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Seven Productivity Lessons from the Week

During last week there were a number of productivity boosting lessons laying themselves out for my clients as part of their improvement projects. I have summarised them here for you to consider:

Basic Office Software Skills

Time and time again the ability to use the software we have in our offices comes to the fore. A small improvement in learning how to use the tools we have infront of us can make a huge difference if we have to handle information on a regular basis.

If you feel that you have some weaknesses in this area then it might be really worthwhile speaking to your colleagues about how they use their software, or looking online for shortcuts and tips.

Ownership versus Execution

When there is no ownership of a process it can go off course! No surprises there. What was interesting last week was finding out that some of my clients were struggling with the 'execution and ownership' issue.

Owning a process means that you are responsible for it.

Executing a process means that you complete the steps within the process.

The person that owns the process does not necessarily have to be the same person that completes the steps in the process, but not having an owner can lead to performance problems later on. Make sure that your team understand the difference between ownership and execution.

Modelling Great Behaviours

This topic floats in and out of businesses on a regular basis. Some people get better results than others, that is a fact of life. If you can find out what your better performing colleagues do, that you are prepared to do yourself, you can usually find a whole load of improvement tweaks that you can make. Some will be style / approach based and some will be process / activity based.

Encourage your team to share their tips and tricks with their colleagues and see what happens to your business’ productivity.

Find the 80/20 Route

Pareto… He had to crop up somewhere didn’t he?

During the week I had an interesting meeting where a six hour process was being grumbled at for, well, taking too long!

When we discussed the process there was an awful lot of baggage around the activities and this was something that could be simply removed, it just needed some awareness of what was going on and ten minutes to step back from the drudgery of this particular process.

The essence of the process was focused on and a better approach defined. The implementation of the changes took around half an hour and the process is now being triggered without despair (of the huge time it took to complete previously).

Find the essence of your processes if you need to overhaul your processes and see where the conversation takes you.

Confusing Quantity and Value

You’re probably thinking that I shouldn’t need to write about this, but it stills seems to crop up on a regular basis. Just last week I had two different senior managers, at different businesses, show me just how much work they had gotten through in the past week. Very impressive, but it had no bearing on the performance of their departments – it was just work for the sake of work.

There were a handful of other tasks they could have worked on, which in the longer run would have yielded far greater results and more value for both their customers and their employers. Don’t confuse hard work with generating real value for those that matter.

Thinking Process and Not Bits

Getting lost in the day-to-day of work can be easy to do. A problem comes through the door and we get sucked into the detail of the problem. This is not an issue, longer term, as long as we are able to get the balance right between process thinking and managing bits.

Managing the detail is important when there is a difficulty in the business, but the processes still need to be managed. This is a different focus and if this is missing from the business problems can crop up on a highly regular basis. It is quite likely that you will have someone in your team that is meant to be focused on the bits going through your business and that your primary jobs is to ensure that the business’ processes are firing off properly and without a hitch.

Manage the bits when you have to, otherwise spend time optimising and maximising your business processes.

Stop Doing the Headless Chicken Dance

When panic hits a business, it is very normal for people to run about doing the ‘headless chicken dance’. A little bit of this is OK in my books, but not when it becomes your standard response to every situation.

This approach is generally very ineffective and very inefficient.

After a little bit of running around it can useful to stop and plan your way out of the situation. Planning is very effective for treating problems in a business!

I’m sure that you don’t do this, but if you have colleagues that do run around without thinking through their actions then please give them a gentle reminder.

I hope that you avoid all of the issues listed in this post, but if anything resonates with you take a few minutes to decide how you want to tackle the issue before you go back to your normal day-to-day busyness.

All the best,


About the author Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes. Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

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