Over the past fifteen years I have worked in many organisations working with individual and team behaviours to improve their personal productivity. I am passionate about this work, but at times have become frustrated by the fact that great training and coaching can be undone by the culture within an organisation.

When it comes to productivity, this is very prevalent.

Individuals come back from a training day fired up, excited about the potential of their new skills, and ready to change the habits of a lifetime.

But for all their efforts to work more proactively, the reactive culture that they work in drags them back into reacting to urgency and putting out fires. For all their desire to get to the impactful work in their role, their time gets squandered dealing with operational issues, often caused by someone else’s poor work practices or lack of planning. Even with the best intentions to create space for the important work, their time gets taken up with endless meetings and a deluge of emails.

I believe that leaders need to go beyond just sending people on productivity training courses, and work more holistically on productivity.

To amplify the productivity of their team, and to create a sustained improvement, they need to build a micro-culture in their team that allows productivity to flourish, and ensure that everyone has the right skills, tools, and protocols in place to maximise their potential and do what they are great at.

The following model outlines the different productivity cultures that can exist, and what needs to happen to move up the ladder to a truly productive culture.

Disruptive – We don’t mean to, but we sometimes kill the productivity of the people we work with. This is sometimes like friendly fire in a war – our behaviours create unintended negative consequences for others. We are often very skilled at our job, but not necessarily skilled at how we work. Sometimes we have team members who actually have a selfish mindset, and operate they way they want to, with no regard for the impact on others.

  • So the first step for a leader who wants to amplify productivity is to change the behaviours by changing the mindset of the team from ‘me’ to ‘we’. We need to work in a way that is personally productive as well as productive for those around us.

Passive – In some situations there is a passive culture. One that has neither a bad or a good impact on productivity. But in this scenario, many people cobble together a way of managing their work and priorities that does the job, but is not effective. Many productive hours a week can be lost through ineffective systems, inefficient habits and poor skills.

  • So the next opportunity to amplify productivity is to make sure your team have the right skills to manage their schedule, their priorities and their information.

Productive – As mentioned previously, the challenge with just throwing training at the problem is that those people come back into a culture that does not support their new skills or system. This can lead to a productivity boost that is short lived. Individual productivity skills need to be supported by team productivity agreements.

  • So, the next focus should be on developing a set of agreements or protocols that enhance team productivity. This reduces the risk of productivity being dragged down despite the personal productivity training.

Collaborative – Once an organisation has put a set of agreements in place to boost team productivity, collaboration should flow. But protocols can suffer from an initial flurry of excitement and action, and then fade into the background as we fall back into our old habits. By championing a set of productivity values for your team, you will amplify productivity enormously. In fact, you will foster a Superproductive culture that will be the envy of other teams in your organisation.

  • So, the final focus on the productive culture ladder is on the aspirations of all management and staff to become a truly productive organisation.

Given that time is one of the most limited resources available to you and your team, it is worth taking a multi-level approach to productivity. It is not a quick win, it is a long-term game. But as a leader, amplifying the productivity of your team should be one of your top priorities.

Dermot Crowley is a productivity thought leader, author, speaker and trainer.  Dermot works with leaders, executives and professionals in many of Australia’s leading organisations, helping to boost the productivity of their people and teams. He is the author of Smart Work, published by Wiley. For more information, visit www.adaptproductivity.com.au or email dermot.crowley@adaptproductivity.com.au

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