My research within 670 organisations has revealed an untapped source of productivity which the generally-accepted means of improving productivity are unable to tap.
The key to productivity is the knowledge, skill, flexibility and creativity of people, supported by technology. However, organisations tend to inhibit these capabilities rather than tap into them to increase productivity.
To extract the latent productivity, leaders and organisations need to:
- Think ahead systematically
- Clarify the strategy
- Release innovation and flexibility
- Make procurement encourage instead of inhibiting innovation
- Encourage self-fulfilment
- Work less, achieve more
- Cross organisational boundaries
- Walk the talk
Think ahead systematically
The pressures of daily life tend to focus a person’s attention on the here and now. Consequently, most organisations will repeat tomorrow what they did today. Doing the same things produces the same results. For instance, most business planning and budgeting processes reuse the previous year’s plan and budget. The productivity opportunity here is to use a systematic process to develop a balanced and measurable strategy looking ahead ten years or more since this provides perspective and inspires people to let go of the past.
Clarify the strategy
Most strategies contain generic aspirational statements. However, people can’t translate generic statements into specific actions. The productivity opportunity here is to give everyone a clear understanding of what the organisation needs to deliver, how they can contribute and how their contribution will be recognised and rewarded, since this helps people to challenge existing outputs and ways of working.
Release innovation and flexibility
Change is risky and threatening. Therefore, organisations are reluctant to consider radically new ideas, focus on cutting costs rather than adding value, and have too many incremental initiatives resulting in a lack of fundamental change. At the same time, excessive regulation stifles the will to innovate. The productivity opportunity here is to implement holistic risk management and make people accountable for the delivery of self-defined outcomes, since this will embolden and motivate people to leave their comfort zones.
Make procurement encourage instead of inhibiting innovation
Procurement processes are tender-driven and so exclude unique innovations like the Perendie platform ® because buyers won’t know about them and therefore won’t request them. There needs to be a way to bring unique innovations to the attention of buyers in order to permit innovation.
Despite claims to be flat and empowered, the organisations researched were invariably hierarchical. Key decisions are made by a few people, while narrow job specifications and contracts are used to compel others to implement those decisions, inhibiting self-fulfilment. This practice deprives the organisation of most of the capability of the people they interact with – internally and externally – and frustrates their attempts to do their best. The productivity opportunity here is to empower employees, suppliers, partners and customers, which dramatically increases motivation and productivity.
Work less, achieve more
Hard work within organisations is expected and respected. However, there is little connection between hard work and the outcomes the organisation needs to achieve. Manager and peer pressures, as well as organisational constraints, distract most people from working effectively. The productivity opportunity here is to encourage and allow people to focus on their outcomes and control their environment since this causes them to work less and achieve more.
Cross organisational boundaries
The compartments into which organisations are divided – operations, production, customer services, information technology, human resources, finance etc. – act as functional silos. They inhibit internal and external co-operation, acquire their own cultures and loyalties and focus on the achievement of their own objectives, thereby reducing their contribution to the corporate goals. Restructuring and transformation merely replace one set of compartments with others. The productivity opportunity here is to put in place a leadership and management system which works across organisational boundaries.
Walk the talk
Most of us have at some time said one thing but done another. Such behaviour is common in organisations with detrimental effects, particularly cynicism, demotivation and resistance to change. The transparency of the Perendie platform ® increases honesty and trust.