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Do you have any Margin? : ICMS – Success is NOT Logical
Do you have any Margin?
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10 August 2013 - 23:20, by , in Leadership, No comments

Margin  =  Your Limit  –  Your Load

Do you have any margin? Or are you in a deficit mode? If like most people, your load exceeds your limit. Dr. Richard Swenson, author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, defines margin as “having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month and sanity left at the end of adolescence.”

The lack of margin results in stress, declining health, debt, unhappiness and errors in your life and your workplace. When load exceeds limit, you experience deficits: sleep deficits, budget deficits, quality deficits and time deficits. Workload is a result, not a cause, of the deficits.

Old habits, not choice, consume your margin. Both personally and professionally. Use the “Three D’s” to change habits and add margin to your life and workplace:

Three D’s to Increase Margin


  • Use Activity Based Costing (ABC) to identify and drop unprofitable products, services and customers. Add the savings to your profit margin.
  • Use Activity Based Management (ABM) to identify non-value added activities that should be minimized or eliminated. Re-deploy the time and resources to margin.
  • Eliminate unnecessary duplication of activities across departments and sites. Use ABM activity analysis, process mapping, shared services methods and business process reengineering techniques to identify and eliminate costly duplication of administrative activities.


  • Classify activities as “Required” or “Discretionary”. Defer the discretionary to immediately add margin.
  • Benchmark your frequently performed activities with a best practice organization. If they have a better way, defer to their methods to reduce your cycle time and cost.
  • Defer to your suppliers’ and customers’ recommendations on “how to” reduce process cost, cycle time and complexity. Use ABM process reports and ABC bills of activities to facilitate the discussions.


  • Routine and repetitive activities that cannot be automated should be self-managed by employees. Re-deploy management time to margin.
  • Managers don’t have to come up with all the cost improvement ideas. Instead, delegate improvement to the employees who perform the activities. They typically have the best ideas and enjoy the involvement.
  • Aggregate and move activities upstream to their point of origin so that one employee, one department or one supplier has end-to-end accountability.

When asked to think of the future, most people picture next year as “the present without anxieties”. Anxieties caused by the lack of margin will not disappear until you change the approach to your life and workplace. Stop this week and take an inventory of your personal and professional activities. Then do some dropping, deferring and delegating.

Send your comments to TomPryor@icms.net.

Or, call someone at ICMS if you have ABM questions… (817) 483-6511

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Tom Pryor
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