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15 March 2016

20 WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE – Communicate Specific Expectations

Productivity means higher output using your current resources, or achieving the same level of sales with less resource.

Employees can only be productive if they know where the team is heading. Lack of vision and unclear company goals result in wasted effort, disorganization, and inefficiency in the workplace.

How often do you hear a manager saying their staff know what they’re doing and can just be left to get on with it? How often do you hear a supervisor telling staff to “pull your socks up”, only to be left wondering how far they should be pulled? A poor explanation of exactly what is required from employees renders your business highly unproductive from the outset.

Performance management critically requires clear and concise job descriptions, well communicated plans and targets with regular reporting back on progress against those numbers.  A foolproof method of delegation is to include clear indications of TIME, COST, QUANTITY and QUALITY.  For example, you could instruct your accounts team that by close of business every Thursday you expect:

  • 200 client invoices (QUANTITY)
  • to be processed within 4 hours (TIME)
  • within a budget of £75 for stationery, consumables and postage (COST), and
  • with zero errors (QUALITY)

This gives very clear parameters as to what is expected of staff.  Initially there may be issues and problems arising.  Reviewing progress on a daily or weekly basis allows the employees to raise these with you in a formal setting, identify what the problems are and find ways as a team to resolve them, so they’re able to meet the expectations set by you.

So long as any agreements or commitments from these meetings are documented, to ensure they are followed up within the due by dates, you will gradually achieve the expected performance levels.  Your staff may even start to exceed them as they feel more empowered and motivated to improve on the challenges you set. 

Stumped – Case Study

This example demonstrates a really obvious productivity improvement from a very simple behavior change.  One of my Team Leaders in the consulting industry, whilst working with the Foresters in the dark depths of the Chilean Pine Forests came back after being out in the field for several days, with his eyebrows raised.  He was so frustrated, but couldn’t understand why something so simple hadn’t been confronted before and hence felt he might have been missing something so didn’t want to instantly take it up with the client.

When lumberjacks are using chainsaws to cut down trees, they should take the tree down leaving the tree stump as short as possible.  However, chain saws get heavy, the days are long, and the lumberjacks want to get through the work using the law of minimum effort.  The consultant started to notice that on average the tree stumps were left at about 1m high (waist height?).  He quite rightly pointed out that on a 20m high tree that’s 5% of the product being left in the ground.  That might sound trivial but when you’re felling thousands of trees a year that 5% is actually worth quite a bit.

As a result a standard was put in place requiring the lumberjacks to leave no more than 25-50cms of stump when felling, which together with closer monitoring by the chargehands in the forests, the company achieved a significant increase in yield, and profits.

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My book “20 Ways to Be More Productive” offers easy tips, case studies and ways you can improve productivity and save money in every aspect of your business.