Productivity is about your systems, not your people (2023)


Striving for individual productivity is healthy and worth it. However, unless you are working independently outside of an organization, the benefits of most "hacks" are limited. To really affect performance, you need to work at the system level. The author recommends four ways to improve productivity and efficiency through changes at the organizational level. He creates a system of staggered meetings that allow issues to be escalated to the next level of responsibility in a timely manner. Use systems that visually represent where work is so employees can see where a project is. Make it clear how people should communicate based on the complexity and urgency of the problem. Also, make sure that the people responsible for completing the tasks also have the authority to make the necessary decisions.

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Managers are always striving to improve the productivity of employees (including their own). Too often, this search does not extend beyond the time management training courses offered by Human Resources. These classes cover the pros and cons ofzero inbox, thePomodoro-Technik, theEisenhower matrix,finish things, and countless other approaches that plague us with promises of maximum productivity. as people are stilloverwhelmed by work,buried in email, and can notfocus on critical priorities, it's safe to say that these productivity hacks just don't do it.

The problem does not lie in the intrinsic logic of these approaches. They do not take into account the simple fact that most people do not work in isolation. they work incomplex organizations defined by interdependencies among people— and these dependencies are often the ones that have the biggest impact on personal productivity. You may be an email ninja, but with the explosion of email (not to mention instant messaging, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack, and many other communication tools), you'll never be fast enough to handle all your incoming communications. Similarly, your personal Eisenhower categories of urgent/important fall apart when the CEO tells you to drop what he's doing and do something immediately.

Like legendary statistician and management consultant W. Edwards Demingargumentin his bookget out of the crisis, 94% of most problems and opportunities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual. I'd say most of the productivity improvements belong there as well. Personal solutions can be helpful, but the most effective antidote to low productivity and inefficiency must be implemented at the system level, not the individual level.

Here are four countermeasures that will help:

Caress your corrillos.

Many highly productive organizations have been establisheda system of staggered daily meetings, with a clear order of escalation for all issues. The first group, made up of frontline workers, starts at the start of the workday. The next group, made up of supervisors, follows 30 minutes later. Managers meet 30 minutes later, followed by directors, vice presidents, and finally the executive team. Problems are addressed at the lowest possible level. If no decision can be made, the problem is escalated to the next level. This system improves the connection between the C-suite and the front lines; streamlines decision making; and perhaps most importantly, it improves productivity by reducing the amount of scattered emails on a variety of topics.

make the work visible.

Most of the work in an office environment is invisible, buried in computers or people's minds. As a result, it's hard to know what people are working on or if they're overworked and unable to take on more tasks. Physical or virtual task boards (such as Trello, Asana, Airtable, Zenkit, etc.), where each task is represented by a card showing who is working on it (and what status it is), allow for a more equal distribution of work . It also eliminates countless status check emails and the need to bring this up in meetings. A principal investigator at a medical research laboratory I worked with installed such a system and found that it did the job faster and with significantly less effort.

do the samelack of timevisible is also useful. Working with the Boston Consulting Group, Leslie Perlow, a professor at Harvard Business School, discovered that implementing "schedulable break' (i.e., evenings or nights completely disconnected from work and wireless devices, agreed email blackout periods, or uninterrupted work blocks) resulted in higher job satisfaction and better work-life balance without compromise customer service. In this case, "predictability" serves the same purpose as "visibility": it allows employees to see what their colleagues are doing and react accordingly.

Define the "bat signal".

Batman fans will remember that the police summoned Batman with the image of a bat projected into the night sky. thebat signalit was reserved for times of crisis, like when the Joker was on the loose, not when a trickster failed to pay a speeding ticket. Whenargued Marshall McLuhan, the medium was the message. Unfortunately, most organizations do not have a similar method for indicating that a problem is a true emergency. Without an agreement on which communication channel to use, workers are forced to scrutinize all digital messaging platforms to make sure they don't miss a thing. It is poison for productivity. Businesses can make people's lives easier by establishing channels for urgent and non-urgent matters.

A medical device manufacturer I worked with created the following communication protocol to clarify which tool to use in which situation. The benefit was dramatic, as they were freed from the need to check all incoming emails for urgent issues. They could focus on work that required deep, uninterrupted thought, knowing that all they had to do was pay attention to text messages or phone calls. Note that it doesn't matter which communication protocol you choose; It is important that they had a system.

Productivity is about your systems, not your people (1)

Balance responsibility with authority.

Too often, employees are held accountable for tasks, but not given the authority to deliver results. This misalignment leads to frustration, stress, and overwork. At a $500 million shoe company I worked with, the founder and CEO (who had long left his position in product development) decided he didn't like a particular style of shoe his team had designed. of product. He diverted a $400,000 worth of container of shoes en route to the United States to Africa, where he unloaded it all at a financial loss. The vice president of product development was not only demoralized, but he had to pull himself together at the last minute to accommodate the CEO's decision. The rule is simple: when an employee is responsible for a result, he must have the authority to make the necessary decisions without being forced into an endless series of emails, meetings or presentations.

