Here’s a depressing fact – British workers are the least productive in Europe. Add to this that we also work the longest hours and the picture looks pretty bleak.
Article by Greig Walker:
Why is this?
The answer may surprise some of you – it’s because of their Boss. That’s right – you!
Still with me? OK, when we get promoted, often two things happen. Firstly, we feel recognised for the hard work that we’ve put in, which makes it highly likely that we will put even more hard work in – this is just human nature. Secondly, we get invited to a lot more meetings, which gives us less time to do the (additional) work we now have on our plate.
When these things collide, then we work longer and harder on our own work, to the detriment of the entire team that we’ve been promoted to lead/manage/oppress.
What can we do about it?
The good news is that we can shift this situation to a better place; creating more time for ourselves, making work a better place to be and getting more of the right things done into the bargain.
There are three key ingredients to increasing the productivity of any team, whether it be in an office or in a factory; Structure, Visibility and Culture.
Regardless of how creative your industry or job is, providing a degree of structure for your team will help them get things done quicker in the right order.
The starting point for this is building your daily schedule. Get time blocked out for the things that really matter to you – seeing your family, doing exercise, date night – the really important stuff. Once these ‘rocks’ have been laid down in your schedule, be kind to yourself and do not allow them to move. Ever.
Next, set aside time blocks for checking (without responding), responding to and filing emails – this should never exceed 2 hours per day. Check your response to this point and let me ask one question – if your house was on fire and you needed the Fire Brigade, would you send them an email?
The next, most important thing to set aside time for, is spending time with the team – in time blocks to suit your energy levels, between 2 – 4 hours per day. Every day.
Amongst the first work appointments in your schedule should include a focused conversation with your team about the work from yesterday and the work tasks for today. This ensures everyone is on the same page about what is required and builds a clear picture of demand and capacity.
In a factory, it is easier to see the flow of work through the process than in an office, but it’s no less important. In an office the types of things that should be made visible are; backlog, priorities, workload, problems, attendance, performance against targets, where to find things and people, who knows what.
This always starts with clearing out what isn’t needed, setting things in order, cleaning up and keeping things ‘VIP visit ready’ every single day. The next step is the introduction of traffic light colours to indicate status in the workplace, where you then introduce guidelines and rules around these indicators so as to trigger responses and actions across the team.
If I can define culture simply, I would say; it’s what we do when we think nobody is watching. In the workplace, this translates as how things are done around here. If you choose not to consciously design this, then it will emerge based on the dominant characters in the team, and you may not like it.
With the time created in your schedule, use this time with the team to observe behaviours and really focus on reinforcing the behaviours that we want to see more of to create a habit loop (Craving-Cue-Action-Reward). When doing this there are a few key ingredients; 1) be around to see and reinforce the behaviour when it occurs, and; 2) reinforce individuals in a way that’s wholly suited to them, so it has the desired effect. To make this work you need to be in the workplace a lot – 30-50% of your time to be really effective.
So, how do we make Britain more productive then?
Well, starting with the first-line Managers, we teach them (in the workplace, not a classroom) how things are done around here with their team. And, as with all change, it begins with a long hard look in the mirror and admitting that there is a problem with how things are done today.
Are you ready to admit there’s a problem? Do you need help to figure out what to do next?
Contact Greig Walker, Director at Unleash & Engage on 07811 255 055