How to Improve Productivity Quickly

Raise Productivity – Build on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

by  Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Raising ProductivityToo often in business we focus on our business’ and staff’s weaknesses.  The reasoning is that by addressing our weaknesses we can improve.  This is a fallacy.  The only way that you can improve and raise performance on a sustainable basis is by building on your strengths.

Let’s look at it diagrammatically.

 

Building on Weaknesses

In this first chart we are looking to address a weakness.  This weakness means that we are currently performing below the level of performance that is expected.  We spend time, effort, resources and money on this and we raise the level of performance – but only to the expected level of performance.  The risk here is that, despite your best efforts, this may not be sustainable as once the pressure is off the individuals they may revert to their old habits

Building on Strengths

In this second chart we are looking to build on and leverage a strength.  Currently we are operating the level of performance that is expected.  We spend time, effort, resources and money on building  this and we raise the level of performance – to a level of performance significantly above that which is expected.  As this is a strength, and a good habit that is in place, it is likely that this improvement will be sustainable – even when the pressure is off the individuals.  Here people are working smarter, not harder, in a way that is aligned with what they do well making it on-going.

The Implications

So what does this mean for us as leaders and managers?

Firstly, invest more effort, time and resources in developing your best people – not your mediocre people.

Secondly, and this many seems counter-intuitive,  but it pays to assign the best workers to the best bosses because that strategy results in the largest productivity gains.

For example, if 75% of your business’ value/productivity comes from 25% of the workforce then getting a 10% improvement from your top 25% means you’ve increased organizational value creation by 7.5%. Not bad. Your remaining 75% would have to boost their collective productivity by 30% — triple the top performer’s rate — to match that 7.5% net increase.

What’s the better and more rational bet? That top management can get a 10% spike from their top people? Or that they can get the demonstrably less talented, less capable, less productive three-quarters of their enterprise to dramatically increase their value outputs by almost a third? Which group would you invest in? I know where I’d put my money.

So What Do You Do?

Firstly, leverage your business and key performers’ strengths and make it into a virtuous cycle.  Secondly, don’t ignore the weaknesses – but remember it shouldn’t be the squeaky wheel that gets the oil and the attention.  You have limited resources; use them to the best effect.  Thirdly, look at how you can remove the weaknesses – either by changing people to roles where they are better suited, training (if it can produce sustainable improvement and after investments in your areas of strength), or removing them (take out the dead wood and non-performers).

A recent piece of research entitled The Value of Bosses from the National Bureau of Economic Research empirically argued (unsurprisingly) that bosses matter. Better bosses generate better results. Underlying this were two findings:

  1. That the most significant impact bosses had didn’t come from their motivational skills, but from teaching workers how to be more productive, i.e. capability building. That’s important.  Research showed that replacing a supervisor from the bottom 10% of the pool with one from the top 10%  increases output about as much as adding a 10th worker to a nine-worker team. Not only that, but about two-thirds of the productivity boost from working under a good supervisor persists even after the worker switches bosses.
  2. The second finding is that the most efficient structure is to assign the best workers to the best bosses rather than have the best bosses bring the weakest workers up to speed.

So to raise productivity on a sustainable basis build on your staff’s strengths, in doing this the business’ leaders and managers need to be able to teach their teams how to become more productive, and to cascade this skill and associated capabilities throughout the business.

What are you doing to enable your leaders and managers to practically develop these skills, so that they can develop them in others?  For ideas, insights and any questions please email me or comment here.

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Risks of Conforming, The

Doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor. 

We often look at how hard we work as a measure of the quality of our work. But this is wrong. When you are looking at the quality of the outcomes you or your team produce you need to consider two elements:

  • Effort – how hard you work at getting the work done.
  • Rigor – how well you adhere to the process of getting the work done.

To be efficient and effective in your work you need to be high in terms of both the effort and the rigor which you apply.

An effort is focused on doing the best with the inputs (the tasks), it is about being efficient. Rigour is about focusing on the process of getting the work done, doing it consistently in the manner which has already been determined – this is about being effective.  You need to do both to produce long-term quality work outputs. As you can see in the matrix below the level of rigor and effort you make will largely affect your work outcomes.

The Rigor/Effort Matrix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Low Effort/Low Rigor – this is the worst situation where people, make little effort in getting the work done and when they do, they tend to do it in an ad hoc manner.  Processes and/or guidelines tend to be ignored, or not followed properly, and the work produced is poor quality, substandard, and costly (especially as work will need to be either redone or people in this quadrant will need a higher level of management oversight).
  • Low Effort/High Rigor – here people, make little effort in getting the work done, however, they do tend to follow the processes/guidelines that are in place.  So, although the work produced is of a suitable quality or standard, the work completed or produced does not meet expectations in terms of what need to be done or which has been planned.  Again this can result in further costs to the business as either more people are required to produce the necessary volumes, or those who are high producers are put under greater pressure as they pick up the slack.  This can lead to them being overworked, stressed and potentially more likely to want to leave for a less stressful job.  This can result in a business losing its best people and retaining the worst.
  • High Effort/Low Rigor – people make a lot of effort but do it in an ad hoc manner.  This can result in a lot of substandard or poor quality work being produced as they do not follow processes or guidelines. This can lead to a lot of waste, rework and may necessitate a lot of investment in quality control to try and manage the symptoms of low rigor.
  • High Effort/High Rigor – here people make a considerable effort, are engaged, and do good work on a consistent basis.  This produces great work for customers, improving customer retention, reducing costs, and improving revenue and profits.

Use this tool to assess where the individuals in your team are.  Assess their level of effort (1=very low, 10-very high), and the level of rigor they demonstrate (1=very low, 10-very high). From this plot them on the chart.

