‘We need to improve our productivity’!
This is a phrase that is becoming commonplace in boardrooms all around the world. And rightly so. After all, any organisation that stands still in the modern world is actually going backwards fast (the same could be said about individuals). The question therefore is not whether an organisation should look for productivity improvements, it is more about how to do this without breaking anything – in particular its people.
I was recently drawn to an article written by David Schilling in April 2013 titled ‘Knowledge Doubling every 12 months, soon to be every 12 hours’. That wasn’t a misprint. According to IBM, the build out of the Internet Of Things will mean that one day in the future it will be possible to leave for work at 7am, and by time we get back that evening the world’s knowledge will have doubled.
Whilst this is great news for knowledge buffs, it isn’t necessarily great news for those charged with the responsibility of improving productivity. If we are already overly distracted by the data tsunami that bombards us every day (trying to keep up with the ‘latest’ information is almost a full time job), it will be infinitely worse ‘soon’. It is worth remembering that our poor old brains, whilst extremely capable of adapting to new circumstances, have limitations about what is possible to consciously digest. If our attention is like a spotlight (and it is), whilst it is possible to make the spotlight wider there is still a lot going on outside of our awareness (and it does). In the workplace, this is a very big problem. How much time does the average employee shine their spotlight on the work that needs doing? How much of their spotlight is focused on those things that the organisation needs to achieve? I recently asked the CEO of a mid-sized organisation this question, and he said that as a guess, the average employee is distracted for at least half of the time. Half? What would your answer be?
The second part of this problem is that in the race for productivity improvements, the average employee is faced with an ever increasing number of systems and processes to help them improve their productivity. The irony is clear – we are creating the very distractions that we are trying to reduce.
What is the answer? Like many things, it would be too easy if there were a single answer. However organisations and their leaders would be well served to look at the world of work from the perspective of their employees. In many cases, the single biggest productivity improvement initiative that many organisations could undertake is to remove the complexities associated with some of their productivity improvement initiatives. For example, we have successfully implemented a continuous performance framework which subtly keeps employee goals within their ‘spotlight’ at all times, and involves a 15 minute commitment per person per week. The simplicity is powering the productivity, which will power the profitability (for more info you can visit www.employeelife.com).
Our lesson? Our Ego often uses ‘complicated’ to justify decisions about systems and processes. Once the ego was removed from decision making, we could see that simplicity is simply awesome. Which systems and processes could you simplify?
Jason Buchanan – General Manager; Insights & Innovation