Productivity Is a System Problem

Productivity is about systems, not people, says the Harvard Business Review.

Sure, there are hacks and techniques each of us can use to filter out the noise, but in the end, writes Daniel Markovitz, “The most effective antidote to low productivity and inefficiency must be implemented at the system level, not the individual level.”

productivity workers stopwatch efficiency - blog.jpg

“94% of most problems and possibilities for improvement belong to the system, not the individual,” he says, citing the case made by W. Edwards Deming in his book Out of the Crisis. “I would argue that most productivity improvements belong there as well.”

This is a particularly telling point for human resources professionals who are often tasked with providing training on time management. Markovitz says there’s nothing wrong with teaching techniques like Pomodoro, Inbox Zero or one of the many others. What’s necessary is to also address system inefficiencies.

That’s where he focuses his article, offering what he calls “four countermeasures.”

Tier your huddles

Whether you call them stand-ups, check-ins or huddles, Markovitz shows us how to use these meetings to avoid the inefficiency of “scattershot emails about a variety of problems.” Instead of kicking problems up the hierarchy, address problems at the lowest possible level. Problems that can’t be resolved at the staff huddle are the ones, and the only ones, to escalate to the next level huddle.

Make work visible

Because so much of office work is done by individuals working alone, it becomes invisible. Implementing a physical or virtual task board where every task is represented along with who is handling it not only makes a more equitable distribution of work, it also eliminates status check emails and the need to cover that topic in meetings.

Markovitz suggests making downtime equally as visible. Instituting “predictable time off” allows workers to know when someone is unavailable and react accordingly.

Define the “bat signal”

Pointing out that Batman knew flashing the symbol of a bat in the sky meant a crisis, Markovitz suggests companies adopt something similar to indicate when an issue is a real emergency.

“With no agreement on what communication channel to use, workers are forced to check all digital messaging platforms to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. That’s toxic to productivity. Companies can make work easier for people if they specified channels for urgent and non-urgent issues.”

Align responsibility with authority

“If an employee is responsible for an outcome, they should have the authority to make the necessary decisions without being forced into an endless string of emails, meetings, or presentations,” writes Markovitz.

“The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile,” he agrees, though the value is limited because of all the pulls and tugs by others.

“To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level.”

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl | Image by Gerd Altmann

How to Answer Salary Expectations
General Interest Green Key News Worklife

How to Answer Salary Expectations

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Sean Coyne
Architecture + Engineering General Interest Green Key News Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Sean Coyne

Questions to Ask During a Job Interview
General Interest Green Key News Human Resources Worklife

Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Angela Singh
General Interest Green Key News Human Resources Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Angela Singh

The Power of Work Friends
General Interest Green Key News Worklife

The Power of Work Friends

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Rachel Azzolini
Accounting + Finance General Interest Green Key News Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Rachel Azzolini

The Effects of Quiet Quitting
General Interest Green Key News Worklife

The Effects of Quiet Quitting

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Karen Martinez
General Interest Green Key News Healthcare Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Karen Martinez

How to Address Strengths and Weaknesses in an Interview
General Interest Green Key News Human Resources Worklife

How to Address Strengths and Weaknesses in an Interview

Green Key Unlocked: Success as a Biometric Professional
General Interest Green Key News Pharma Worklife

Green Key Unlocked: Success as a Biometric Professional

Perks of Working Temp & Contract Roles
General Interest Green Key News Human Resources Worklife

Perks of Working Temp & Contract Roles

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Lindsay Smith
Accounting + Finance General Interest Green Key News Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Lindsay Smith

Tips for Starting a New Job as a Remote Employee
General Interest Green Key News Worklife

Tips for Starting a New Job as a Remote Employee

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Kayla Jones
General Interest Green Key News Pharma Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Kayla Jones

Green Key Unlocked: Marketing Technology Consultants
General Interest

Green Key Unlocked: Marketing Technology Consultants

How to Write a Thank You Email
General Interest Green Key News Worklife

How to Write a Thank You Email

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Ben Johnson
General Interest Green Key News Professional Support Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Ben Johnson

How Social Media Can Grow Your Business
Creative General Interest Green Key News Worklife

How Social Media Can Grow Your Business

How to Take Pride Beyond June
General Interest Green Key News Human Resources Worklife

How to Take Pride Beyond June

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Mary Baynard
General Interest Green Key News Professional Support Worklife

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Mary Baynard

Latest Blog Posts
View All Posts
How to Answer Salary Expectations

How to Answer Salary Expectations

Whether when filling out the application, or during the offer process, you will likely be asked about your salary expectations...
Read More
#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Sean Coyne

#WeAreGreenKey: Spotlight on Sean Coyne

Sean specializes in construction recruitment and has several years of experience within the industry.
Read More
Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

Questions to Ask During a Job Interview

If you’re a working professional, you’ve likely experienced the end of interview session, when the interviewer asks if you have...
Read More