Improve Productivity at the Workplace
Edited by Christine dela Cruz, Eng, Lynn, Doug Collins and 4 others
Imagine running your own business, but you get continuously frustrated because you seem not to be getting results in terms of output based on plan. This can really be frustrating. In the first place, your main goal for setting up the business is to become profitable isn't it? However, with such a low level of productivity, this might be a bit difficult to achieve. This wiki will look at different ways to improve productivity in the workplace.
- 1 What is Productivity?
- 2 Symptoms of Low Productivity
- 3 How Low Productivity Can Demotivate Everyone in the Company
- 4 Causes of Wasted Time at the Workplace
- 5 The Importance of Management Style in Improving Productivity
- 6 The Importance of Supervisors in Promoting Productivity
- 7 How to Train Supervisors to Supervise Work Properly to be More Productive
- 8 How Ineffective Meetings Contribute to Low Productivity
- 9 Key Elements of Effective Meetings
- 10 Things to Remember when Running Productive Meetings
- 11 How to Install an Effective Management System that Leads to Better Productivity
- 12 How to Improve Productivity in an Office
- 13 How to Improve Productivity in a Factory
- 14 How to Improve Productivity Among Sales People
- 15 How to Improve Productivity When Doing Home-based Work
- 16 The Importance of Behavior Modification Towards Improvement in Productivity
- 17 Creating a Desire to Change towards Better Productivity
- 18 Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Its Effect on Productivity
- 19 Effective Leadership
- 20 Management Transactional Behaviors
- 21 Ability and Willingness' Effect on Productivity
- 22 How to Arrive at a Consensus when Making Decisions to Avoid Lost Time
- 23 Effective Communication Leading to Productive Work
- 24 How to Work Around People's Learning Curve to Teach Them More Productive Ways at Work
- 25 Productivity Campaigns to Run in a Company to Further Encourage Collective Efforts Toward Improvement
- 26 How to Create an Understanding of Work-to-Time Relationship
- 27 Value of Feedback in Improving Productivity
- 28 Effective Confrontation Styles to Deal with Productivity Issues
- 29 Effective Problem Solving Process that Immediately Addresses Low Productivity
- 30 The Value of the Question "Why?" in Improving Productivity
31 Questions and Answers
- 31.1 How can I personally improve my productivity in the workplace?
- 31.2 Hi, I am actually working on one case where previously an employee used to take 15 minutes to complete one work but now she is taking 20 minutes to complete the same work .I need to build an organization modification plan in order to improve the productivity?
- 31.3 Using your knowledge of Organizational Behavior, discuss how you would solve the following work related behavioral problems I) Low productivity ii) Absenteeism?
- 32 Comments
What is Productivity?
Productivity is the ratio between output and input. Therefore, for every given output, you look at how much input has been set forth. Overall, productivity is a measurement of work efficiency. Better productivity leads to better profit because you are able to maximize available resources to be able to deliver optimum output.
However, there is a common misconception about productivity that this is all about increasing the output. While that is the bottom line, other factors should not be taken for granted. For example, even if you improved your production to 100 shirts in an hour compared to 50 previously, it can be immediately assumed that it was an increase in productivity right away. You must investigate whether the quality of the shirts are good. There are times when quantity indeed increased, but quality suffered. In that case, the net output remains low.
Productivity takes into account all aspects of work and balances both quantity and quality. Labor-intensive work environments even take into account the welfare of human resources, where regular rest hours are taken as a normal variable in productivity.
Symptoms of Low Productivity
- 1Missed deadlines. Deadlines seem to always be difficult to achieve, no matter what you do or how much you complain to your colleagues. You keep on pulling on deadlines, hoping to get consideration from your boss to keep on extending it. Missed deadlines are not always the responsibility of only one person; normally it is the outcome of people's combined efforts. So when this happens, especially in an office, it tells you something is wrong, especially in overall dynamics of the office toward productivity.Advertisement
- 2Increased number of client complaints. When deadlines are constantly being missed, as well as the other expectations of the client, client complaints will follow. The more you get of this, the more indication you get that clients feel they are not getting what they want in engaging in business with your company. This means work is not being done correctly and in a manner that fulfills objectives.Advertisement
- 3Unnecessary overtime work. Work hours and the corresponding number of employees are set forth in order to attain business goals. These hours are planned in a way that it should be enough time to finish tasks. When overtime work becomes too much, it indicates either the work was not planned properly or that it was not executed in a productive way. Too much overtime, no matter how much the output is, lowers productivity. Overtime may occur from time to time, but this should be planned and should not be done excessively.
How Low Productivity Can Demotivate Everyone in the Company
- 1It creates an overall sluggish feeling in the office, which can be contagious. When another person is always late with his work or when he appears to be wasting some time or having lull hours, this could demotivate other people who are working hard.
Causes of Wasted Time at the Workplace
- 1Poor layout of work area. If the layout of the area of work is not organized well enough, more time will be spent walking or doing other physical activities, like searching or navigating just to get the work done.
- 2Poor scheduling of work facility use. This means that work flow has not been scheduled accordingly, so that too many people had to use the same facility at the same time, therefore causing bottlenecks and a lot of waiting time.
- 3Poor schedule of equipment use. If a certain kind of equipment is shared, it should be scheduled in a way that there will be no waiting time for the succeeding users. This is all about making sure there is proper communication and awareness of each other's activities.
- 4Inappropriate equipment or tools. This means that work has not been planned properly, so workers or staff have to devise other equipment or tools instead to substitute what is actually required. A simple example to this is using cutters instead of a puncher. A puncher will be able to quickly punch out several pages, but if you use cutter, you might have to do it one by one.
- 5Non-conducive work environment. The lighting might be too dim or there might be too much clutter all around. All these and other similar situations definitely do not encourage productive work.
- 6Inappropriate assignments. It is very important in any organization that people are assigned to the right jobs, where they can actually perform well. Assigning tasks which are not the person's specialty will definitely not lead to better productivity. An exception to this might be during times of training or cross-training, when the company intentionally assigns new tasks for the purpose of development. However, any developmental activities such as these should actually be planned accordingly. It also comes in phases to ensure that people actually learn instead of causing disruptions at work.
- 7Underestimated plan that encourages pacing. When work is not analyzed and planned carefully, there is a risk that you might be assigning tasks which are too easy to accomplish. When this happens and workers or staff know that they can accomplish the job anyway in a very short period of time, that's when pacing occurs. They may tend to intentionally pace the work in order just to fill up the allocated hours.
- 8Improper work sequence. When work is not scheduled properly, there may be times that the worker of the success process or steps will have nothing to do but wait until the preceding worker is done. This is very common in labor-intensive factories. Work has not been smoothly planned if bottleneck occurs right after the first few steps and workers of the last steps spend a lot of time waiting. This will overall affect the accomplishment of due dates.
- 9Lack of job orientation. Oftentimes, pacing occurs because employees had not been oriented well enough in terms of expectations. They do not know what exactly is expected of them in terms of performance and results. This gives them the impression that they can just take their own time to complete the job.
- 10Lack of a backup assignment in case there are problems with plan A. There are really cases when certain parts of the process have to make some adjustments in terms of output. For example, there's a sudden hold off order from the client in producing certain parts. In this case, this should not lead the entire production line to lose work. There has to be a proper backup plan to ensure that these kinds of changes do not affect everyone and that time remains to be maximized.
- 11Lack of discipline. When policies at work are not constantly enforced, such as exact start and end of work, break time schedules, deadlines, etc., this breeds a culture of lack of discipline throughout the company. It leads all employees to think that there is no problem if they do not take their work seriously. In the end, you will observe a lot of inappropriate behavior occurring in the workplace, like gossiping, too much use of cellphone, playing around and things like that.
- 12Too much focus on specialization. Having specialists in the company is good, because you know that you have experts to rely on as needed for work. However, if people are too specialized to the point that they are not flexible anymore, this is likewise not ideal. Some level of flexibility is always required so that in case things do not go smoothly as planned, everyone can always work on backup activities. When people are too specialized, they tend to be too picky in terms of assignments and refuse those which are not within their scope. In the end, you end up wasting a lot of time, as well as wasting the skills of your existing human resources.
- 13Failure to maximize all available resources. This is often caused by lack of proper communication and coordination of available resources. There is a tendency to just keep resources within one area only and fail to coordinate with other areas to help each other.
- 14Uncontrolled overtime. When people know that overtime is not controlled, this leads to the tendency of pacing during regular work hours and then delaying everything for overtime to earn extra income. This is completely harmful to the company and, at the same time, it will mess up your overall schedule because work is not exactly accomplished during hours that were set forth. Also, this causes unnecessary administrative burden because of overtime hours that need to be calculated for payment. Furthermore, it hampers work-life balance, and when you really need people to exert valid overtime, they are already burnt out.
- 15Failure of the supervisor to deal with the details of work. When the supervisor of work is not well-immersed in the details of the job, he may end up missing on some important details. Therefore, if any problem comes up, it is not addressed right away and leads to failure to accomplish the work accordingly.
- 16Inadequate or inappropriate communication system. When communication lags behind, it leads to a whole bunch of problems. Time is wasted on solving symptoms of problems, instead of the roots of problems. This occurs when not enough communication is existing to really clarify the situation.
