Saturday, 31 July 2021

Schedule core working, not meetings

One of the keys to high productivity is to organise - and then to schedule - work according to its priority and urgency.  Too often, though, this potential productivity gets sidelined as other facto come into play - meetings get scheduled and key personnel get jacked out of operational processing. 

Now,  a new approach is helping restore the potential for high productivity.

Companies are beginning to designate core working hours’ during which ‘peripheral activities’ (such as meetings) cannot be scheduled.

The company then knows that within those core hours, every person and every process is ‘on’ snd working to full capacity.    

As companies are now moving away from home working back to the office, it is an ideal time to introduce this concept of core working hours and get everyone used to the concept -and the practice.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Become a Conductor

 What separates the very best musicians from the also-rans is the long-term commitment to the goal, and to the practice required to achieve it.  Hours, days, weeks and years of relentless practice drive up performance, improvs timing and rhythm and change the person from someone who plays an instrument into a musician.  They become flexible, resilient, agile performers.

Now, apply this to your organisation, your processes, you’re staff. If you can get workers to understand what world-class performance is, give them the skills, drill them into operating sound, secure processes and support them properly, you may be able to create an orchestra that can play sweet music for you.

But they need a strong conductor who understands the score and understands them.  That is your role.

Without that coordinating role, they may pull in  different directions.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Look at the Outcomes

When trying to improve productivity, many people start by looking at inputs - trying to reduce costs by saving materials, energy or manpower. 

There is nothing wrong with such an approach except that it is an incremental approach. Your are unlikely to save more than 10-15% of costs so productivity can only rise by that amount.

What you need is something more revolutionary - more innovative.  So, look at your outputs - and especially outcomes.

What are you trying to achieve? And how near do current outcomes come to targets and aspirations.  What can you do instead of what you do now?  What can you change to improve outputs?  How can outcomes be improved to look more like those defined in your strategy?

When outcomes and outputs are improved, you can then look at inputs - for they might need to change to help achieve revised outcomes.

Only, them should you think about reducing costs.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Detoxify your Productivity

If your organisation expects you to be ‘always on’, always working, always available by telephone or email, they are exhibiting signs of what is sometimes called  ‘toxic productivity’.  I hate that term for all sorts of reasons but mainly because it has nothing to do with productivity.

People who work 24 x 7 (or think they do) are unlikely to be very productive, especially in the longer-term. One can be highly directed and productive for a day or two - perhaps even for a week.  If you persist, however, your physical and mental health will suffer.  You will work harder and harder but not have effective outcomes - this is not being productive.

So, schedule relaxation into your working day. : take time out every day to relax and recover.  Listen to some music, write a journal, do some painting, play the guitar, learn French - or just do nothing.

In the middle of productive activity, take a few seconds to breathe deeply, relax your mind, practice some mindfulness.

Think about how important work is in your life - and how important other parts of your life are. Set limits on how much each part of your life impinges on those other important elements.

Your organisation may help with this balance - but many do not. 

You must! 

Not only will you be healthier, your productivity will improve,.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Its only a Sugar Rush

When the pandemic hit and the world went into ‘lockdown’,  most companies moved into remote working, using technology to support employees working from home. There were all sorts of claims that productivity improved as a result.  I’m afraid that I was churlish enough to cast doubt on these claims at the time (in this blog) suggesting that the improved productivity was either a temporary phenomenon, imperfect measurement or wishful thinking.

Later evidence appears to suggest I was right. If there was any improved productivity, it’s did not last. Many companies are eagerly looking forward to having employees back in the office where they can mingle, interact and feed off one another.

So, lets be generous and say that those companies that reported an initial improvement in productivity on lockdown were right.  

What caused it?  

Well, there are a numbers of possibilities.  One is that it was simply something like a ‘sugar rush’ - the taste of freedom and flexibility excited workers who responded with hard work, longer hours and strong focus.  This initial sugar rush wore off (as one does) and productivity dropped - but managers found it difficult to report, so didn’t.

Another possibility is that it was a ‘Hawthorne effect’ - employees knew someone was taking an interest in their work and their performance and they responded accordingly.  As the perceived interest from managers waned, so did the performance.

None of this means that productivity of remote work cannot be high - only that it doesn’t happen by accident; it isn’t a ‘given’; it has to be planned and managed.