Do you remember that friend in school whose exam results never reflected in the hours he spent studying in the library despite all the fun and parties sacrificed in order to excel? Have you realized that at work, you struggle to meet your target though you are the first to report to work and the last to leave? Have you wondered why your colleague won the sales award even though your ratings do not portray him to be a hard worker?
Think about this for a moment. Someone spends eight hours to read six chapters only to remember two; another decides to use three hours to read two chapters and is well informed to explain to another. Between these two, who would you rate as being productive?
As you are still pondering over that, how about this — a company gets excited for being the highest producer of a certain product when they have to spend time and resources on customer complaints. They brag about speed to market only to recall the products back to the factory. Would you call this productivity?
Your staff spends long hours at work and is the first to submit his report yet the final approval always delays due to errors. Another seems to delay in submission but gives you an excellent work. Who will you promote?
Why would you want to run the quantity race, ignoring quality, just to beat your competitor? In the long-term, that competitor will drink beer at your company’s befitting funeral.
What makes business owners have the mindset that being productive at work is about being busy or appearing to be whisked in perspiration? At the end of the day, one is not able to determine how much has been accomplished or the value that has been created and added. Is the goal to be productive or be busy?
I am sure we have heard the maxim “It is not about working hard but working smart”. Let us sit back a minute and reflect on Justin Bryant’s simple definition of productivity which is, “…getting quality work done that helps you get closer to reaching goals or finishing important tasks.”
Attributing productivity to quantity has created huge problems for organisations in the long-term. Quality has been sacrificed on the altar of immediate results. The financial crisis in the United States in 2008 when many loan facilities were granted without due diligence and proper lending practices is a typical example of a wrong definition of productivity. These companies gave birth to huge profits only to receive a baptism of bankruptcy and closure of many big companies.
The expectation is that businesses and organisations take lessons from such events. Sadly, this has never been the case. The financial crisis and the Menzgold saga in Ghana is a clear indication that businesses have not taken lessons from the past.
The desire to produce more or be the fastest with an appearance of quality is like eating your cake and still desiring to have it. The sense of focus and direction seems to have been thrown to the wind. The resultant effect includes customer complaints over poor quality of products, abysmal service from staff and not adhering to deadlines, meeting times and agenda. Multiple departments carry out similar tasks yet senior management is not able to get straightforward answers to all their questions and requests. There is no evidence of receipts for goods purchased and services rendered. All these are outcomes of prioritising quantity over quality.
CEOs and business owners continue to worry about the issue of productivity. Despite the investments and resources spent by organisations to improve productivity, they are still facing challenges. The huge expenditure of productivity tools and software showing in the company’s financial statement is not equally reflecting in the income received even after two years. Employees seem to be working but this never reflects on the balance sheet; revenues are either declining or the company is not achieving its target.
Instead of tackling the root cause of the problem and coming out with a clear sense of direction for the company, several trial and errors methods are implemented and combined with lots of theory that continue to fail us as we have our ‘quantity driver’ on the driving seat.
For instance, some organisations results to engaging employees in multitasking in a bid to get the desired quantity. Inasmuch as this is not wrong, going beyond the limits of getting employees to do a lot of different things at once in the name of efficiency will result in a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ syndrome. Time and resources will be wasted!
Another issue is the theory of producing more goods with fewer resources. While this is possible and easy with products, it has always been a challenge when it comes to services such as brainstorming, meetings, coding and designing. Companies are still struggling with coming out with a fair means of measurement for some of the areas.
Furthermore, the problem of efficiency and getting it right should be dealt with. In our efficiency investment, do companies have programmes that help people to get the job right from the start? How much investment do companies make in quality, getting it right no matter the cost or time it requires?
Getting it right requires innovation and creativity, especially for multinational companies with consideration of the different cultures, systems and laws. It necessitates giving people the opportunity to focus on tasks they are passionate about and helping them to develop. It is appreciating and having the understanding of workplace dynamism and changing environment. It entails full apprehension of the reason why people work and how they work in every industry.
Are your staff working for fear of being laid off or out of commitment and passion for the job? Are the employees work driven only by the need for survival or by a desire for the goals and objectives of the company to be achieved? What drives people to do what they do? What value is being added to the organisation after all the tasks accomplished?
There is the need for a change in the way of work. A move from short-term artificial productivity gains to a better understanding that more is not always better. The more we focus on value creation and quality, the more we have a sustainable business environment.
The productivity series will be dealing with different aspects of productivity with the main aim of improving organisational output.
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