- 17Failure to recognize and accept that time is being wasted. There are several companies which encounter a lot of symptoms already of low productivity and wasted time, yet they think nothing is wrong or something else has to be addressed. When there is no recognition that time is being wasted, or when there is no clear concept of productivity, it creates further problems. People will not be taking action to address the issue.
- 18Incompetent supervisors. Supervisors play an important role in the company, in a way that they are in a position to see work as it is performed. If supervisors are not competent enough to do this, or they are not that focused at work, it is very easy to miss a lot of things that lead to low productivity.
- 19Lack of followup from top management. The responsibility towards better productivity does not only rely on front-line supervisors. It also requires a great level of attention from top management. When they are equally complacent, more the practices leading to unproductive work will persist.
- 20Control systems are not being communicated and followed. Every company has control systems that allow to manage work accordingly. No matter how great these control systems are, if they are not communicated to everyone, it will not work. On the other hand, no matter how well you communicate these control systems, if you do not implement it strongly, it will not work as well. Diligence is indeed important in every aspect of management.
- 21Goals are too big in terms of scope. A lot of companies tend to set really ambitious goals at the start of every fiscal year. Although there is nothing wrong in this, and in fact it is a very good management practice to continue with, it causes problems in the company when these exact goals are not communicated and cascaded down properly. For example, a company president might say that he wants to improve the market share of the company by 30 percent. Of course, this goal is unquestionably good. However, you must ask yourself how this goal translates to an ordinary worker. How can he help to achieve this goal? How does it relate in his day-to-day activities? In other words, when setting goals and communicating them, management has to take into consideration how they will phrase it in ways that people can relate.
- 22Lack of innovation. Very traditional ways of work are good because it breeds heritage and respect for history in the company. There may be ways of work which have really been very effective in the past and have LED to the current success of a company. However, it must also be noted that as time goes by, there will be innovations required as well. What may have worked in the past may not always work all the time. For example, if the warehouse inventory system used to be alright when done manually, it may still not work well these days. Information has to be transmitted faster; therefore, hard copies may not work well in this case. A company has to keep up with the demands of the market in order to be more productive and effective in their work.
- 23Fear and uncertainty. When work has not been explained properly, it creates a feeling of uncertainty on what is the right thing to be done. An employee will always be hesitant to do certain things, just because he was not oriented on all the angles of the job. This continuous hesitation significantly slows down work.
The Importance of Management Style in Improving Productivity
The management style of an immediate supervisor, as well as everyone else in management, is extremely important in upholding productivity in the workplace. If management is very strict, that breeds a lot of fear which is not healthy either. On the other hand, if management is very loose, that breeds abuse and lack of seriousness at work. Management is indeed both an art and a science. You need to be able to employ a good level of balance in order to adjust to different needs in the workplace. There is no such thing as "one size fits all" in management.
Here are the various management styles and their advantages and disadvantages toward productivity:
- 1Avoidant. The manager tends to brush off problems if there are any, thinking that it will get resolved on its own. He relies on his subordinates to make decisions about how they will solve the problem.
- If the subordinates have a good sense of responsibility, they will tend to take this kind of situation as a challenge. This will push them to their limits and prove that they can do a good job.
- It conveys the message that the manager trusts in his subordinates and believes that they will not disappoint him.
- It also shows that the manager is confident in their skills and knowledge, and this is often a good morale booster.
- It creates the impression that the manager himself is not proactive enough and is not bothered by the problems being encountered.
- It does not show any sense of urgency in resolving the time wasted.
- This is rather risky if the subordinates are not well-trained to deal with the issues. If the problem is time-bound, there will be lapses in time already and the problem could worsen.
- 2Authoritative. The manager uses force and authority in making sure policies are followed or that problems are resolved right away.
- Results can be achieved right away because of fear. People focus on their work for fear of facing anger from their boss.
- Discipline is imposed and people are afraid to deviate from it.
- It can cause anger that leads to low motivation at the workplace.
- Because employees act out of fear, this may not be sustainable. People might end up quitting instead. This then leads to further wasted time in recruiting new human resources.
- Employees take action not because of their understanding of the goals of the company, but because they fear their boss. In other words, the understanding of the job is not wide in terms of scope.
- 3Apologetic. The manager takes a stance that appears to be lower than that of the subordinate. He imposes policies after apologizing that he has no choice but to implement them. He may complain about low productivity and push them to do better, yet this is done after he complains that he himself does not agree with the productivity targets.
- The manager is able to get the sympathy of the employees and they may work better for the sake of the manager.
- This creates a light environment because the manager is viewed as a peer. In some cases, this kind of environment is conducive to better teamwork, which leads to better productivity.
- The manager gets results as soon as possible because employees do not want to disappoint him.
- When the manager needs to be tougher to correct more complicated problems, the employees may not take him seriously.
- The employees may be loyal to the manager but not to the company. This is not good because it creates division in the company that worsens coordination of work.
- When transgressions at work require stricter corrections, the manager will find it more difficult to implement.
- 4Flattering. The manager keeps on flattering his employees to motivate them to do the job. He keeps on telling them they are so good and that he believes they can all do the job better.
- This boosts the employees' ego and therefore they become motivated to do better.
- They appreciate the fact that the manager is aware of their strengths.
- They feel that they are a valuable part of the company and will continue to prove they are one.
- This is not a long-term solution because people will not believe in flattery on a long-term basis.
- Too much flattery is perceived as fake praise after a while.
- This may create unfriendly competition in the workplace and employees will only run after praise all the time.
- 5Democratic. The manager involves everyone in the problem solving process, to address the issue in low productivity. He looks at everyone's roles and responsibilities and involves everyone in coming up with the realization for how to address the situation.
- Involvement creates more sense of responsibility. Because the employees are involved in the process, they will have more ownership of the action plan.
- It breeds more desire to participate and be more proactive at work.
- The process of thinking together can serve as training for employees as well. There are things that they may not realize during the execution of day-to-day work, but they may see when facilitated through a discussion like this.
- This whole process takes longer to complete compared to the other styles, although results are worth it.
- The manager has to be a very charismatic leader in order to be able to bring people to think together for an action plan.
The Importance of Supervisors in Promoting Productivity
In general, an organization has four levels:
- 1Top Management: Executives
- 2Middle Management: Department Heads
- 3Supervision: Supervisors/Area Managers
- 4Workforce: Staff/Workers
Each of these levels are responsible for certain aspects of work:
- 1Executives execute overall company policies, systems, and processes.
- 2Middle managers manage the use of different resources to be able to fulfill the executed system of top management.
- 3Supervisors supervise activities as they occur. They are at the forefront of activities.
- 4Workers work. They make things happen by performing their day-to-day activities and assignments.
With this basic company structure, the supervisor's role is indeed crucial in making sure people work productively. If supervisors are careless in monitoring the work of their subordinates, it is very easy to miss problems, and the curse of non-productivity will continue.
The supervisor is stationed at the point of work where it is just being executed. In other words, he is in a make or break situation. If he does his job well, things happen as planned. If he does his job carelessly, problems occur and linger for as long as the supervisor remains passive.
How to Train Supervisors to Supervise Work Properly to be More Productive
The following are the basic things a supervisor must do regularly in order to improve productivity in the workplace:
- 1Prepare assignments. An effective supervisor analyzes the given tasks and prepares individual assignments accordingly. He knows very well the skills of his people and this guides him in making decisions as to what to assign to each of them. In most cases, assignments are going to be similar, simply because supervisors are usually assigned to areas of work that perform routine activities. For example, in a production environment, supervisors are assigned to specific production lines that make only parts of the product. There are production lines for shirt sleeves, for neck collar, for seams, etc. In this case, activities are expected to be similar in nature, only the specifications will be different. Therefore, in terms of preparation of assignments, it does not require too much creativity, except that a supervisor must foresee any potential problems in the execution of the assignments. He should prepare alternate assignments at the same time in case something does not work out.
- 2Communicate assignments. Aside from preparing assignments, supervisors must effectively communicate what the assignments are. A good supervisor should conduct a review meeting at the start of every work shift in order to review the previous day and give direction for the current day. This ensures that before people even start working, they know exactly what is expected of them.
- 3Provide direction. A supervisor's job does not end as soon as assignments are given. Another crucial part of it is how he gives directions throughout the day. Although the job may be a routine, the supervisor has to be there, constantly monitoring his employees in order to make sure that things really happen as planned. Directions will be needed here and there, and so a supervisor must be actively present throughout the day.
- 4Give positive feedback. As a supervisor provides direction and constantly monitors the work in process, he should also recognize the importance of giving positive feedback. When he sees that work is being done, a simple pat on the back will bring him to terms of really motivating his employees. Positive feedback affirms that something is done right and this should motivate an employee to keep on doing it or even improve it.
- 5Proactively solve problems. A supervisor sees problems along the way as well. He should be proactively there to help solve problems. However, it must be noted that a supervisor should not always be the one to solve problems. At times, he will just facilitate it and empower his employees to be the one to deal with the situation. This way, he is also somewhat allowing his subordinates to step up a bit and prepare for the next possible role. Of course, when he does this, he should still be present to see if his employees are really able to solve the problems on their own. It should be a balance between being hands off and fully involved.
