Increasing Business Productivity

Increasing Business Productivity

How many leaders have a good idea of how productive each employee is on a day-to-day basis?

I recently worked with Vicky, owner of a small technology business to assess the productivity of her employees. Realizing that she didn’t know what an adequate staffing level should be for software engineers to reach optimal productivity. I suggested that many staff members only have a vague idea of what they are supposed to be doing every day or week. I told Vicky about the five levels of productivity and how they can help her business.

The Five Levels of Productivity

  1. I have no plan
  2. I have a plan in mind
  3. I verbally share my plan
  4. I write down my plan
  5. I read my plan daily/weekly and I achieve it consistently 

Looking at just the new product development department, we reviewed Clyde, a software engineer. Sure, Clyde knows he is to write code every day, but how much is enough? Does Clyde have a daily goal of lines to code or does he just keep busy doing the ‘best he can’ while hoping the department head, Mary, is satisfied with his work.

I pointed out that unless you have intentionally examined productivity, it is likely that your leadership has no idea about the efficiency across the organization.

Here are the 5 levels:

1. I have no plan

This is where most of the world lives. Clyde may have a vague idea of routine tasks, but Mary has not defined what success looks like. Or, Mary may ask imprecise questions, such as “did you get a lot done today?” and Clyde replies with ‘Yes’ without really knowing what ‘a lot’ means. 

2. I have a plan in mind

Let’s say Clyde is daydreaming and guesses that 2500 lines of code would be a good day’s work. It is much more likely for Clyde to be more productive simply by having a number in mind. Still, a goal not shared, is only a dream.

3. I verbally share my plan

The next level of productivity is accomplished when Clyde mentions his daily number in passing to Cecil, a coworker. Now Clyde has made a commitment with another person, so the level of productivity increases even more. Perhaps this prods Cecil to make a silent commitment to at least match Clyde’s number. Still, a number not written down is only a wish.

4. I write down my plan

Next, before Clyde goes on vacation, Mary, Clyde’s boss, asks that he write some notes for Teri, the temp, who replaces Clyde for the two weeks he is out. Now that the number is on paper, it gains power, exceeds the dream and becomes a goal.

5. I read my plan daily/weekly and I execute it effectively

Mary asks Teri, new to the job, to review the notes left by Clyde at the start of each day, thereby establishing accountability for the goal.

Of course, this story of accountability just won’t happen by magic. Vicky must train Mary to hold weekly meetings where these objective goals are developed. Whether Clyde’s number should be 2500 or 25000 is to be determined jointly with Mary. The departmental meeting (30-60 minutes) should be at the same time and day every week, (see sample agenda below). 


Min. Topic

5      Prayer/Segue: Personal and professional best

5      Headlines: Staff, customers, others 

5      Rocks 

5      To Do List 

35    Issues: 

  • Identify / Discuss / Resolve the one, two, three most important issues
  • SWOT, what’s working, not working, KPI . 
  • (Take a few quiet minutes to develop the list.)

5      Conclude

  • To do list recap
  • Cascading messages 
  • Rate 0-10
  • Headlines: A brief announcement about recent events/transactions involving staff, customers, or other stakeholders.
  • Rocks: 90 day priorities. See Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
  • KPI: Key Performance Indicators
  • Cascading Messages: What needs to be communicated to whom

Mary should designate who should run the meeting and who should document the discussion.

Additionally, Mary found that the weekly meetings should be reinforced with daily Stand-ups meetings. A Stand-up meeting is 3-5 minutes long and everyone, if practical, should be standing to keep a sense of urgency alive. Everyone in a Stand-up meeting should briefly state what they will be doing that day and their KPI. Daily stand-ups prevent a loss of productivity during the week and help to keep your staff connected with one another.

If you would like to discuss how to implement these concepts, please contact me.

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