The seeds of a productivity culture

In Productivity culture, UK productivity on May 4, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Last week I introduced the concept of a productivity culture, a fervent belief throughout an organisation that we will be as efficient and effective as we can!  As I said, the concept is easy, it is in its creation that the difficulty lies.  Like a rope that needs many strands wound together in order to gain its strength, so a productivity culture is the product of many different strands. I’ll talk about these over the next few posts.

Perhaps the first, hardly surprisingly, is leadership.  There are loads of books out there about leadership, often drawing on military models like Wellington or political role models such as Winston Churchill.  They are all great leaders, but not many of them had a passion for productivity!  Yet this is where the first seed lies.  In all those projects where I have played a part in making a real change and improving performance in a sustainable way, there has always been a leader passionate about making the changes needed to be highly effective and efficient.  These leaders all have a number of attributes that you might say are common to all good leaders, but in these cases they are applied to the issue of productivity – either overtly or indirectly.

To begin with, all of these leaders have a pragmatic vision of the future.  They know where they want to get to, it’s doable and it will make a real difference.  This is the starting point from which all the other strands described below start from.  The leaders are passionate about their business and therefore about making sure that it is effective and as efficient as it can be.  From this passion they communicate effectively about the need for change, how the change will happen and especially what the future would look like with and without the planned changes in place.  They leave no doubt about the consequences of low productivity.  Equally they do not hide the tough ride ahead (unlike most political leaders ahead of the coming election!).  They lead from the front in demonstrating what needs to be done and making sure that there is no ‘one rule for the bosses and one for everyone else!’.  (flying business class on a short hop to Paris, having your secretary print out all your emails each morning!). They equip the team leading the change.  These leaders will not be shy of making the necessary investment (often much smaller than you think).  One of the biggest areas of equipping is to give those tasked with achieving results almost total freedom to challenge and change the status quo.  Allowing people to ask the question ‘but why have we always done this, it adds no value?’  and expect a reasonable answer that might include ‘you’re right, we won’t do it any more’, creates the energy needed to make real change.  The equipping  might mean also mean using consultants. They key here is to invest wisely and sparingly. Don’t get them to do the whole job for you. Use consultants to consult, not be your workforce of change!

When success is reached, leaders recognise and reward those who have played their part.  This means not only those creating and delivering specific improvements, but also those who have kept the business running through a period of (often disruptive) change. Finally, they have the energy to sustain the changes and keep moving forward.  Any business that is not moving forward is moving backwards.  This is particularly so for productivity relative to your competition.

How is your leadership doing with regard to taking your organisation forward?


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