- 6Give constructive criticism. Aside from positive feedback, if required, a supervisor must also continuously give constructive criticism when something is not done correctly. This gets the attention of the subordinates and trains them that tasks can be done in a better way. Constructive criticism is good, as long as it is not delivered in a way that criticizes the person, but the task being done.
- 7Offer help. The supervisor may need to offer help from time to time. However, it is important that each supervisor knows their limitations in terms of helping. They should help, but they should not be the one to actually do the job. If they do so, that is called hourly work, not supervisory work. When they do hourly work, they actually take on the role of the worker. This promotes laziness because the subordinates will think that anytime they encounter difficulties, the boss will take over. At the same time when this happens, the supervisor is unable to monitor all other activities, which is in fact his main job. He may have helped one worker with his job, but because he was busy doing so, he may have ended up neglecting problems in the other areas. Help is defined here as a mere assistance, but never should it happen that the supervisor fully takes over the job of the worker. This will not help the worker and overall, it will hamper the function of the team because not all areas will be monitored.
- 8Report clearly. An effective supervisor will update on their area's activities in short intervals through reports. Most companies utilize what is so-called daily work control, where the activities are listed per area and then the corresponding targets. The supervisor then logs in their actual figures. Through this simple process, the supervisors are immediately able to see whether there are variances to address and what could be the possible problems causing them. A problem may not always be addressed within the supervision level. In this case, it is the supervisor's role to make sure that the problem is reported accordingly to responsible departments.
How Ineffective Meetings Contribute to Low Productivity
Company meetings are conducted, not only in terms of formality, but because it is aimed at achieving certain results. However, many companies experience that these meetings also become a reason for wasted time. It is not uncommon to hear employees complaining that their time was wasted and their work piled up because of too many meetings in a day. Each meeting should be evaluated in terms of cost and potential benefits. Cost pertains to:
- Time allocated for the meeting
- Resources utilized for the meeting
- Other more productive things that would have been done if time was not allocated for the meeting. For example, you could have closed a deal with a client instead, or you could have produced more products during that time.
In other words, spending time for a meeting has costs. Therefore, each meeting should be done in a way that will allow the company to get back the return on everything that invested for it.
Ineffective meetings can lead to lower levels of productivity, especially when meeting participants end up being more confused after the meeting. Also, when a meeting is not executed properly, you end up messing up the dynamics of the organization that directly impacts the work later on.
Key Elements of Effective Meetings
- 1Objectives. Prior to setting up the meeting, you should be able to answer this question: What is the intended result of the meeting? When objectives are clear, you should be able to drive the meeting in the right direction and you avoid wasting time for nothing. Answers to this question should be:
- Clearer information. You would like to make sure that sufficient information is covered during the meeting, that relates directly to tasks at hand. You have to make sure that the information discussed is solely relevant to the point of the meeting only. If you veer away from relevant matters, that's when confusion occurs.
- Discussion or productive interaction with colleagues. Meetings allow for better interaction with colleagues. You usually do not get a chance to talk to your colleagues all the time at the workplace. Also, meetings formalize your communication with them about the job in terms of putting more structure to it. You are able to formally lay down what needs to be done and how you should be coordinating your efforts accordingly.
- Action. Most importantly, an effective meeting should lead to action. It should not just be a shallow discussion without a specific action plan in the end. A meeting should end with a list of to-do's and the specific people responsible for them. Also, a followup plan must be set forth in order to check whether the agreed upon tasks during the meeting have actually been fulfilled. A followup meeting might be necessary just to check on the status of previously agreed upon actions.
- 2Plan. A plan or an agenda must be specifically prepared prior to the meeting. This meeting agenda should be sent to all invited participants so that they can also prepare their part accordingly. A good agenda specifically indicates all matters to be covered during the meeting, people involved, and a target time frame to be able to fully talk about it. The matters to be discussed must be organized according to level of importance or priority. There are certain meetings which are intended to be a routine, so they will have the same format each time. Other meetings which are based upon demand will have more unique formats. Just the same, however, it should have these basic elements in order for it to be successful. Daily work review meetings will normally have a more standard format, because they are supposed to be held daily to review the work.
- 3Followup. No matter how good the action plans discussed were during the meeting, if none of them is executed thereafter, the meeting can be considered wasted time. Ultimately, your main objective for those meetings is to make things happen in the workplace. Without achieving this, you have not gotten back your investments from running the meeting. Some companies use tools like action logs in order to jot down exactly what the action plans are and then send it to everyone involved. Due dates are then sent in individual calendars so that those who are responsible for certain tasks will not miss out on what they need to do.
Things to Remember when Running Productive Meetings
- 1There has to be a reason for the meeting. Without a valid reason, it may not be worth conducting in the first place.
- 2The necessary participants should only be the ones invited to the meeting. Avoid inviting too many people who do not play any role anyway.
- 3Agenda has to be distributed as timely as possible. It is best to send out the agenda at least a week prior to the meeting.
- 4There should be no deviations from the agenda. All communication during the meeting should focus on the objectives. In case other matters or issues are raised, they should be noted and addressed through another avenue or in a separate discussion.
- 5Commitments generated during the meeting should not be taken for granted. It should also be as detailed as possible so that there is not an excuse towards action.
- 6A meeting review must be executed from time to time to check on the effectiveness of the meeting. You should be able to answer the following questions:
- Was the agenda followed?
- Were commitments made relating directly to issues raised?
- Is a followup plan in place?
- Was the time allocated for the meeting followed? Did you start on time? Did you finish on time?
- Were all target participants present in the meeting? Were they all actively participating?
- Are there any points for improvement that must be noted for the succeeding meetings?
How to Install an Effective Management System that Leads to Better Productivity
A company should be governed by an effective management system, which allows for better control of work. The principles behind setting up productive meetings should be the same principles followed in all aspects of work.
- 1Organizational structure. An organization should have a clear organizational structure which clarifies exactly the roles and responsibilities of each member.
- 2Definition of roles and responsibilities. An organization becomes complicated when there are too many people involved in it, but there are too many overlaps in their work. Assigning clear roles and responsibilities will ensure that each person will be able to function effectively in their work. These must be assigned accordingly:
- Accountable. This pertains to the person who is fully in charge of major decisions and results in the company. In other words, they hold the sign-off power in major aspects of work. Ideally, in every group of tasks, only one "Accountable" person should be assigned. If there are too many of them, that leads to bad productivity because they would have to wait for decisions from too many people.
- Responsible. This pertains to the person who is actually the doer of the tasks. In other words, they are in charge of the execution or implementation of activities. Compared to "Accountable", it is ideal that there are as many "Responsible" people as possible so that tasks are shared. The "Accountable" is the one who makes the decision in terms of the level of responsibility of each person.
- Consulted. This pertains to the person who may not be directly involved in accountability and responsibility, but has sufficient knowledge about the task that they can provide useful input. Two-way communication occurs in a way that those consulting are going to provide insight as to what the situation is and then the person "Consulted" is going to provide feedback accordingly. There is an exchange of information occurring. It is alright to have a few "Consulted" people, but too much is also not good because that will slow down the process. It can also be rather confusing when different people give different input and advice. Oftentimes, a company discerns accordingly who the best person to consult is, before even approaching them.
- Informed. This pertains to people in the company who are also not necessarily involved in the activities, but will need to be informed of the outcome. For example, this could be people who are involved in the succeeding steps in the process. The information they get from previous steps would help them execute their work effectively.
- 3Management system. A system at work is necessary because it actually allows everyone to work smarter, not harder. It is important that a system is designed properly and that everyone is well informed about the details in order for it to work effectively. Making the assumption that just because a system is in place, people know about it already, is not healthy. On top of communication, enough time to practice to get used to it must be allotted as well. The following elements must be in place, wherever the work location is, whatever the industry is, and must be synchronized accordingly in order to lead to productive work:
- Forecast. These are overall objectives of every task that must be done. It sets forth a clear direction and target for the activities. Later on, once results come in, the actual attainment must be compared against this in order to see whether the activities had been productive enough.
- Plan. The forecasts are then broken down into specific action plans that serve as a guide for activities. Action plans are more tangible and controllable versions of the forecast.
- Assignment. Assignments are smaller versions of the plan, in a way that it already relates directly to the specific roles and responsibilities of team members. These are actual expectations from each person.
- Followup. This is very important in a system because it looks at actual attainment as compared to the plan. For example, target productivity ratio is 80 percent, yet actual results so far reflect only 63 percent. Through followup, you know right away that there is a variance of 17 percent and that this needs to be addressed. Otherwise, when these types of variances are not detected right away, it can lead to further problems later on. When variances are discovered late, it may be more difficult to solve because it has expanded. The concept here is similar to what you should do when you have health issues. If you feel a bit of pain or discomfort, it is best to go to the doctor right away to have it checked. Maybe the doctor will prescribe some medicines to relieve you. However, if you just brush it off and avoid going to the doctor, when the moment comes that the pain is too much, you might discover that you have a more serious illness and it's too late already. The same principle applies with productivity issues at work. The shorter the interval before your followup is, the better, because the quicker you will be able to respond to detected problems.
