Articles

Productivity culture – for service delivery

In Productivity mindset, UK productivity on April 26, 2010 by Tim Aikens

I can remember  working on the shop floor of a factory as a student and being told  ‘don’t be so keen, you’ll make everyone else look bad’.  It was not that I was rushing around or desperate to show others up. I simply wanted to do a good job.  There are millions of people in the UK keen to do a good job, but frustrated by lots of things.  Police officers, for example, are sometimes wary of making an arrest because they worry about the vast amount of paperwork (and I mean paperwork, not computer work) needing to be completed following an arrest.  This limits time out in the field, often takes up overtime and generally reduces effectiveness.  I can recall working for a client on an offshore oil platform, where the necessary and vital paperwork was a real hinderance to effective working.  The workforce had all the ideas and changes necessary to minimise the impact of this.  All that was needed was a small push and a willingness to listen!

I have worked with other clients in the past and been amazed at how they work at being effective and efficient. Creating work packages for maintenance, so that the engineer had everything he needed at hand; nothing left to chance, no waiting for tools and materials.  Perhaps the most interesting example I have seen recently was the man who came to install my new garden shed.  The shed was prefabricated, but the base, wall, roof and door all needed putting together.  He did it in 90 minutes.  Not only did he have all the equipment and materials he needed, he also had a clear process.  But perhaps above all, he was very proud of his efficiency and speed.

So what does this productivity culture look like?  I think it is quite simple and boils down to three things:

  • Pride in the job and in being efficient.  People want to be seen as doing a good job and doing it efficiently!  Interestingly, those who do good work are often the most efficient as well!  You don’t need to be slow of inefficient to do a good job.
  • Freedom to act. People are allowed to think up and put in place their own ideas about how to be more effective.  They are not constrained by ‘the one best way’   This can make it hard for public sector organisations who are often constrained either by legislation or by ‘rules’.
  • Understanding and belief of supervisors and management that those who do the work are in a good position to improve things and they need to  be listened to.

The picture of what a productivity culture looks like may be simple.  The really difficult part is getting there AND staying there. I’ll come on to that in due course.

Does your organisation have a productivity culture at its roots? If not, why not?

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