Mary reminds us of what we need to do to increase our productivity. She offers five top tips: stop avoiding things that need attention, stop worrying about making mistakes, know what you are doing, embrace change, and use your imagination to picture your success. It’s all really easy if you try.
Productivity is a very complex topic and even among experts it is difficult to exact a prescription to improve productivity. In its simplest form, productivity measures the efficiency of production. It is the ratio of production output to what is required (inputs) to produce the output. In terms of economic growth, governments look at productivity as the product of labour based on the average number of hours each employed person works and the proportion of the entire population that is employed. Labour productivity drives living standards. However, just because a person is employed does not mean that they are productive.
At the macro level, investments in physical capital, human capital and innovation drive productivity. At the micro level, productivity depends on the individual and their ability to improve their relative standard of living as a direct result of their ability to improve their personal productivity. While investment in productivity at the macro level is necessary and important, investment at the micro level is even more important. Can you imagine productivity without the individual?
Investing money to hire more people, to improve business infrastructure, and to fund more innovation won’t help if the issues directly impacting human capital, physical capital, and innovation aren’t managed first. Consider the following. An organization’s current workforce is not producing at expected levels, so the organization hires more people to improve its productivity. Is this the solution? Not necessarily. To improve productivity, first review the process to understand the contributing factors to lack of productivity. Employees are one part of the overall process, so adding more people to the process without knowing the cause of low productivity won’t solve the problem. Other factors impacting productivity may include the equipment that is being used (and how it is used), steps in the process, how steps are executed, waiting time, information management, etc.
Consider another example. British Columbia’s productivity performance is consistently below the Canadian average. One issue for this is that driver-specific issues of productivity performance within areas such as human capital are not being addressed. To improve productivity and performance, the elements that contribute to improved human capital (for example) need to be improved. This includes such things as the quality of the educational system, on-the-job training, skills shortages, capacity of workers to serve stakeholders, etc. These are all important determinants of success for overall economic growth.
British Columbia is lacking a “culture of productivity.” This is based on a report from the BC Progress Board in 2008. In recent years, other jurisdictions lacking a culture of productivity saw their economies stumble. Paying attention now to the details of productivity at the lowest level will ensure a vibrant and sustainable future. All the policies in the world won’t help improve productivity if the workers themselves are not productive. Greece learned the hard way. The rest of the world can learn from Greece.
I have worked with many clients over the past few decades and one of the common complaints that I hear repeatedly is that they are “overworked.” While this doesn’t typically surprise me when I hear it from staff, it continues to surprise me when I hear it from executives.
Being overworked implies that there is too much work for the role. I don’t believe this to be true, but the perception of “overwork” is in the eye of the beholder. If you feel overworked, listen up: You are either not fit for your role or your work methodology needs to change. In more cases than not, the latter is true. Staff and leaders alike spend too much time on irrelevant tasks or tasks that can be done by others, resulting in a backlash of complaints of “overwork” and important work not getting done.
I recall one client that spent most of his days in meetings. I asked him why he couldn’t delegate one or more of his senior staff to attend meetings on his behalf. His response was that no one else could do it. But here’s what I see. His real issue is an inability to delegate, resulting in him working after hours and on weekends to catch up on work he should have done during the day. In another instance, a client regularly asked me for my project status report even though the report was emailed to him, like clockwork, on the first of the month. And each time, the email exchange resulted in the client saying that he found it. Overwork? No. This is just poor email management and only one area where my client’s work methodology needed serious improvement.
The next time you claim to be overworked, be honest with yourself. How much time are you spending on activities that can be done by others? How much time are you spending wading through disorganized email? How much time are you spending searching for information to write a report? When was the last time you had a real meal to power your day? What about your fitness routine? Sure, sometimes we all get a surge of work that requires us to put in a few extra hours, but if this is your norm, you need to shape up your approach to your job. There is no excuse for being disorganized (or overworked).
That said, here is a sobering fact. Nine out of ten change initiatives fail. What this means is that for each habit you wish to change, you need to try at least ten times. It does not mean that because the odds of changing are stacked against you that you should not try. Persistence is the key to change.
If you’re overworked, you can dig yourself out of your quandary. First, identify the bad habits that you need to change, then start by changing one habit. And when you’ve changed one habit, practice your new habit for at least three months before moving on to the next habit. Over time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that overwork is no longer your norm, even though your responsibilities remain the same.
Mary explains how an organization can get started eliminating waste in their company. Four steps include conducting a readiness assessment, creating pull/engagement, mobilizing the team, and executing the project. She also emphasizes “WII-FM” and “common sense.” Listen in to hear how you can start getting rid of waste from your organization today.
Mary explains the difference between Lean and Six Sigma practices. She challenges the listener to recall items that have to be re-done, along with items that add no value to the organization. This will help you develop a plan to use both Lean and Six Sigma together to eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness in your organization. She also explains what areas are typically ineffective in organizations.