The manufacturing company W.L. gore and associatesManagement structure "Grid"is an excellent example of an organization that has implemented this idea. The $3 billion company spreads leadership responsibility widely throughout the organization, allowing employees to make "above the waterline" (i.e., low-risk) decisions and approvals only for "by-the-job" decisions. below the waterline" (i.e. high risk). Gore has spent decades developing and refining the culture, systems and processes to support its unique organizational structure, so it might be difficult for another company to duplicate its model. Nonetheless, it is an example of the mindset that can improve individual and organizational productivity.

Striving for individual productivity is healthy and worth it. However, unless you are working independently outside of an organization, the benefits of most "hacks" are limited. To really affect performance, you need to work at the system level.


What does productivity do to a person? ›

By being more productive, individuals can complete their work efficiently, tackle jobs quicker, and enjoy more free time. Productivity can help maintain a healthy work/life balance, and some people even enjoy their work more and feel less stressed when they're productive.

What is your productivity system? ›

What Is a Productivity System? Productivity systems are methodologies designed to help you be more productive or get more work done in less time. These systems do not perform the work for you but can help you organize and prioritize your work, making it easier to streamline your work and maximize your efficiency.

Who is responsible for productivity in a company? ›

While everyone contributes to workplace productivity, operations departments and leadership teams have direct responsibility. Smaller businesses without a dedicated operations team rely on great managers and leadership teams for productivity improvements.

What is the most important concept in personal productivity? ›

Author Brian Tracy says, “clarity is perhaps the most important concept in personal productivity.” To eat that frog, you need a clear to-do list that is organized according to your highest priorities based on your most important goals.

What raises the productivity of a person? ›

It can be helpful to take short breaks, move around, switch locations, put on some music, meditate and eat lunch with your co-workers. Create daily goals and to-do lists to prioritize and delegate your tasks efficiently. This article is for anyone looking to improve their workplace productivity.

What is a productive person like? ›

The most productive people don't fill their days with as many tasks as possible. Instead, they know which things to say yes to and which ones to turn down. People who have productive traits focus on being organized, efficient, and masters at prioritizing.

What are the 3 pillars of productivity? ›

In other words, Time, Energy, and Attention are the 3 Pillars of Productivity.

What are the four pillars of productivity? ›

The four pillars of productivity are time, energy, concentration, and knowledge, each contributing to your success in different ways.

What are the 3 types of productivity? ›

Labor productivity: measures the total economic output (revenue) per labor hour. Capital productivity: determines the efficiency in which capital (such as machinery) is used to produce a specific output. Material productivity: measures the total economic output generated per unit of material used.

Who is responsible for poor productivity? ›

Poor management is one of the major causes of low productivity. According to studies, almost 80% of workers have encountered poor management, which demotivates them from giving their all to the organization for which they work. There are still a lot of managers in organizations who like to micromanage their employees.

Who is the primary responsible for poor productivity? ›

The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the Manager.” Peter Drucker (The Father of Management)

What are the 4 most important determinants of productivity? ›

The paper classifies productivity determinants into four types, namely 'economic factors,' 'institutions,' 'social base,' and 'physical base.

What are the five essential elements of productivity? ›

I know it will do the same for you.
The Five Essential Components of Productivity
  • 1 — Start With Your To Do List. ...
  • 2 — Break Down Each Task or Goal. ...
  • 3 — A State Of Focus. ...
  • 4 — Doing The Work. ...
  • 5 — Repeat!
Mar 21, 2019

What are the two main types of productivity? ›

Labor productivity is a single factor productivity measure. It is the ratio of output to labor input (units of output per labor hour). Material productivity is the ratio of output to materials input.

What are basic concepts of productivity? ›

Productivity is commonly defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs. In other words, it measures how efficiently production inputs, such as labour and capital, are being used in an economy to produce a given level of output.

What is the most important pillar of productivity? ›

Taking the time to plan is the secret sauce to productivity. If you think you don't have time to plan, you don't have time NOT to plan. Investing a little time for planning drives the shift from overwhelmed to productive. The greatest benefit of planning may be the process of thinking things through.

What is the secret to productivity? ›

Proper planning is the secret to peak productivity, and it's also a good idea to set important goals daily. Get yourself a planning tool and prioritize your daily tasks with it in order to spend your time on important tasks.

Are productive people happier? ›

But with an updated definition of productivity, the opposite is true because increased productivity gives you more time. And more time will make you happier than most anything else you could buy and even more than having more money. Happiness doesn't just improve your personal life either.

Is productivity a character trait? ›

Productivity is a tool, not a character trait.