- Report. A report should be a transparent declaration of what was discovered during followup. In a manufacturing environment, followup and reports are updated every hour, even every 30 minutes for some more precise industries. For instance, you have a target of 100 shirts to produce in a day. You break that 100 shirts into 10 hours (or whatever the allocated work hours are for the day), so that should be 10 shirts produced per hour. Thereafter, on an hourly basis, you keep on checking the actual versus the plan. Any negative variances, where actual is less than the plan, calls for attention. Some positive variances may also be a signal for alarm. For instance, if your target is 10 pieces an hour, but your worker produces 50 in an hour, there may be something wrong because that obviously is rather too fast. Either you have set your target too low or your worker is producing too fast to the point of sacrificing quality. Either way, a report should prompt you to take action as soon as you see variances.
How to Improve Productivity in an Office
- 1Turn off instant messengers. It may be quite deceiving to see because people in an office look very busy in front of the computer. However, it might be that they are just chatting around through instant messengers. This is very unhealthy. Instant messengers are obviously time wasters because when you are too engrossed in a conversation, it can be very easy to forget the time. Also, in case you are trying to concentrate on something, and an instant message suddenly comes up, you immediately lose focus and feel compelled to respond to the message. While instant messengers may also be useful in the office, it is definitely one of the most abused tools out there. It might be best to create separate accounts. For example, you will have an account that only includes people in the office. Therefore, personal chit chat with people outside of the office will be avoided. It might be good to keep in mind as well the fact that the company's network is able to monitor online activities. This should somehow psychologically help you to minimize personal chats.
- 2Block social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and similar sites definitely do not deserve any attention in the office, unless of course you are in charge of the company's digital marketing department. Liking a friend's photo, or commenting on trending topics, or pinning colorful pins to your boards are definitely not activities that will help you accomplish your work in the office. Just remember that when you do these personal things in the office, it is equivalent to stealing because you are using the company's resources for something that does not contribute anything to the company. There's nothing more you can finish in a day if you consume your entire day in social media.
- 3Organize your desk and surrounding areas. A messy desk definitely is not conducive to productive work. Make sure that you organize your desk at the start of the day and classify your things accordingly. Also, never leave your desk messy at the end of the day because that disorganization will push through until the next day. Invest in stationery that will help you be organized such as in-and-out trays, memo holders, binders, cork boards for quick reminders, post its, dividers, and the like.
- 4Prioritize your activities. List your to-do's in a day and assess and organize them in terms of priorities. Develop a working to-do list in which you will cross out tasks as you finish them. The mere act of crossing out activities can give you a good feeling. It is very motivating when you know you are accomplishing something and it encourages you to do more.
- 5Collaborate actively with colleagues. If you are unsure about something, pick up the phone and talk to the person right away. Do not sit down there and waste time trying to guess and figure out. Be proactive in ensuring that your activities align well with those in other areas.
- 6Pay attention to instructions being given. If you are attentive to instructions and other communications, there is less likelihood that you will miss out any details of your work. When you get to work, make sure your mind is 100 percent focused on the job. If you are sleepy or feeling tired, be creative enough to think of ways to wake yourself up.
- 7Implement personal discipline. It might be very inviting when you see that colleagues are going out for lunch for a much longer time than the allotted break time, or you see them chit chatting around the coffee dispenser. Although you may not always have the power to correct your colleagues, you can at least impose personal discipline. You know what the right thing to do is, so just follow that.
- 8Call it to the attention of your boss or anyone who's involved when a problem comes up. Whether or not you caused the problem, highlight it to people who might be able to help you. You become less productive when you try to hide problems for fear of being criticized or reprimanded. The problem will only get bigger that way.
How to Improve Productivity in a Factory
- 1Maximize on the power of ergonomics. This pertains to the way things and people are arranged, so that they are able to function safely and effectively. For example, a factory worker sitting in a very low chair while trying to fold shirts may be less productive than another worker who is sitting on a chair that's at a comfortable level. The one sitting on a very low chair is restrained in terms of movement because her tummy is bent and her arms have less force. Also, sitting like that for a long period of time could make her hips and legs numb. When she is uncomfortable, that does not lead to a good quality of work.
- 2Set reasonable work norms. It is very important that norms of work are studied and identified carefully. In fact, a series of observations and actual time and motion studies have to be conducted in order to identify these. The results of these time and motion studies are usually better accepted by workers when they are involved in the process. Therefore, it is best to conduct some of these alongside the workers, so that they themselves have an acceptance of what really is reasonable. When you don't do this, it is very easy for them to claim that norms are just way too strict and unattainable. This is partly a psychological process that supervisors must do together with their workers.
- 3Do close monitoring. Do not assume that just because factory work is usually very routine, there is nothing more to monitor. Anticipate that there will be problems along the way that workers may need help with. Forming good teams who enjoy working together and complementing each other's strengths and weaknesses is the best way to go if you want high level of productivity in a factory. Create friendly competitions with everyone.
- 1Be proactive in making sure all machinery and tools work properly. Machine-driven factories rely on theoretical capacities in forecasting the productivity level of the factory. For instance, a cutting machine can accommodate 50 pieces. However, you notice that some slots are actually broken; therefore, in reality, it can only accommodate 30. In that case, you have wasted the theoretical capacity by 20. You are wasting the opportunity to have produced 20 more just because the machine is broken. Make sure things like these are addressed the soonest possible time. Never put it aside or make do with the remaining 30 slots. Machines are there to perform at optimum level at all times.
- 2Schedule maintenance work accordingly.
- 3Organize tools. Time is wasted when tools are not organized properly in the warehouse. That will eat up so much time, just looking around for materials.
How to Improve Productivity Among Sales People
Sales people commonly do not appreciate being controlled by policies and systems. They often prefer operating based on their own styles. In spite of this, it doesn't mean that they cannot be subject to rules of work aimed at productivity. There are still several ways to manage them where they can still maintain their preferred style at work, yet be encouraged to stay within the bounds of productivity.
- 1Set increasingly challenging targets. This is one thing that is very typical among sales people, especially those who are veterans in the industry. They are very driven to hit targets and once they do, they will not be motivated anymore by stable targets. Either they will prefer to have higher targets or they would like to tackle a totally new market or industry. Constant challenge is what keeps them moving. Stability causes them to stagnate in terms of efforts. Therefore, the more challenging a task seems to be, the more productive sales people become.
- 2Plan with them but give them reasonable room for personal creativity. Sales people often hate very stiff environments where they are not given an opportunity to be flexible in their efforts. Make sure that you actively involve them in any plan that you come up with. Only through this active involvement are you going to be able to get ownership from their efforts.
- 3Give specific assignments, but do not let them feel that they are being closely monitored, especially when it comes to execution of the process. Sales people are very results-oriented, so they often only look toward the end result.
- 4Followup on the outcome of their work, but do it in terms of milestones instead of fulfillment of process. Break down their work in terms of steps or stages in sales, agree upon time frames to succeed in each step, and look at variances in terms of these:
- Number of new leads. These are leads to completely new clients.
- Conversion rate of leads to prospects. These are shortlisted clients after further research or early filtering or qualification of leads.
- Number of cold calls to prospects. This is the volume of initial contact to prospects who meet most of the qualifiers.
- Conversion rate of prospects to hot leads. These are shortlisted clients after the initial contact through a cold call.
- Number of client visits to hot leads. This is the volume of face-to-face visits to clients who passed the qualifiers during the first cold call.
- Conversion rate of hot leads to new business. This refers to new business generated as a result of sales activities.
- 5Require a formal report of activities. Keep reports as simple as possible because sales people are usually not the best in terms of doing administrative work. What is important is that you're able to capture the key performance indicator results, compare it against the plan, and identify whether there is a variance or not.
- 6Require an action plan towards variances and insist that a specific time frame is allocated to each of the action plan.
- 7Schedule a followup to check whether improvements have been made.
How to Improve Productivity When Doing Home-based Work
A lot of people are going for home-based work mainly because of the flexibility it offers. With available technology, it is definitely not impossible to be able to operate at home the same way as you would in an office. In fact, the experience can even be wider, because you get to work with people in different countries who take the same route in telecommuting.
However, although home-based work has a lot of perks, there are also disadvantages such as:
- 1Lack of physical interaction with colleagues. Although there is a lot of collaboration happening online, every person's need for a physical community is not fulfilled. In reality, you are all alone in your room and your professional life revolves around the computer.
- 2High level of discipline required. Home-based work is not bound by the usual policies in an office where people see you as you work. Therefore, it can be rather easy for people to slack off a bit, especially if there is no discipline.
- 3Presence of distractions. Since the setup is not similar to that of a normal office, there could be lots of distractions such as:
- The bed calling you to sleep
- Constant desire to eat or snack on something
- Unexpected visitors
- Personal phone calls
- Uncooperative relatives
- Household chores waiting to be finished
- Difficult-to-refuse adorable pets
- Overall feeling of boredom from just staying at home
In spite of these and some other disadvantages, you can still remain productive while doing home-based work Here are some ways:
- 1Constantly challenge yourself by setting goals which are a notch higher than your known capacity. It is very important to maintain a high level of drive in order to fight off all distractions.
- 2Act like you are in the office. Set regular working hours for yourself. Behave like you would in the office. Condition yourself everyday to feel like you are actually going to work in the office.