For each individual then determine where you want them to be and identify three actions that they can take that will help them bridge the gap.

So make the effort and be rigorous in doing it! Remember, doing things with rigor takes effort, but not everything you put effort into is done with rigor.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Customers – Market Reach or Market Gravity?

The Only 2 Ways to Reach Your Customers

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

There are two ways to market to and gain customers, and two ways only.

Either you reach out to them, or they are attracted to you. One way you try to “push” them to come to you, the other way you attract them to you and your offerings and they “pull” themselves in. These two ways are at opposite ends of the spectrum

So what does this mean for you?

Market Reach Out

Many businesses try to acquire new business and new clients by going out and trying to find them – especially newer businesses and those who are in commodity markets. Typically this includes advertising, promotional activities and a lot of “telling” – proudly telling your prospective customers what you do.

This method involves a lot of effort and a relatively low return. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, and often the princes that you do find are only there for the short-term before they hop off to your competitors. This is a costly and risky exercise where your resources, time and investment are used inefficiently and effectively,

As time goes on, you build up history and credibility, and you get smarter and more focused on what you do for your clients rather than what you do for yourself. You also begin to market yourselves using more targeted, interactive approaches that are relevant, of interest and of value to your customers – here you are listening to your customers. Ways to create gravity include, but are not limited to, testimonials, press coverage, articles in trade journals and magazines, speaking, referrals etcetera.

Market Gravity

As the awareness of your work, your reputation and your relevance to your prospective client increases so the dynamic begins to change. Rather than you having to seek out clients they begin to come to you. Your cost of acquisition of clients is lower, they are less price-sensitive as they see the value you can help them realise, and you get a better quality of client with whom you can develop long-term opportunities.

As such, your revenue and profit opportunities improve and you can become more selective both in terms of with whom you work and what kind of work you do. You are more strongly differentiated from your competitors, and prospects want you. Your business growth begins to accelerate with less effort.

How are you attracting your clients? Are you reaching out and trying to pull them in, or are you creating the ‘gravity’ so that they come to you? If you don’t build your own ‘market gravity’ no-one else will – so start work on it today!

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

5 Keys for Self-Influence

Leadership is influence” – John Maxwell

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Be the Change You Want to See

The difference between management and leadership is best described as management is about handling complexity, whereas leadership is about handling change.  Change is about successful influence, and influence is a personal skill that can be developed and grown.

People often don’t think of themselves as influencers because they fail to see that the common thread running through the triumphs and tragedies of our lives is our ability to exert influence.  It is the lack of our being good at exerting influence that causes us a great deal of grief, people tend to be better copers than influencers by choice.

Leadership is about influence.  When we influence others, we are leading them.  When we influence ourselves, we are self-leading.  That brings up the question, “What are the thoughts, behaviours and strategies that help us exert influence over ourselves?

5 Keys to Self-Influence

1.       Make peace with the uncontrollable. Figure out the things you can change, and then change them.  If you can’t change something, then learn to live with it.  This means changing your attitude about the uncontrollable.

“Give me the serenity to accept the things that you cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

You learn to live with it by making peace with it.  I’ve discovered – repeatedly – that worrying about something is not a good problem-solving technique.  You feel like you’re doing something, but it only makes things worse.  By not worrying, you make space for new thoughts and ideas to enter.

Let go of what you can’t control.  Invest your energy in things you can.  Your attitude is the first place to start.  Which means you must….

2.       Let go of the past. We know nothing is gained by pointing out what others did, or what’s wrong with them.  Yet we do this with ourselves.  Focus on how to make the future better rather than why the past was bad.  We learn from the past, but we don’t live there.  This means you need to…….

3.       Focus on what’s important. Don’t waste physical and emotional energy on the trivial.  This will help to eliminate “vicarious living”- the trap of talking about others rather than discovering how we can make a difference.  There’s a lot of nonsense in our daily discussions, and most of it doesn’t matter.  Is the investment on the topic really worth it?  What’s it worth 10 hours from now?  10 days from now?  10 years from now?  Playing it forward will help you determine its present value.  You can discuss debate, argue and be right, but is it worth it?  Train your mind to use the 10/10/10 approach before you invest time in the discussion.  Instead, why not……

4.       Invest in yourself. This is not an act of selfishness.  If I don’t take care of “me”, I can’t take care of “you.” Investing in me allows me to invest in you. Investing in yourself may mean putting some money, some time, and some energy on the line to contribute to your growth and personal development.  Investing in yourself allows you to invest in others. The more you influence yourself, the more you will influence others.  You cannot give what you don’t have.  One way to do this is to…..

5.       Invite feedback as an opportunity to be transparent. Feedback has positive benefits as you learn new information and skills.  But it also makes you more transparent.  It helps you develop an openness about who you are.  Feedback is not about pleasing others.  It’s an exercise in learning about yourself.  Growing in your personal curiosity and openness is attractive.  This kind of person is trustworthy, optimistic, flexible, poised, and cheerful. Transparency helps produce these traits.  People aren’t attracted to perfection.  They are attracted to transparency.  Feedback expands the boundaries of personal openness.

One of the greatest challenges in life is influencing yourself in a world that’s constantly pressuring you to conform your image to theirs.  It can be immobilizing!  Someone is always richer, prettier, smarter, stronger, younger, wiser, and funnier than you.  The paradox is that the more we influence ourselves to be ourselves, the more people like us.

And we like ourselves more too!

This article is partly based on the article, “5 Ways Smart People Influence Themselves” by Mick Ukleja.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions