The Productivity Budget

Budget commentary over the last few days has included the fact that NZers work some of the longest hours in the OECD and are among the lowest in productivity. Some explain this in terms of infrastructure investment (or lack thereof), yet, so many think tanks, commissions and reviews have been set up over the years to examine this anomaly that if we’d invested the money instead, we may have actually solved the issue by now. Or not.

They say true discovery is not seeking new landscapes but having new eyes. (Old landscapes – new eyes.) Why is it that the average organisation purchases 100 Billion brain cells per employee, pays their full entitlement each pay day and then effectively stops the average employee from using their brainpower to get stuff done. All too often, they are told what to do, how to do it, when to do it by, or actually stopped from doing what said employee knows will fix a problem (and that is currently driving productivity through the floor) because of some seemingly valid reason (or a range of invalid ones).

A key question is: given the complexity of work these days, you are bound to encounter numerous problems that stand between you and organisational goal achievement on any given day, in any given moment. Why is it that employees are given solutions to implement that all too often they know will only make things worse, instead of asking people what is getting in the way of productivity, giving them the time and space to fix the problems, agreeing the parameters of a successful solution, and letting them do what the brain does naturally – solve problems.

People are born problem solvers. It is the ultimate brain-high to sort things out and make things work better. Instead, we have created organisations that stifle contribution and suck people’s spirit out of them.

Back in the 90s, we had things called self-managed teams. Some organisations still operate that way, successfully, after decades, and wonder why they do not represent the majority.

Back in the 90s there was also this management-speak called “Empowerment” which I always disliked as it ignored the fact that not only do employees have more power than those ‘in power’ – exhibit A: low productivity – but the word implies I am bestowing some of my power on others. This is a sad case of self-delusion.

It is also sad because employees who really want to make things work for the best are eventually turned off by the waste of effort and energy they see around them. Eventually, they just show up to exchange hours at work for a paycheck, rather than keep trying to make things better. What a waste. (Then the manager complains that people lack initiative.)

Some leaders successfully operate according to a different paradigm and they and their employees have no idea this is not the norm. To name just two, David Marquette and a local leader

To hear about a way of managing that optimises productivity, check out a talk to a Meet up group this Wednesday evening (23 May 2018) at AUT in central Auckland.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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2 Responses to The Productivity Budget

  1. Nice one Cherri. Isn’t it a paradox though that because you are the visionary, you want things done your want things done your own way. I agree that leaders need to learn to let go and maintain a balance between control and allowing the led to be themselves. As a leader one needs to take the role of an enabler and that should bring productivity up.

    • Thanks for the comment! Another way to see it is that I really want to know what people see/think needs to be done – as a manager, I came to realise that I was under the illusion of being ‘in control’. I only had one(narrow) perspective but together, as a collective, we covered most angles of what was needed. I was outnumbered by the team so they (collectively) had more control over our results than I ever could, It is not about controlling people. The right people in the right place doing the right thing is when you achieve what’s possible; the rest is a waste and uses a fraction of what people are able to contribute.That’s seems to be ‘human’ as I have seen this across diverse cultures. That’s been my experience, anyway, and when it gets you better results, and makes work less stressful and more enjoyable, it seems to make sense!

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