- 3Allocate a space in your home that will serve as your work area. When you enter this area, you are supposed to be in office mode. Never do your work on your bed or at the dining area, as that can really lead to feeling lazy and distracted.
- 4Ensure that there is sufficient work-life balance by not allowing a criss-cross of activities. If you are working, make sure you are completely focused to it. If it's time for personal activities such as going for a dinner date or movie night, make sure you leave work behind. If you discipline yourself by respecting the difference between work and personal life, it will turn out to be a good habit. This will also improve the overall quality of your work and your personal life.
- 5Be your own boss. A boss will not allow his workers to relax during work hours. Implement the same rule for yourself. Always remember that it is easier to be a boss of yourself than having to report to another person.
- 6Love the perks of home-based work and you will never desire to work in an office again. As long as you know the reason why you do this and love the opportunity that came your way, you will learn how to discipline yourself to take care of this opportunity.
The Importance of Behavior Modification Towards Improvement in Productivity
It is very true that the dynamics within an organization plays a crucial role in improving overall productivity. The right behavior should begin with oneself and then modeled accordingly to others.
In most cases, productivity is mostly an issue of instilling the right behaviors, not so much on installing expensive technology. Although these can help, if the right behaviors are not there, the results will remain to be unproductive. In other words, behavior modification is more often than not a more tedious task to deal with, compared to tangible areas. It takes a lot of education and a lot of practice in order to see concrete changes in behavior.
In summary, there are two types of strategy that must be employed, in order to improve productivity:
- 1Technical. This pertains to the improvement of the technical aspects of work that contribute to productivity. Examples are as follows:
- Machine downtime.
- Incomplete or inappropriate tools for work.
- Incorrect work standards and norms.
- Poor work layout
- Insufficient materials to work on
- 2Tactical. This pertains to the behavior aspect of work that must be improved to become more productive. Examples are as follows:
- Poor leadership
- Lack of understanding of the existing system
- Poor communication
- Poor transactional and coordination skills
- Lack of consensus in making decisions
- Learning curve of people are not considered when teaching something new
- Lack of activities within the company that foster camaraderie and team work
- Unclear roles and responsibilities
- Lack of understanding of work-to-time relationship
- Inappropriate problem solving
- Lack of desire towards change
Creating a Desire to Change towards Better Productivity
When making efforts towards productivity in the workplace, how people respond to it must be considered. When people are not cooperative towards it, it is important to know about that right away, in order to understand what might be their issues against it and how they can be helped. Without this, efforts will be useless because it will not get implemented properly at the workplace.
These are the things that must be managed accordingly when initiating change in the organization:
- 1Sensitivity. Management has to be sensitive enough as to how the change initiative is affecting people. Are they able to follow? Are they having difficulty? Do they understand what's going on? What do they possibly need in order to follow? These have to be taken into consideration because if there is any misunderstanding, people are less likely to cooperate.
- 2Accepting and Dealing with Resistance to Change. Change always causes pain in people, especially if they have been so used to old ways of work which they thought worked for them quite well. Resistance towards change happens when there is not much recognition that change is actually necessary or that there is something wrong in the first place. People often resist if they feel that they are already productive enough. To address this, it should start in educating people of the right concept of productivity.
- 3Fostering Continuous Education and Open Communication. Any initiative must start with educating employees why change is necessary, what is wrong with the current situation, and how is every one expected to participate in the initiatives. When doing this, it is also important to give each an idea of how exactly they will be individually affected by change. Uncertainty causes fear and fear leads to resistance. Therefore, as a first step, you must ensure that people are well-informed, about all angles of the initiative. Furthermore, education and communication should not only be done at the beginning. Even when initiatives towards productivity are ongoing, people must be updated about their progress through feedback, both constructive and negative. It is also important that apart for the things that need change, you emphasize to people what are the areas that will remain the same. This helps people calm a bit, because normally, when change is about to happen, they expect that everything will change. That often causes people to become overwhelmed.
- 4Emphasis on the Necessity for Change. You have to let everyone involved that these changes are required. For example, you might want to communicate the future plans of the company, such as expanding to another market, overtaking more competitors, and the like. Emphasize how aggressive you'd like to be in these efforts. Pinpoint exactly that the current level of productivity will not help in bringing you towards that direction.
- 5Management of the Change Process throughout the Cycle. As a person advocating the changes, it is important that you yourself recognize that there will be different reactions from everyone. You also have to recognize that you may not get the same level of understanding from each and every person. You have to anticipate that you need to be very flexible and devise different ways to suit everyone.
- 6Change Agent Mindset. Everyone should have this kind of mindset, especially when implementing productivity improvement programs. This should begin from the person implementing the change. Being a good role model is important in fostering a good mindset. You have to make sure that each of your actions do not communicate anything negative to everyone. In summary, these are what change agents usually do:
- They recognize that change is necessary and embrace all complexities that might go along with it.
- They believe in what needs to be changed. They fully recognize that the company is not being productive enough.
- They accept different reactions to change and deal with each uniquely.
- They act as good role models.
One of the things that must be realized is that change often requires the breaking of various barriers called paradigms. These are set of rules and regulations in a person's mind that provide limitations to how they should act or think. Here are examples of paradigms:
- 1Decades ago, the Japanese were not well-known in terms of quality products. In fact, back in the 60s, if you mention Japanese products, people would often think it is cheap, junk, of bad quality, low tech, not innovative, and other similar things. However, these days, when you mention Japanese products, people always look at them as leader and top products in the market. The major difference in this lies in the fact that the Japanese changed their paradigm about quality. Decades ago, their paradigm for quality may have just been 50%. However, when they realized that they are being far off from the other countries, they broke this paradigm and converted it to 100%, nothing less. Now, they really gone way above the rest in terms of quality and have been leaders in production.
- 2Before the photocopying machine gained popularity in the market, the idea was declined by so many manufacturers. The main reason for this was the fact that photocopying was not in line with the paradigm of people about photography. Photography does not use black powder and light to create an image of things. Therefore, they could not accept the idea. It was until the inventor found a company who was willing to break their paradigm about photography that he was able to have his product manufactured for public use. Without that change in paradigm, we would have been having a lot of difficulties now in the reproduction of materials because we do not have the photocopier.
Therefore, in order to improve productivity, it is important to identify these paradigms that people may have about it. Here are some examples of common paradigms related to productivity:
- 1Productivity means there will be no work-life balance anymore. When productivity improvement programs are being launched in companies, employees often think that their employer is just being cruel. They think the company does not want them to eat or take breaks anymore. They think the company only wants them to work. It is because productivity is often just associated with increased output, but in fact, it is a ratio between output and input. Also, productivity does not mean depriving people of basic rights at work such as break time.
- 2Productivity improvement is not required if you are not in the manufacturing industry. This is another paradigm that leads to wrong perception about productivity. People often just associate productivity to industries that directly produce products that can be counted. If they work in an office, they do not think that productivity is equally important.
- 3Improvement in productivity is only possible if you buy more machines or hire more people. People often think that if you want to produce more, you should hire more people to do the job or more machines. It is because they do not look at productivity as a ratio between output and input. They also do not look at productivity in terms of improving the quality of usage of available input to be able to produce a good amount of output. For example, instead of buying new machines, you have to check first if the existing machines are being utilized 100% of their capacity.
- 4Productivity targets should be based on historical data. It is easy to have this paradigm that companies should just base productivity targets to how the company performed in the past. They think that that is the maximum capacity already. If improvement or increase is required, then assets have to be increased. Not too many people realize that only if you look at the operations more closely, there will be many areas by which improvement can be done. Just remember what happened to Japan. Decades ago, 80% may have been a very good target already for them in terms of quality. However, they realized that 80% is in fact not good enough and that there are so many way to make this reach 100%.
- 5Improving productivity is not necessary now because demand in the market is getting low anyway. This is another wrong paradigm about productivity. Also, it is not right that productivity is only being linked to increasing output, when in fact, productivity can be improved by reducing the costs to produce the output.
These are the common barriers towards desire to change to become more productive:
- 1They think the current performance is good enough.
- 2The employees are not that committed to the company. They do not look at the business of the company as their own.
- 3The company has not created an environment for the employees to feel that it is their family and you must take care of your family.
- 4Employees are not well-compensated or the compensation system of the company is not clear to them. They think that it does not bring them any benefit to be productive when they will be paid just the same. The company has not emphasized on performance-based type of competitiveness and incentive system.
- 5The right people with the right attitude had not been recruited. Maybe it boils down to the fact that the company did not choose its employees carefully and they got most employees who do not care for the welfare of the company.
- 6The company has been very complacent in its operations. If the company had been very loose in the way they manage the overall business, employees can see this right away. If they feel the owner and management do not care, why should they?
- 7The change is being implemented without proper guidance from management. People will not bother to change if it is perceived as too difficult and if there's nobody to assist them when they experience difficulties.
This is the usual cycle to expect when change is being implemented:
- 1Denial. They will be in denial at the beginning because they cannot accept that what they have been doing in the past is not right or that it is not good enough. They will deny that something is actually wrong.
- 2Resistance. If efforts toward improvement persist no matter how much people deny the need for it, people will tend to keep on resisting to participate. When people reaches this stage, it is good because then at least you know they are aware that some things are already being done to improve. However, from these starting efforts, little successes have to be announced because this will somehow cause excitement among people. When they keep on seeing these little successes, it will cause curiosity that will make people want to join in it.
