Strengths Management A Service of EarthAsylum Consulting
and Kevin Burkholder

It's all about productivity


Why is it so difficult for employees to understand...?

What is it that managers are doing wrong?

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According to Proudfoot Consulting's 2006 Productivity Report, the average worker is unproductive for 33.5 days a year. This isn't an accumulation of wasted time; it's an accumulation of "off" days or days where nothing seems to get done.

Imagine. If everyone were 100% productive every day that they are at work, we could all take an additional month off every year without effecting our current productivity rate.

Or, if we look at it another way, if everyone were 100% productive every day that they're at work, we could grow the American economy by $598 billion per year.

In a resent poll by the American Management Association, when asked, "What one thing do you think would most improve your productivity?" readers selected "more clearly defined responsibilities and priorities" as their top choice. Coming in as a close second was "a clearer next step in my career path with my company," which could also be seen as a consequence of poor or chaotic management. Taken together, these answers indicate that productivity suffers when workers are unsure of their day-to-day tasks and the long-term outlook of their roles.

Why? Why is it so difficult for employees to understand their day-to-day responsibilities and priorities?

From my experience, I would say one reason is our reactionary environments. It seems to be more common that we spend a great deal of our time "putting out fires" or reacting to the day's crisis rather than planning tomorrow's (or next year's) priorities.

When crisis management is the order of the day, employees are confused as to their priorities - especially when they change day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. In addition, when everyone is reactive, no one is proactive. Meaning that nobody is planning for tomorrow and when tomorrow comes, we have to react to the crisis.

Another cause of confusion among employees is a general disconnect between managers and today's knowledge workers. Management is still being practiced as if we were living in the industrial age. "Knowledge workers depend on collaboration and the constant swapping back and forth of information, analysis, and expertise," as Mark Vickers of the Human Resource Institute puts it in his article "The Organization's Fault." Many organizations, however, impede collaboration and communication, creating a frustrated work force that lacks the tools needed to get the job done.

The next three choices in the AMA poll on improving productivity were "receiving recognition", "being managed less", and "feeling respected".

So what does this say is the greatest barrier to high productivity?

Poor leadership and management.

According to Miklos Klempa, executive vice president of business development at Proudfoot. "Management always matters where people are concerned."

What is it that managers are doing wrong? Here's the top 5 reasons that managers don't take action - and they show that it's not all the manager's fault...

  1. Managers don't know what to do or they know what to do but not how to do it.
  2. Managers manage with a "one size fits all" mentality but their solutions don't meet the needs of the workgroup or individual employee.
  3. Managers don't have the time to come up with unique ideas to improve results (they're too busy managing crises).
  4. Managers are not expected to take action.
  5. There is an emphasis on "planning to take action" versus "taking action".

And what is the solution? Accountability. Every person in the organization must have a sense of accountability. By this I mean that they must "feel" accountable, not "made" accountable.

There must be clear performance expectations:
"I am clear on what results I must achieve" and "I know what I must do to achieve those results".

And there must be real consequences:
"I understand what happens if I DO achieve these results" and "I know what happens if I DON'T achieve these results".

When people are accountable, and they know what their performance expectations and consequences are, they will take responsibility for meeting those expectations. If a manager doesn't know what to do or doesn't have time, she will find out what to do and make time - because it's her responsibility.

I'll end with three questions that leaders, managers, workgroups, and employees should ask...

  1. What strategic initiatives or issues will impact the results which must be achieved by your organization (department, workgroup, self)?
  2. What results must be achieved by your organization (department, workgroup, self)?
  3. What do you and your peers have to DO to deliver the results?

Answer these questions and you're well on your way to improving productivity in your organization.



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