Increasing Productivity Without Turning It Into a Dirty Word
Productivity censored as a dirty word
Increasing Productivity Without Turning It Into a Dirty Word
Productivity censored as a dirty word

Increasing Productivity Without Turning It Into a Dirty Word

Productivity might just become the most overused buzzword of the 21st century. Productivity apps crowd the app store, and endless blogs — including this one — have tons of articles on increasing productivity. See how we’ve put the word “productivity” four times in three sentences and it’s starting to lose its power? The last thing you want is to turn productivity into a dirty word that the eye skips over and the ear ignores. How can you keep that from happening? Here are three ideas.

Make increasing productivity more than a numbers game

If you want something to improve, you need to measure it, right? If you want to reduce your credit card debt, you take steps to figure out how much you have and how much you need to pay off each month.

But productivity doesn’t really work that way.

That’s because our understanding of productivity is based on antiquated ideas. The concept of “productivity” can be traced back to 1911, when Frederick W. Taylor first developed the idea that increasing production means identifying and adjusting variables linked to workers and their machines. Since that century-old idea was born, we’ve developed ways to track and quantify the productivity of workers, all in hopes of increasing those production numbers.

That works fine on an assembly line; it doesn’t hold up as well in the knowledge economy. In a modern office job, productivity isn’t just measured by tasks closed per hour, but how well they’re accomplished and how they impact a business. If we’re using nothing but numbers to track productivity, we risk undervaluing the star players on our team, just because their numbers don’t match up with a quantitative goal.

Think of a software developer. Of course we care about how many bugs they can squash in an hour. But if those fixes create more bugs, or they can’t collaborate with the rest of the team as effectively, how productive are they?

Build rapport with your team

Ideas for improving productivity are often born in executive boardrooms. And while you need the vision of your senior leaders, you also need input from the people on the ground before getting too deep into a specific strategy.

That starts with building trust. Trust means open, transparent communication. The best way to do that is during a one-on-one conversation. If you’ve got a smaller, more agile team, try to schedule in-person meetings. If you’ve got a bigger team, you’ll have to take some extra steps to set up those conversations. That might mean communicating asynchronously. Make sure you choose the right method; they aren’t created equal. You want the best way to give your team members some time with their manager so they feel comfortable getting their ideas out there. How else will you know what blockers your team is running into?

Say you’re running an IT service desk and you want to improve the overall positivity of interactions between your team and the clients who need their help. You’ll definitely want to pull up negative interactions to identify opportunities for improvement. But you also need to talk to your IT folks. Not only will they provide you with additional context about those difficult situations, but they’ll likely volunteer ideas on how to improve those interactions.

When you consult them and take their input to heart, your team will trust that you have their best interests in mind. Increasing productivity becomes a common goal rather than a dirty word.

Focus on removing obstacles

So now you’ve talked to your team. You’ve got a good list of ideas and suggestions for improving productivity. Here’s where the real challenge starts; you’ve got to figure out where to focus your attention. Amenities? Fewer meetings? Work-from-home opportunities?

Start by focusing all your firepower on obstacles.

What’s an obstacle? Anything that gets in the way of someone doing the best work they can. What does your team have to work around in order to get their tasks done? You’d be surprised by what these obstacles look like and how much productivity they swallow up.

One of the most common obstacles teams face is having to work across disparate tools. Some teams like their tools simple — like Trello — while other teams need tools that focus on complex workflows — like Jira. Trying to get one team to hop from one tool to the other can be tough.

But by using Unito to integrate Trello with Jira, you can keep all your teams productive and on the same page. No more fighting over which tool to use and no missed updates.

Removing this kind of obstacle is an easy sell with any team. No one likes wasting time flicking through tabs to find information that feels like it should be at their fingertips. Not only are you making your team’s work easier for them, you’re getting back hours of lost work on a weekly basis.

Focusing on obstacles means you’re able to focus on solutions. It means your team feels like you’re working side-by-side with them to clear the way to increased productivity. It keeps the whole process positive, optimistic, and, ultimately, more effective.

“Productivity” doesn’t have to become a dirty word. If you look beyond the numbers, you start with a clearer picture of the problem. When you have transparent, open talks with your team, you get a better sense of what’s preventing them from doing their best work. And then you can focus on those obstacles, smashing through them together. Music to your ears.