Are productive people more happy? ›

Happiness makes people more productive at work, according to the latest research from the University of Warwick. Economists carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people around 12% more productive.

What is the productivity Pyramid? ›

The Productivity Pyramid concept states that for productivity improvement activities to be effective and long-lasting, they can't be randomly performed. These activities must be organizationally grounded, systematically implemented and administratively supported.

Is productivity a paradox? ›

The productivity paradox (also the Solow computer paradox) is the peculiar observation made in business process analysis that, as more investment is made in information technology, worker productivity may go down instead of up.

What is productivity according to Marx? ›

Marx identified three components of production: human labor, subject of labor, and means of labor (1967, p 174). Productive forces are the union of human labor and the means of labor; means of production are the union of the subject of labor and the means of labor.

Why is productivity toxic? ›

Toxic productivity is defined as overworking at the expense of other facets of your life. It's a mindset that manifests as the need to constantly “do.” You may feel that you can't rest or take any downtime.

What is the biggest barrier to productivity? ›

Let's take a look at the most common barriers to workplace productivity as well as strategies you can use to overcome them.

What causes toxic productivity? ›

"Toxic productivity occurs when an individual has an unhealthy obsession with being productive and constantly on the go," Quazi says.

What is the root of productivity? ›

productive (adj.) 1610s, "serving to produce," from French productif (16c.) and directly from Medieval Latin productivus "fit for production," from Latin product-, past-participle stem of producere "bring forth" (see produce (v.)). Meaning "fertile, producing abundantly" is by 1706.

What stops you from being productive? ›

Overly Difficult Work or Boredom With Tasks

When a task seems too hard to finish, it is common for people to procrastinate. They tend to find excuses to not start it or to focus on smaller easier tasks instead. This leads to low productivity and a failure to accomplish work that actually needs to get done.

What is productivity shame? ›

Productivity shame is the act of setting utterly unrealistic goals or schedules for yourself and then beating yourself up when you fail to meet them. Productivity shame stops you from ever feeling like you've done “enough”.

What is the most important factor of production? ›

Land is generally considered one of the most important factors of production. Certain industries rely on land more than others.

Who owns the factors of production? ›

According to various economists, households are the owners of the factors of production while the firms determine the factors to hire for the production of commodities. The households are believed to be the owners of the production factors because they lend or sell those factors to the firms when needed.

What is the theory of production? ›

theory of production, in economics, an effort to explain the principles by which a business firm decides how much of each commodity that it sells (its “outputs” or “products”) it will produce, and how much of each kind of labour, raw material, fixed capital good, etc., that it employs (its “inputs” or “factors of ...

What is another word for productivity? ›

On this page you'll find 22 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to productivity, such as: capacity, fertility, production, yield, abundance, and fecundity.

What factors affect productivity? ›

The 6 important factors which are affecting the industrial productivity are 1) Government Policy 2) Quality of Human Resources 3) Availability of Finance 4) Technological Development 5) Natural Factors 6) Managerial Talent.

What does productivity mean in life? ›

Productivity is a measure of efficiency of a person completing a task. We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently. And no matter what you are working on, there are only a few things that are truly important.

What is the importance of productivity in life? ›

Productivity gives you purpose. Having purpose in your life gives you a reason to get up every morning, and when you reach a goal your self-esteem rockets. Striving towards something gives you energy, focus and conviction; people who lack this direction are rarely happy. Productivity helps you grow.

What is productivity and why is it important? ›

Productivity measures how efficiently an organization or its employees convert inputs, like labor and capital, into outputs, like goods or services. Managers use goals, incentives, development, and communication strategies to enhance employee performance and help them increase their productivity.

Why is productivity an important skill? ›

Efficiency and productivity skills help us to know what needs to get done first and allow us to make a plan on how to get those tasks accomplished. Being efficient and productive means you plan, prioritize, and adapt work goals in order to manage time and resources.

What are the 4 essential components of productivity? ›

For an individual, the four essential components of productivity include (1) strategy, or the ability to plan, (2) focus, or the ability to pay attention to one task at a time, (3) productive choosing, or the ability to choose the most important tasks and make the right choices, and (4) consistency, the ability to work ...

Is productivity the key to success? ›

Productivity is a critical factor for success in today's fast-paced business world. In a world-class organisation, it's essential to maximize efficiency, resources, and results to stay ahead of the competition. Here's why productivity is so important in such organisations: Increases profitability.

What are the keys to productivity? ›

Just work on the things that are most important, most rewarding, and decide upon what is going to be most valuable to you in terms of your goals that you have for yourself. Stop overwhelm, work on the key projects and tasks only, and even then, limit the projects to a very manageable number.

Is productivity a life skill? ›

Yes, productivity is a life skill because it helps you make the most in life. You thrive in school, home, work, business, and beyond. If we revisit the definition of productivity, it is getting more work done with less hassle.


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