- 3Mechanical Improvement. As soon as people become curious and decide to take part, that's when you can expect to see mechanical improvement. They may be participating in the efforts towards change, but they are still somehow observing.
- 4Acceptance. People start to feel that indeed change is necessary, because they themselves experienced it. They were part of the efforts and they saw for themselves what actually can be improved further.
- 5Reinforcement. As people continue to experience change, the more this gets reinforced and becomes part of their habits at work.
Once these changes are well in place, it is time to look for further areas of improvement and begin with the cycle once more.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Its Effect on Productivity
Self-fulfilling prophecy is the concept where what you believe in becomes true, because it leads you to behavior which fulfills what you believe in.
- 1You have just bought a new pair of stilettos but you keep on thinking that you might slip because it's too high. As you keep on thinking about it, you end up really tripping over. Reason for this is that you are too scared and worried that your legs end up being a bit wobbly, thereby causing you to trip.
- 2You have just hired a new maid but your immediate impression of her is that she is clumsy and careless. Therefore, you do not assign her tasks which are too difficult or needs more care. In the end, if you assign her those difficult activities once, she might end up really breaking something because she's not used to it. Also, she might be too scared to make mistakes, therefore causing her to be nervous and not able to focus on her work.
- 3You think your child is not athletic enough. You have this impression of your child since she was young. Therefore, you do not enroll her in sports classes because you think she would not enjoy it nor excel in it. In the end, your child really turns out to have an aversion to sports. You think you were right in your impression in the first place. However, if you look at it, what may have caused that is the fact that you limited her opportunity to get exposed to sports so that she learns it.
These self-fulfilling prophecies may also happen in the workplace such as:
- 1You think your subordinate is slow at work. Therefore, you keep on watching his every move. You keep on talking to him to find out if there's anything wrong. In the end, he becomes your least productive employee. Why? Because you keep on distracting him. You keep on interrupting in his work.
- 2You receive a new order from your latest client. It is more than the usual volume that you accept, although in the past, you were never running on full capacity. You think right away that you may not be able to finish it on time. In the end, you really do not finish it on time. Why? It is mainly because when you planned the production, you already had paradigms of how you performed in the past, therefore you set your targets too low. You also did not inspect your machinery to see if it is already running on full capacity.
In productivity improvement campaigns, it is very crucial that you become sensitive to these self-fulfilling prophecies that you might have. It significantly impacts your behavior. A good level of optimism is more helpful than a negative attitude. Of course, you still have to set forth things in a logical manner, but some positivity will bring you closer to where you'd like to be in terms of productivity.
Effective leadership contributes a lot to productivity, especially if you are leading a group of people whom you'd like to be productive. You would know you are an effective leader if:
- 1You are able to motivate others to perform at an outstanding level through their own initiative. When you see people starting to work towards productivity even without you telling them to do so, then you know that you have somehow done a good job in leading them. You have successfully communicated the need to change. Also, you have helped them realize for themselves that there still are areas of improvement.
- 2You do not need to convince people a lot in order for them to take action. You only need to discuss with them and after that, you can expect them to cooperate already. They do not need to be constantly pushed to participate.
- 3You are able to develop the next generation of leaders. You are confident that later on, they can take on more important tasks and be successful in them. They have fully understood the concept of productivity and that they see opportunities everywhere to be productive.
- 4You have developed your people to be continuous agents of change. They have committed to the role of creating constant improvement in the company, even without having to assign them. They grab every opportunity to be more productive as they see it in the workplace.
Factors Required to Become a Better Leader:
- 1Objectives. You must set objectives for yourself. You need to define exactly what you'd like to achieve and how you'd like your people to become. It is very important that you have personally assessed what the opportunities in productivity improvement in your area are and what type of commitment level and action you require from your people.
- 2Style. Because productivity improvement initiatives are very behavioral in nature, it is important that you think carefully about the particular styles at work that you'd use. Keep in mind that a single style may not be suitable for everyone. You may have to approach each person very uniquely in order to bring out the best in them.
- 3Evaluation of the situation. You have to be very realistic in your approach in order to know what the real situation is. Prior to even talking to your subordinates, you have to thoroughly evaluation what the situation is and what is needed. If your subordinates have additional input, be open to it and work together in coming up with a solution.
- 4Strategy. Management style alone cannot stand on its own. There has to be specific and tangible steps in order to execute the plan. You have to understand where your influences and sources of support are and maximize them accordingly.
- 5Specific activities. Aside from the strategy, specific activities have to be laid out in order for you to know what to assign to your subordinates. Without these assigned activities, your subordinates may feel at a loss and may not know exactly how to work towards improvement.
- 6Forecast of results. At the beginning, you have to know what types of results you expect to achieve. These should serve as a guide and at the same time inspiration for you to work harder.
- 7Feedback. Good leaders know how to give positive and negative feedback. These are very effective in encouraging good actions and discouraging improper behaviors.
- 8Openness to adjustments along the way. There is no such a thing as a perfect plan. From time to time, adjustments have to be done along the way. Therefore, as a leader, you must be open to adjustments and further input from others. Things do not always have to happen only based on your initial plan.
Management Transactional Behaviors
There are times when you would notice your subordinates acting a bit differently towards you and the instructions you give. There will be times when they simply do not follow your instructions or behave as opposed to how you'd like them to behave. When this happens, you may want to assess yourself because you may exactly be the one causing these behaviors to occur.
The following are the different types of transactions that might occur and how people react:
- 1Immature. When a leader's behavior is rather immature, it will cause the same kind of behavior among subordinates. On the other hand, it might trigger a more authoritative behavior among subordinates because they perceive their leader to be rather weak. Examples:
- If a leader tends to avoid or escape from problems as they come, the subordinates will do the same because they feel there's no point for them to act upon in if their leader is not showing any initiative anyway.
- On the other hand, the subordinates may tend to just devise solutions on their own, since they don't see any maturity and initiative from their boss. The risk here is the fact that not all solutions may be effective or well thought of and this might lead to further problems along the way.
- 2Authoritative. When a leader's behavior is too strong, subordinates may go against it because they find it too suffocating. On the other hand, subordinates may end up to be more childish, because they will think that the boss is there anyway to tell them exactly what needs to be done.
- 3Balanced. This approach balances both immature and authoritative behaviors. It is not very strict to the point that employees will rebel against you, but at the same time, not too weak or immature to the point that subordinates will overpower you. The balanced approach is also very flexible in a way that it adapts depending on the situation.
Ability and Willingness' Effect on Productivity
Management's main responsibility is to reach their objectives by accomplishing the tasks through people. Oftentimes, it is not as straightforward as it seems. There are several complications such as:
- 1There is no willingness to do the job productively, even though the materials and tools are available for them to be able to do a good job.
- 2The employee needs further training to be able to do the job.
- 3The needs of the employees are not managed effectively by the leader.
As a leader wanting to improve productivity, you must be sensitive if these are occurring in your area:
- 1The employee has the ability to do the job and is willing to do the job. This is the most ideal employee that you can have. You do not have to worry much about him. All you have to do is to make sure that he is given positive feedback all the time to affirm that he is doing things correctly. At the same time, make sure that all of the tools and materials he might need are available.
- 2The employee is not able to do the job but is willing to do it. In this case, all you need to do is provide training for the employee. He already has a good attitude so you just need to continue motivating this.
- 3The employee has the ability to do the job but is not willing to do it. These are the type of people who are already given everything they might need yet remains to be passive at work. They may need a lot of counseling. Also, try to find out if maybe he was assigned to the wrong job in the first place. This is the most common cause of low drive at work. Maybe they were not recruited properly or that the company tried to assign them to roles which are not of interest to them.
- 4The employee do not have the ability to do the job and is not willing to do it. This is the worst type of employee you can have. He may be in a totally wrong role in the company or he may be in a wrong company after all. You may want to talk to the employee once or twice to call his attention about this. However, if after that, improvement is still not see, it is best for you to take action as making him stay will totally demotivate your other employees. It is not a good sight to see that the others are working hard and working together and you have one person who works completely opposite from the rest.
How to Arrive at a Consensus when Making Decisions to Avoid Lost Time
Consensus is necessary when, as a group, you need to take action in order to address issues in productivity. Sometimes, it is even required to make a conclusion that in fact, a certain aspect of work is not productive enough. Different people might perceive things differently. What might be unproductive for one may be considered just alright by another. These differences in opinion and then decision will not help in creating an overall improvement in productivity, especially because these kinds of initiative require participation from everyone in the company.
What you'd like to achieve in consensus in perception and decision with the others is this:
- 1The probability of failure in making an initiative towards productivity is low. Or better yet, you should recognize that although there are investments required, the benefits outweigh the costs.
- 2Even if there are failures along the way, everyone should consider it as a learning experience, or as a necessary step towards real improvement.
- 3There are endless opportunities towards improvement in productivity, that you end up wasting if you do not take action now.
You know you've reached a consensus when:
- 1Everyone has actually agreed with the decision, not just passively followed someone else's opinion. There is recognition and acceptance of the advantages of the decision.
