfield managers who work for companies facing difficult challenges to keep active during the downturn.
“I think it’s even more important to be efficient in the workplace during times like this when you’re trying to do more with less,” said Pettigrew.
“I think the tools you learn at a workshop like this are even more important because it allows you to manage not only the workflow more efficiently, but also the stress you might be dealing with on a daily basis.
“The more tools we can give people at times like this the better.”
A total of 10 business clients of the business accelerator were at the workshop.
The accelerator works to connect people to different levels of government supports and to potential sources of capital.
“We help them develop technology that they might be bringing to market. It could new oilfield products. It could be new software programs,” said Pettigrew, who also spoke at the workshop.
“We help them with the supply chain development which is really important.
“The biggest thing we try to do is take an idea someone has and help make it a reality, and try to mitigate some of the risk by working with professionals in the region or at the provincial and federal level.”
Lloydminster was ranked the top mid-size city in Canada to start and grow a business in 2014 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business with many oil businesses seeking the services of the accelerator.
“A lot of our businesses are new technology oilfield based or service based for the oilfield. So we do have a lot there. It’s probably a higher percentage than in other areas,” said Pettigrew.
“So they’ll come to us and we’ll connect them to technology advisors at the federal and provincial levels and also potential grant funding to do test marketing – maybe connecting them to a university to finish that prototype.”
Learning how to become a productivity ninja is also essential for accelerator business owners to optimize their energy, concentration and motivation in a sustainable way.
“We are not superheroes, we’re humans, and we’re doing the best job that we can with the time and resources that we have and be okay with that,” said Murray.
“Be well adjusted with that and not take short term disability because you just drove yourself into the ground.”
Murray also frowns at the tendency of some oilfield companies to equate productivity with working longer hours.
“We think that’s a negative approach to productivity especially right now for those folks. We think it’s important to understand there is only 24 hours in day,” she said.
“You’re only going to be able to get so much done so do the best that you can with the time that you have.”
The workshop was also an Employee Attraction and Retention Network or EARN breakfast by Lloydminster Economic Development and sponsored by Alberta Works with productivity being a key issue for area employers.
“We put on an event that’s mainly for HR managers and business owners – something to help them with recruiting and retention and training for employers,” explained Katlin Ducherer, an event and business development manager at economic development.
Ducherer said hiring and retaining employees is a huge issue in the oilpatch and businesses in all industries today.
“I think one of the major things is quality of life and then how great can the business environment be,” she said.
“So it’s not what you can pay them or what kind of benefits you can offer them.
“It has to be a great work environment for employees as well. It has to be something that they want to come to every day particularly in Lloydminster where the unemployment rate is so low.”
In fact the unemployment rate in Alberta for January was 4.5 per cent and just 4.1 per cent in Lloydminster with the effects of lower oil prices and capital spending yet to be felt.
It’s never been more important in the oilfield said Ducherer to be a productivity ninja when faced with the need to do more work with less resources.
“The more tasks they put on employees, the more productive they’re going to have to be,” she said noting this is applicable to all businesses today.
“I think it’s really important because a lot of people especially in this day and age with technology – spending a lot of time using their phones and computers and e-mail and all that kind of stuff.”
As for the turnout for the workshop she said, “We’ve got engineering firms; we’ve got oil and gas firms; we’ve got people from the retail sector, the banking sector, agriculture – lots of different sectors.
“We’re really happy with the diversity.”