People are in one sense like bees: they like being productive, they like being in a well-tuned hive where everyone and everything has its place and all is purposeful. It produces honey and sweetness, and the sense of a life well spent. But what is productivity and where is it in the scheme of things? Now that’s the interesting thing; that’s the thing which if all managers understood they might get real about leading their staff instead of just paying them.
Productivity is what it says it is: it is the ability of the individual (and teams) to produce something – to create: be that a product (a thing), a service, or value. In short, productivity is about adding to the sum of existence: something that wasn’t there before is now there, and as a direct result of the individual’s efforts. You’d think everybody would want to be productive, not least because it boosts one’s own self-esteem; but if you think so, you’d be wrong. That said, however, the important thing to grasp is the position of productivity in the scheme of organizational activities.
For productivity sits midway between the two other vital ‘P’s: performance and profit! Yes, that’s right – productivity is the bridge to profits! Now do I have your attention?
We need high performing people to start with. These are the people who will produce. How much? According to the Pareto Principle they will produce four times more than your average worker and sixteen times more than your poor worker. Once that level of productivity kicks in, then profits (or value in a non-profit making organization) are inevitable – but with one caveat. The caveat is simple: if the organization has adopted or created the correct strategy for the market it’s in; for it should be apparent to anyone that one might be massively productive producing 10 billion one inch widgets, but if the Continental market demands metric measurement, then one cannot sell these superb widgets at any price! But given the right strategy, increased productivity leads to increased profits. This is perfectly expressed by Dr Alex Krauer when he said, "When people grow, profits grow".
The issue, then, of productivity involves performance. If we are not happy with our current levels of productivity, how are we going to change the situation? By thinking about the performance of our individuals. This can be done on an individual level and the organizational level. Here is a quick, personal aide-memoir to ask yourself and then ask about your staff: what one skill, if you had it now, would make the greatest impact on your productivity? This could be anything - a technical, or interpersonal, or strategic skill. Whatever it is, now you’ve identified it, how are you going to bridge the gap?
This question leads on to the more general point about training or learning - nobody stays highly productive for very long. We all need updates and inputs to remain effective. This is true of knowledge as well as skills. It is reckoned that currently information has a half-life of 2.5 years. This means 50% of what we know will be redundant every 2.5 years, and this half-life period is decreasing! To improve productivity, therefore, you must have a mechanism in place to audit the knowledge, skills and attitudes (or competencies) of all staff.
But that is only half the equation on the individual level – skills are not enough on their own. Staff need to be motivated, and for this too we need an audit – we need Motivational Maps, the world-proven methodology for looking at individual and team motivation.
Nobody is saying these audits are easy; what is? If you want results, then you need to drill down into the granular detail of what is happening with your staff, especially at a motivational – that is, I want – level.
And isn’t it strange? We want to go straight to profits: they are real, they are tangible, they are our goal. But to get there we have to explore the mushy soup of motivation, of feelings and wants and people; but if we can do that, the rewards are vast because the productivity will be enormous.