Productivity

With only 346 days left in 2013, what future are you going to create? 1

Joel Quass asks what are your goals in 2013?

What do you see this year?

I have read dozens of articles about making New Year’s resolutions, both pros and cons. Many state that the very act of writing resolutions down helps solidify them in your sub conscious, and you are more likely to achieve them. Others quote Napoleon Hill and say, loosely paraphrased, “New Year’s Resolutions made without any action towards their achievement, are merely dreams”.

This morning I read – Strategy? Gut or Intuition? on LinkedIn. The author ends stating:

THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT.

Without going into the debate about self-determination, I want to encourage finding that scrap of paper where you wrote your New Year’s Resolutions. If they are not on paper yet,  jot them down and tape them to the side of your computer monitor.

Sure there are only 346 days left in the year. But if you use them wisely, you can create a future that more closely mirrors your expectations.

What’s a good manager worth? 2

As a manager, what are you worth?

Much has been written about the value of CEOs. Companies justify huge bonuses and compensation packages to keep top talent from moving on. But what about middle management, department managers, shift managers? How can their worth be measured?

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper written by Edward P Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw and Christopher T. Stanton . It is titled The Value of Bosses. What I found exciting is they looked at value from a productivity standpoint.  There were three conclusions:

  1. The choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. The average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker
  2. A boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist.
  3. Efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.

Simply put, you can get more out of your better workers when they are led by a better boss. Better bosses teach. Better bosses inspire.

Better bosses make their employees more efficient. Michael Quinlan as President of McDonald’s Corporation said that “one of the most important aspects of his job-and one at which he spends approximately one-third of his time-was cutting red tape.

Productivity is a wonderful measure of worth. As a manager, you create value for your team (and for yourself) when productivity increases. Every one of us as managers should look at the value we are currently providing and make sure we are doing the things that will continue to show our worth as boss.

Where did everybody go? 5

Labor Day Holiday

The last week of “summer” is usually marked by a lack of productivity. As the Labor Day sales ads hit the airwaves, people who have not taken a vacation jump ship and head for the beach.  Many have already taken this week off, knowing that their plates will be full after Labor Day.

There are many signs that this week is not about work. On a Macro-scale, volume on the NYSE drops significantly. This year is no exception. On a micro-scale, many of my Facebook friends are posting vacation pictures. Re-tweets to my Twitter posts are down this week. On LinkedIn, there are very few new connection updates being posted. Traffic to my blog is down for the first time this year.

I have not joined the ranks of the vacationers yet. But I hear the weekend calling and I will soon yield to its call. If you don’t hear from me until Tuesday, you will know why.

Enjoy the holiday!

Does Your Organization Create Bottle Necks? 6

 You never know when and where a bottle neck will occur. I had arrived in plenty of time for the new officer training class. All I wanted to do was to meet with a friend before the morning session began. But the only entrance into the meeting room was blocked by the registration table.

At the time it was a little annoying, but I finally worked my way through, registering as I passed the table. Perhaps that was the idea. But the meeting was being held in a private company’s conference room and the building was back from the road on a tree-lined campus. I don’t think they were afraid of gate crashers.

After almost three hours of presentations, we broke for lunch. Guess where the lunch table was positioned? Just outside of the only exit from the meeting room. By this time, getting out for many was very urgent.  There had been no bathroom break.

As I struggled to maintain my composure while the line slowly moved towards the exit, I made the attached sketch.

I wonder how many times this happens? Are there bottlenecks in your organization? Are they merely inconvenient or do they impact productivity and cost money?   What types of bottle necks have you seen?

 

Seven ways to take charge of your To Do List 9

So you want to be more organized and have a list of things to accomplish. Now what?

  1. Create your list at the end of your workday, before leaving the office (give yourself permission to plan your next day, you’ll sleep better and will arrive at work feeling organized)
  2. Budget 10 – 15 minutes for planning and solitude (make this a daily priority on your list; Without a plan, you are just busy, not effective)
  3. Rank your list (deadlines for projects, client calls to return, you know what’s most important)
  4. Do the task you ranked #1 first (this is soooo… hard when there is e-mail to look at, YouTube video to share The Tickle Me Plant and co-workers to talk with)
  5. Check your tasks off as you complete them (there is a certain satisfaction in completing a task and the act of checking it off causes the body to release positive endorphins. Occasionally, I will write something I did on the list, just so I can cross it off)
  6. As new items come up during the day, add them to the bottom of the list. You will rank them at the end of the day (KEEP ONE LIST. If I write a note on a little slip of paper, I carry it in my hand until I can write it on my list. When I put a note in my pocket, the odds of it ending up on my to-do list decrease exponentially)
  7. “Do first things first and second things not at all” – Peter Drucker (The point of a list is to focus your attention on the most important aspects of your job. When you cross off your number 1 item, number 2 becomes your new number one.)

Apply these seven techniques and you will find you have taken charge of your To Do List.

Four reasons your plan is too complicated 2

Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?