- 2The discussion that transpired is logical and based on facts. For example, you have looked into historical date of productivity, you have assessed all existing costs and demands in the market, and all other pertinent information.
- 3You have arrived at an understanding, in-spite of different opinions.
Effective Communication Leading to Productive Work
An initiative, no matter how good it is, will fail when it is not communicated properly. This is especially important with productivity improvement programs which need a lot of education and coordination with others. It is a very dynamic initiative that requires the collaboration of many people, that's why good communication is a crucial element.
There are two basic types of communication:
- 1One-way communication. This is when a sender of information just gives the information to another person, without expecting any feedback in return. This is not ideal for situations requiring consultations or feedback. In this case, you are simply informing.
- 2Two-way communication. This is when a sender of information gives out the information to another person, and then wait for input or feedback in return. This is a better option when rolling out productivity improvement programs, because you get to inform others of the initiatives and at the same time identify what barriers there may be out there. Also, involving people in making decisions creates a good level of ownership, so you definitely cannot stick to one-way communication in this case. The more people feel they were valued by involving them in decision-making, the more you can expect them to participate actively and favorably.
Problems that might occur in communication:
- 1Misinterpreted non-verbal communication. A message may be transmitted clearly through verbal communications, but the non-verbal communication involved may be easily misinterpreted. This causes a lot of disagreements, especially when misinterpretations are negative.
- 2Filtering of information. People have an innate tendency to just hear what they'd like to hear. For example, if you tell them they are not productive enough because of certain factors, they may choose to hear only those factors which they personally accept. Also, this happens when information is not passed on directly to another person and it passes through several channels. The end message might be different already.
- 3Untrusted source. Receivers of information may also be rather selective, especially when they don't seem to trust the source of the information. Therefore, establishing credibility is important here. If you want to talk about productivity and how to improve it, make sure that you personally display positive behaviors toward it. If for example, your employees see you staying on to Facebook the whole day then you suddenly talk about productivity, they will seriously doubt you and they will not take what you say seriously.
- 4Conflicting information. When information presented is conflicting, the receiver of the information will just tend to ignore it, thinking that it's probably not that important for the information not to be polished much. Therefore, whenever communicating anything related to productivity, make sure that you have carefully planned and prepared all information so that once you talk about it, no one gets confused. That will also boost your credibility when you present yourself confidently.
- 5Cruel and insensitive words. Some words automatically have negative connotations and these have to be avoided in order not to make people upset. Productivity is indeed a sensitive issue and if you are not careful with the words that you use, you might end up making your audience angry. Here are some words and phrases that must be avoided:
- Your productivity is ALWAYS low. Avoid using absolutes because it may not be true as well. You cannot say that everyone's productivity is low all the time, because in reality, there definitely will be a few times or more where each of them performed better. Absolutes are too generalizing and demotivating. It also gives an indication that you are not well aware of what exactly is happening at the workplace, that's why you just generalize.
- You are useless. Although there are really times when people do not cooperate and they do not contribute to better productivity at work, this is not a good thing to say. Instead of seeing people's weaknesses, you must focus on their strengths and how you can help them in order to overcome the weaknesses.
- Your salary will be reviewed accordingly based on productivity. Salary is always a sensitive matter and as much as you can avoid, never discuss productivity improvement campaigns along with salary. More often than not, people will imagine pay cuts and loss of job and these are not motivating at all. It might also put the company in a bad light, thinking that the only reason the company desires to be productive is because it is selfish and wants to earn more. They will tend to overlook the real benefits of productive work.
- 6Emotionally upset receiver. It cannot be avoided that people feel bad whenever productivity improvement programs are launched in the company. They feel that management is trying to criticize how they worked in the past. If you notice that an employee is upset because of this, try to understand what's causing it before giving out further information.
Techniques to More Effective Communication:
- 1Use a language that can be understood by everyone. Make sure that you adjust to who your audience is. If you are talking to workers, give examples in which they can relate with their day-to-day activities. Do not talk about stocks, market shares, etc., unless you only aim to give a big picture of the goals. Dwell in information that are easily imagined in terms of day-to-day activities. When you do that, they will know that you are really talking to them.
- 2Avoid repetitive information that may lead to confusion. Make sure you give clear but concise information. Be direct to the point and clarify exactly what you expect everyone to do.
- 3Encourage two-way communication. There's no better way but to encourage a dialogue when discussing important matters as productivity improvement.
How to Work Around People's Learning Curve to Teach Them More Productive Ways at Work
Improvement in productivity cannot occur overnight. This is because this is a very behavioral process. This is especially the case when it's already been quite a long time that people had been working the way they do now. There's a lot of education that needs to be done. Thereafter, it is the perpetuation that takes much longer time to accomplish. It is not a guarantee that when people learn how to do it, they will be able to uphold it in the long run. You are basically changing old habits and forming new ones. That definitely takes time and you need to take into consideration every individual's learning curve.
The learning process usually occurs in three steps:
- 1Mechanical. This is when people are just like machines. You tell them to do something, they will probably do it, only because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. This is a good indication however that they are starting to learn. This is the first leap towards learning and improvement. At this time, clarity of information and process is very important. It is important that they do not feel confused. If they do, you need to be there right away to help them out. This stage is critical because it is much like a make or break situation. If they feel it is worth moving forward, they will continue doing it. If not, they will easily go back to old ways of work.
- 2Understanding. This is the next step towards learning. As soon as they got used to doing the improvement, they get to realize on their own the benefits of the efforts. They get to see for themselves why it is necessary to improve and that there were really elements of previous ways of work that end up to be unproductive. This is when the benefits of the efforts are starting to be appreciated.
- 3Utilization. This is your ultimate goal. You would like people not only to get used to the improved way of work and understand and appreciate the benefits, but you prefer that they learn it by heart so that it becomes a strong habit. Before you reach this stage, it takes about 3 months of continuous practice and motivation. For some people, it might even take longer and you may need to approach them differently in order to achieve these results.
Productivity Campaigns to Run in a Company to Further Encourage Collective Efforts Toward Improvement
Several companies run a full-blown productivity campaign in order to further encourage productivity improvement. These campaigns endeavor to achieve the following:
- 1Encourage participation from everyone. Productivity is not just management's responsibility, it is actually everyone's. If only all people in the company try their best to do even small ways to be productive, it will create significant change in the whole company.
- 2Instill a proactive attitude among people. You would like all people in the company to be more proactive in becoming more productive, instead of just always waiting for instructions or even doing something else that is not appropriate. You would like it to be a habit among people, not something that is done just because it is required by management.
- 3Motivate people. When people are tapped to get involved, the more they will feel that the company values their opinion and abilities. This is a very good motivator. People really feel they are an important part of the company when you do this.
- 4Foster team work. Team work is very important, especially in companies with a very huge workforce. Better productivity happens when everyone is able to synchronize his activities with each other.
- 5Enhance productivity all over the company. Productivity is not only limited to the operations or production department. There are opportunities for productivity improvement all over the company. Therefore, the more you spread out the initiative, the more you are able to take advantage of all these opportunities.
- 6Create monetary savings. It follows that when you improve a company's productivity, you get monetary savings, which is of course, appreciated by any company.
When rolling out productivity campaigns, these are the areas of work where they can easily find productivity improvement opportunities:
- 1System. They have to look at how the system operates in the company and how different systems in different departments actually blend together. Here are examples of questions they can ask themselves in order to identify an opportunity:
- Does the system within purchasing department ensure timely delivery of materials to operations?
- Does the operations department communicate their plans and requirements timely enough for the purchasing department to prepare accordingly?
- Are reports submitted on time to give information to respective departments that there are problems to be solved?
- Is the technical department responding timely enough to repair requests?
- Are quality standards met?
- Are production schedules being followed?
- Are materials wasted because of poor handling and carelessness at work?
- Are supervisors at the work area all the time to manage work?
- Are assignments clear enough?
- Are production targets realistic and reasonable?
- Is there a process in place to resolve quality issues?
- How are client schedules communicated to the production department?
- Are there clear plans in place?
- How long does it take before a problem gets resolved?
- 2Workstation. This refers to tangible aspects of work that can be improved to increase productivity. For instance
- Warehouse is too crowded in a way that it takes people a lot of time to look for the materials and tools that they need.
- There layout of the work area requires too much movement than what is necessary.
- There might be equipment getting along the way of work.
- The lighting is not conducive enough and leads to a lot of mistakes at work.
- The tools are not in a good condition anymore.
- 3Behavior. This refers to overall behavior in the work area that can be improved for better productivity. Examples are as follows:
- Lack of followup when problems are referred over to another department.
- Careless behavior leading to mistakes
- Lack of willingness to coordinate work
- Unclear reporting
What needs to be done to launch this kind of campaign:
- 1Appoint a committee that will serve as the governing body for received productivity improvement alerts.
- 2Roll out the program formally so that everyone is aware how exactly to report identified areas of improvement.
- 3Make sure that the committee is able to commit to conducting weekly meetings in order to sort through received alerts.
- 4Give feedback to people who has taken the initiative to identify improvement opportunities in the workplace. Remember, this is not something compulsory, so when people do act, they have to be appreciated.
- 5Update on results and resolved cases. Celebrate these small successes with everyone. This is a good proof of how important and beneficial this program is.
