Productivity – Just What ARE We Trying To Do?

productivity, organization, workTime management apps, list making apps, pen and paper, notebooks, sticky notes, ergonomic desks and chairs, quiet rooms…what do all of these things have in common? They are some (and only some) of the things people use to increase their productivity. While work productivity is an age-old and ongoing quest, there seems to be something curious going on with the current concept of productivity.

Is it the fault of Lean thinking, the Great Recession or something else?

There has been this line of thinking of somehow producing products, services or results with as few resources as possible. Some of this comes from Lean. And yet, more and more companies are trying to do more with less. There are workplace and technological trends that encourage this way of behaving. Nearly everyone has a smart device so it is easy to stay connected and work in other settings beyond the traditional office. So, if there are more tools and ways to be productive, why are there so many blog posts (yes, I’m guilty of writing those posts too) explaining how to be more productive?

The usual obstacles

One of the most frustrating obstacles is when you have to wait for someone else to complete a task before you do your next part. But there are some that are more personal like fatigue, procrastination, impulsively checking email or social media streams, illness, stress overload, multitasking, distractability and inattention. Organizationally, you may find your productivity hampered by poor communication, inconsistent policies, lack of coherent action plans, lack of appropriate resources and poor management.

Something more in play here?

I call it the “Cult of Productivity” but it could easily be the “cult of doing” or the “cult of business.”  There seems to be this mindset that we must be busy doing. Somehow we are all being encouraged to act like workaholics regardless of how high or low we are in our organizations. This ignores the growing body of research providing reasons and correlations as to why working excessive hours and days is counterproductive and unhealthy. According to study in Pakistan by Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmad of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, “Stress results in high portion of absence and loss of employment. The ratio of stress affectees in organization are increasing on alarming rate which effects both the employee performance and goal achievement.” Their findings are similar to results in North American & European-based research.It’s as if an infection is growing globally that is putting pressure on every one to remain at work or that blurs the lines between work and personal time. This Cult of Productivity affects not only the bottom line but hurts people’s lives.

Just what are we trying to do?

Workers at all levels of an organization are often expected to have high workloads and tight deadlines. Work is getting done. But if we stop to look at productivity, what kind of philosophy or mindset is pushing all of us to work as constantly as possible?

Productivity – do we really know what we are doing? And why? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How do we define a “good day’s work” in 2014?

What does productivity really mean if many of us are knowledge workers?

What kinds of observations have you made about productivity obstacles?

Who sets the “rules” for how we define productivity?

If we spend so  much time “doing” and fretting about doing, how are we changing what a productive life looks like?

 

 

Share

Looking Under the Hood of Corporate Culture

corporate culture, ethics, society, businessCorporate culture has been coming up quite a lot lately in our #KaizenBiz conversations. When you look at ideas about leadership, marketing, strategy and other business ideas, culture is usually not far from the surface. There is a lot written about what a corporate culture ought to be like and how it should include social responsibility and foster positive human dynamics. For the most part, leaders want to see their organizations live out their most cherished values. Chick-Fil-A is often cited as an example of this as they close on Sundays. Toms Shoes is famous for its “one for one” model of buying their shoes, eyewear or apparel and helping someone in need. Zappos is another example where they hire for character and pay people who don’t fit their culture to leave.

Pixar’s lesson

There is a great book excerpt on the McKinsey and Company blog by Ed Catmull about how Pixar eventually developed a positive and creative culture. Catmull explains that he and John Lasseter consciously designed a culture that was respectful of everyone in the organization. By making themselves accessible and role modeling their expectations, they thought they had created a culture that mirrored their desire. Then they found that there was this huge rift between the production and creative departments. The people in the production department felt like second-class citizens and the people in the creative department felt micromanaged. Catmull’s lesson, he writes, was that “[b]eing on the lookout for problems, I realized, was not the same as seeing problems.”  Same culture, different experiences.

Just because it’s part of your business model…

Catmull and Lasseter set up a business model in which communicating with management was encouraged (or so they thought and report rectified). In an HBR post by Jim Dougherty, it is recommended that the business model and culture be seen as connected. In the way a company externally and internally communicates and behaves with one another reflects both the business model and culture. This makes culture more of a social construct. A group of people come together and form a mini-society. It might be a highly dysfunctional mini-society with backbiting and a hostile work environment but this is a social construct. There are rules, norms and ethics. As in, this is how we do things here. It is communicated overtly and subtly from the onboarding process all along an employee’s worklife with that company.Think of messages like “we hold information back, we take time to have fun playing foosball and drink beer, ask Jane because she knows where the skeletons are, we do anything and everything to satisfy a customer,” or ” we never talk to Them.”

Different lenses affects ethics

Aiming to be the best company is an admirable and understandable goal. I don’t think anyone founds a business and consciously chooses to make it a miserable, soul-sucking place. Some founders don’t think past “let’s get the work done” and set up an environment that later becomes unworkable and unlivable. For other leaders, hiring the best candidates may support a culture of excellence but it may leave other aspects unexamined. There is also the moment when a company has grown so large that it takes far more effort to communicate and exemplify the preferred culture. People may fill in the gaps with their own ethical code or create a separate code from the prevailing culture. As an example, it may be encouraged to meet a certain type of quota by a deadline. The way the quota is met can range from complying with the overall culture or it may deviate into a utilitarian sub-code. A company’s culture is often an expression of how the people in it view one another and the whole of humanity as well as the value of wealth and success. These various lenses become drivers in organizational decision-making

This is such a brief overview of corporate culture and brings up more questions than it answers. So many of us think we know what the perfect corporate culture looks like. The question is, is it the same idea for everyone? It may be that one leader of an organization goes around acting like some kind of chieftain while another leader may act as facilitator or collaborator. One employee might view it is the totality of a social life while another employee just wants to get the work done and go home. Corporate culture could very well be dynamic as an organization grows and people come and go.

What really makes up corporate culture? Is it a mini-society with complex relationships and mores? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How relevant is the company culture to creating revenue?

How does corporate culture reflect society in general?

With so many competing agendas, how likely is it for companies to foster a common understanding of who they are internally?

What role do ethics play in the expression of corporate culture?

 

Share