I was on the treadmill at the gym this afternoon and on one of the TV’s they were running Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard. I had seen the movie before and was concentrating more on getting to 1.5 miles in less than 20 minutes when this scene caught my attention:

Matt Farrell: Do we have anything, like, resembling a plan, or anything?
John McClane: Find Lucy, kill everybody else.
Matt Farrell: I mean, more like a plan, like, a way to do that.

Right after this John McClane (Bruce Willis) picks up a pipe wrench and takes out bad guys with his bare hands. The Geek, Matt Farrell, who is interested in John’s daughter,  is armed with a laptop and quite a bit of theory.

The whole scene  reminded me how sometimes managers can over complicate things. In fact, here are four reasons why your plan is too complicated:

  1. It’s over thought – it’s very detailed and complex. It smacks of “justifying your position” instead of a realistic plan
  2. It’s not taking into account the resources at hand. It might be a great plan if you had 20 super-star employees, but your budget is forcing you to do it with ten and you can’t choose which employees you get. So now the plan is not realistic.
  3. It’s not addressing the real issue. (This could be a plug for my book!) Your plan isn’t going to address the real issue and later you are going to need to go back and fix it.
  4. It’s not timely - it’s a 5 year plan for a two-week deadline

You might get lucky in the end, I mean Matt Farrell did get the girl. But did you see what he had to go through? Now if he had a less complicated plan…

If you take this death may occur 2

If you take this death will occur

What comes to mind when you hear the words “if you take this death may occur”? My first thought was it might be written on the briefcase carrying our Nation’s Nuclear Launch Codes. Perhaps it would be posted on a respirator in the trauma unit of a local hospital. Or even on the air packs and spacesuits NASA astronauts wear in space. I never expected to see it on a  stapler in an office.

Productivity is one of the keys to success in any business. Getting things done efficiently  makes us feel good and motivates us to the next task. But what if you can’t find the tools to do your job?

Many of us can relate to not being able to find a pen, a paperclip or a piece of tape when you need one. Offices are notorious for always running out of basics. I’m sure if you checked the tray between the seats in your car you have one or two office pens. Or maybe you have a collection on your dresser at home that you have been meaning to bring back to the office. The point is, having access to a stapler (filled with staples) when you need it seems to be a privilege, not a right, in an office setting. But then I saw this stapler.

Now the whole idea of taking the time to print an Avery label the size of the top of a stapler with the words “If you take this death will occur” seems a bit extreme. On some level you can really feel the frustration of the owner. You can picture years of going to the desk, a stack of papers in hand only to find the stapler missing. Then there’s the productivity issue of wasting 5 minute searching for;  first, your stapler, then any stapler, in order to complete a simple task.

I must admit when I first saw the stapler, I laughed. But that was before I needed to send a letter and I couldn’t find my roll of stamps. So next time you’re tempted to “borrow” a stapler in the office, imagine this  warning on top and at the very least, put it back when you are done. Everyone will be more productive.

Is It To Hard? 0

“If you are doing something and it’s to hard, then you are doing something wrong; ’cause things are made to be easy” My friend Ian

If you think of how a river develops, you can see this concept in action. The river begins as a stream, usually fed from a spring. The spring pops up through the earth and water begins its journey towards its ultimate destination, the sea. As the water moves along, it searches for the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the lowest ground. It also joins forces with other streams fed by other springs, collectively heading towards the ocean.

Once enough streams join together, a river is established. Rivers usually start with many twists and turns, taking the easiest course. Eventually some of these twists become so extreme that they meet, creating oxbow lakes. Eventually, the river takes a shortcut and bypasses this section, making the path to the sea easier.

If you draw a straight line from Canada to the Gulf Coast, that is the Mississippi River today. It took millions of years to develop. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of smaller rivers, streams tributaries, creeks, rills and brooks are all joined together in a single body by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Before applying this concept to your business, think about your daily routine. Are you making things easy or are you making things hard? My friend Ian and I were talking about productivity in the workplace. He was noticing how some managers could “see the easy way to get something done.” As we talked I realized that Ian wasn’t saying that they were taking short-cuts, but that they could visualize a more productive way to get the task done. Accomplishing something in a productive manner may only mean taking a moment to make sure that the employee has all of the tools they will need before you send them out to start a project. Or that you have your employee repeat back to you what you want them to accomplish, so when you check with them later, they are actually working on what you need done and not what they thought you wanted.

Your efforts in your business require all of your employees to work together in order for them to be most productive. Being successful means everyone must be seeking the “easiest path”, the most productive path. Your individual branch offices must align if you are going to grow. Each part of your supply chain must mesh or you end up with parts of the company cut off from the rest, totally isolated and unproductive. Each department within your company must do what is best for the company, not protect their own interests at the expense of the organization.

The idea that “if it’s too hard, then you are not doing it right” is a marvelous gauge you can apply to see if you, your employee(s) or your business is as productive as it could be. Chances are, if it’s too hard, you’re not doing it right