Productivity Knowledge Base: Case Histories
Productivity enhancement can undermine productivity.|
Barbara was a department manager in a company we'll call ACME. In Barbara's department, things had pretty much evolved to the way the workers liked them. There were some inefficiencies, but overall the department ran smoothly.
ACME's CEO, based in the Midwest (USA), attended a conference in Hawaii in the winter. While there, he sat in an a seminar from an efficiency expert. The spiel sounded good, so the CEO later contacted this expert about making improvements at ACME.
This efficiency expert visited ACME, and later submitted a massive report. This report contained all kinds of charts and graphs, plus it had extensive explanatory text. This impressed the CEO, who then flipped to the recommendations area. Some of these were very good. Others were simply "best practices" force-fit where they didn't belong. But, all of these sounded good to the CEO, who then ordered these implemented company-wide.
Let's review a few of these, and see what happened.
|Expert's observation||Expert's recommendation||Actual result|
|Employees spend too much time watching the hour glasses on their outdated computers.||Have an IT group update the computers to the proper configurations.||Employees became significantly more productive at their computers.|
|Too much paper being filed, too much time wasted chasing down paper files.||Reduce the number of filing cabinets by 50%, forcing employees to use electronic filing methods.||Papers stacked on desks and floors. What should have been done: move one small group at at time to 100% electronic methods.|
|Invoice process had 16 unnecessary steps.||Reconfigure invoicing to "the right way," as defined by the consultant.||Employees totally lost with new system. Invoices sent late. What should have been done: Involve employees in streamlining process, going at their pace.|
|Employees spend too much time at the coffee pot.||Remove the coffee pots from each of the four floors and put them in the cafeteria only.||Employees spent more time walking to cafeteria, and more time at coffee pot once there.|
|Employees spent too much time unjamming paper in copiers||Renegotiate copier lease, and update machines. Train employees on how to load copiers correctly.||Big reduction in copier jams.|
|Employees were not allocating their time as effectively as they should.||Supply employees with proprietary paper organizers supplied by consultant.||No discernable effect. What should have been done: Train employees on electronic methods and supply the tools to use them.|
|Salaried employees weren't always putting in a full 8 hours at the office.||Install a time clock, and require employees to work specific hours.||Between non-compliance,
resignations, time spent fighting this instead of working, and other
fallout, this idea was a loser. What should have been done: Don't
measure how many hours people work. Give them clear and achievable
goals. Flex-time is a valuable tool for motivating people. Let
don't hold them to artificial measurements.
|Work methods, office furniture, and other items were non-standard. Because there were differences, some employees must necessarily be working at less capacity than others.||Standardize office furniture and issue work procedures.||Office furniture became an impediment to some people. The work procedures created friction. What should have been done: Ask people what they needed to change in their office furniture, but don't standardize. Keep procedures flexible, and have those doing the work actually write them (with assistance from a coordinator)--this lets them think about the best way to do their jobs.|
|Can you see the pattern, here?
Productivity improvement is not a cut and paste operation. It is,
instead, an intelligent process. It takes intelligent analysis, and it
requires working closely with people. An "expert" cannot give
you a magic pill.
Blindly implementing productivity enhancements can have very negative effects, no matter how good a particular idea sounds at first. Our seminars help you understand how to evaluate ideas and implement them for best results.
Do you want to radically improve how well people in your organization make use of the limited number of hours in each work day?
Contact me to arrange a time when we can talk about a presentation: firstname.lastname@example.org. Why arrange a time? So I can give you full attention during the call. There's a really powerful time management tip. Ask me why it works.