How to Create an Understanding of Work-to-Time Relationship
It is very important that people have a clear perception of work-to-time relationship. Without this, they will never be able to clearly grasp the concept of productivity.
Work-to-time concept is strongly based on a clearer understanding of activities. There has to be a specific plan with a target and this will eventually be where the actual figures will be compared to.
Before, even coming up with the plan, the challenge is how to actually come up with that number. After which, the next challenge is how to have that number accepted by people as reasonable and doable.
These are the steps in order to fairly come up with norms of work:
- 1List down the activities in your area of scope. Activities pertain to aspects of work that can be measured from start to finish. If activities are too big, it has to be broken down into smaller functions so that it is more controllable in terms of output. Activities normally has three parts:
- Preparation to perform the activity
- Actual execution
- Wrapping up and completion
- 2Once the activities are clearly listed, identify how you would measure each. Come up with a measurement that you can directly compared against the time consumed. The assumption is, the higher the number, the more time is consumed.
- 3Identify how often each activity has to be performed on a daily basis.
- 4List down the ideal volume of work to be accomplished based on your departmental plan.
- 5List down an estimate of how much do you think is normally accomplished based on the frequency.
- 6Run actual observations as the task is being performed. Do several runs of observation. Involve some of your workers or supervisors to in some of your observations.
- 7Compare the results of your observations as against the plan and estimate.
- 8Do logical calculations to identify the norm for the area based on actual results you have. It does not always have to be exactly the same as the observation numbers because you need to add up a bit of margin for errors and other extraneous variables.
Norms allow supervisors or managers of work to:
- 1Assign work with very clear expectations of volume of output as well as the amount of input (e.g. time) consumed.
- 2Assess exactly the causes for deviations or non-attainment of schedule
- 3Assess situations where there are current backlogs or bottlenecks and identify where adjustments or corrections can be made
- 4Forecast better next time
- 5Address problems or variances more effectively
- 6Deliver more precise reports that will help in identifying problems later on, if any
Value of Feedback in Improving Productivity
Feedback is one way of informing another person how other people see him or his work. It also helps him realize how his actions actually impact another person or a task. In other words, it is like a check and balance system for a person and if taken seriously, it can help him remain on track and avoid further mistakes.
Feedback helps in productivity in a way that it encourages the continuation of appropriate behaviors.
Here are things to consider when giving feedback and in order to make it more effective:
- 1Timing is important. Feedback is more effective when given right after an action is done, because then the action is still very fresh in the mind. Delaying it further will reduce the clarity of the situation.
- 2The manner of giving feedback assists in helping the other person absorb what is being said. If feedback is given in a fair and professional manner, then the likelihood of the other person believing in and taking action based on it is high.
- 3Location is equally important. Negative feedback must never be done in public, because it may cause embarrassment and misunderstanding. On the other hand, positive feedback is more effective when given in front of others because it can boost one's ego and encourage him to do it further.
Effective Confrontation Styles to Deal with Productivity Issues
When endeavoring to improve productivity, some need for confrontation may arise, especially when things are not occurring as it's supposed to. Confrontation is basically a face-to-face discussion aimed at influencing another person's behavior. A confrontation does not always be negative, although this is what this term usually connotes.
These are usually situations that may lead to a confrontation:
- 1You would like someone to do something which they currently fail to do.
- Not starting work on time
- Not organizing her desk so that she becomes more productive at work
- Not working carefully to avoid mistakes
- Not coordinating actively with other department to avoid bottlenecks
- Not acting upon problems right away
- Not reporting correctly
- Not revealing problems as they arise
- 2You would like another person to stop doing something.
- Stop pacing at work.
- Stop playing around at the work area.
- Stop spending too much time chatting.
- Stop checking Facebook during regular work hours.
- Stop carelessly storing materials at the warehouse which causes breakage
- 3You would like another person to start doing something differently compared to how they did it in the past
- Resolve problems instead of pointing fingers
- Attend meetings instead of missing them and then wondering what's going on
- Maintain active communication with other relevant departments instead of relying on emails alone
Effective Problem Solving Process that Immediately Addresses Low Productivity
Effective problem solving is a crucial part of management. Problems are inevitable in any form of operations. It is how people respond to it that will create a huge difference.
Also, problem solving is crucial in productivity improvement. Oftentimes, productivity gets lower because of problems that are not immediately addressed. What's even more fascinating is sometimes, the problems are not even difficult to solve, the only problem is that it was not communicated timely enough for action to take place on time.
Here are simple problem solving steps that will be able to capture variances in performances timely and therefore end up in better level of productivity:
- 1Recognize that there is actually a problem. One of the greatest barriers towards better level of productivity at work is denial that something is actually wrong. Even worse, what happens sometimes is that real problems are being concealed, sometimes because of fear of management. Because the real problems are concealed, people end up responding only to the symptoms of the problem and not really the root cause. Therefore, in case things get better, it only gets better for a while and the problem comes back right away. This kind of behavior also disrupts work, because people in the company waste time on efforts that are not on-target. Therefore, the first step in any effective problem solving process is to really recognize and accept that there really is a problem. There should be no finger pointing or blaming once the problem is accepted. Instead, people must find ways how they can work together in resolving it.
- 2Define exactly what the problem is. Once a problem is recognized, next step is to investigate further in order to find out details that are relevant to the problem at hand. The more information you gather, the more you are able to get directed towards the right direction in solving problems. Doing this step correctly will save a lot of time, because you automatically remove the step where people just go around and around an issue without really coming up with the most appropriate solution.
- 3List down potential solutions and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. Based on the information gathered, come up with more than one potential solution and assess, based on a comparison of advantages and disadvantages and of benefits and costs, which of these solutions are the best for the company. This process is not to be rushed as it really requires a lot of time to make judgment on the best option. More often than not, this step is best done together with other people, particularly those who have a direct effect on the activity or who are experts in that particular field. If not involving them in the actual process of identifying solutions, at least come to them for consultation.
- 4Decide on the best solution. After careful assessment of all available information and comparison of advantages and disadvantages, finally make a decision on which is the best solution.
- 5Communicate and implement. No matter how good of a solution you come up with, if you do not implement it or if you do not implement it correctly, the problem will remain unsolved. Remember that before you reached this stage, you have already spent considerable time and effort. You would not want to waste that because of poor implementation. A key element in implementation is proper communication to all involved and affected by the problem.
- 6Follow up. This is where a good number of companies fail. They may have come up with intelligent solutions for problems, implemented it properly, but they forget to make a followup to check on the effectiveness of the solution. Without this followup, you fail to see whether further actions need to be taken or whether the solution is the most appropriate solution after all. Follow up allows you to see the sustainability of the solution. In other words, no matter how confident you are of the solution you have just implemented, never make an assumption that it is effective. You have to actually see it for yourself.
- 7Keep people in the loop. Make sure that people are well-informed of the actions taken. Also, as soon as you have results, these have to be communicated as well, whether the results are positive or negative.
- 8Do not hesitate to redo the previous steps or even start all over again if you did not get desired results. At times, problem solving may be a hit and miss kind of thing as well. While you do it carefully in order to get results, there are simply times that you still end up unsuccessful, no matter what. Do not despair when this happens, this is just normal. You just have to go back to earlier steps, like for example assess again your possible solutions, and then implement another solution.
The Value of the Question "Why?" in Improving Productivity
Asking the question "Why?" many times is a very good but simple technique in getting to the root cause of a problem. This actually roots from a part of the Toyota Production System which was very popular in the 1970s. It is based on the simple principle that when you see something wrong, you just keep on asking why until you've actually exhausted the problem and reached the root cause.
Example: Products are delivered late to the client. Why? Because the production department finished the production late. Why? Because the materials delivered for production were wrong. Why? Because the wrong order sheet was sent over to the Purchasing department. Why? Because there was no one to double check the order being received? Why? Because there was not enough manpower. Why? The Human Resources department did not hit its recruitment schedule.
As you can see, the more you ask the question, the more you get to understand what the situation is and what the contributory factors to the final problem are. This is a very simple technique to apply and it does not require any complicated technology to be able to implement this.
As you discover more details, you can also come up with alternative solutions for each of them. Also, as you implement this process, the more you get to understand who are involved in this problem. Of course, the point here is not to finger point, but more of to know who will work together in coming up with a solution.
Questions and Answers
How can I personally improve my productivity in the workplace?
One can be productive in the workplace by knowing where to focus. You should have a systematic way of doing things that are assigned to you. Having a system for doing things saves you time, thus giving you more time to tend to other tasks. Try not to do personal things when working, like opening your social network page, making and receiving personal calls (unless it is an emergency), and chit-chatting with your co-workers. Refrain from going to their cubicles or tables if it is not necessary. You are not only affecting your own productivity, but theirs too.
Hi, I am actually working on one case where previously an employee used to take 15 minutes to complete one work but now she is taking 20 minutes to complete the same work .I need to build an organization modification plan in order to improve the productivity?
Hi, I am actually working on one case where previously an employee used to take 15 minutes to complete one work but now she is taking 20 minutes to complete the same work .I need to build an organization modification plan in order to improve the productivity
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Using your knowledge of Organizational Behavior, discuss how you would solve the following work related behavioral problems I) Low productivity ii) Absenteeism
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