Productivity not a priority?

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people” – John D. Rockefeller

Recently I was talking to a friend who shared with me how his company wasn’t meeting their sales targets. This in turn put pressure on cash flow. What he was really frustrated about was his new boss had communicated the need for increased productivity. My friend explained how the focus was all wrong, the new boss just doesn’t get it, the real issue is they just need to sell more. He said: “That makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Companies often face a similar dilemma. Either sell their way out of a problem, increase productivity or both. Selling though isn’t necessarily an easy answer due to market share, brand, competitor pricing, seasonal demand etc.

To get an understanding of the magnitude of the challenges I asked my friend:

  •        What percentage of sales and non-sales staff are meeting their targets?
  •        What’s more frequent – deadlines are met or excuses given for missing deadlines?
  •        How often is the planned workload completed or deferred each day?
  •        Is the team you work with in the top 5% in your sector?
  •        What’s the best and worst thing about your job?
  •        Would you recommend your son or daughter to get a job in your company?
  •        On a scale of 1 to 10, how effective are you and your team?
  •        Are you satisfied with the return for effort you get from the hours you put in?

After looking at the challenges through a different lens, my friend concluded that he and his colleagues were working hard but they weren’t all that effective. While not meeting the sales target was an issue, it was just the tip of the iceberg of what was really going on. The problem was more cultural. They were closer to being a low performing team instead of the high performing team he had assumed. He now understood why his new manager wanted to focus on productivity and even told me that 29% of workers are unproductive (Source: Proudfoot Consulting).

Unless you’re #1 at what you do, delve further whenever someone says productivity’s not a priority. It could be the very thing that’s undermining performance.