Workplace surveys suggest that nearly one full day of every workweek--up to nine weeks a year--is taken up by unproductive time. While some of the blame lies with inefficient or unmotivated employees, a lot of it can be chalked up to decisions made--or not made--by managers.
How well do you maintain your team's productivity and control time loss? For each item, rate yourself from 1 ("almost never") to 5 ("almost always"):
- I set clear guidelines for productivity and for sticking to business during the workday.
- I back up my talk about productivity with careful monitoring of what actually gets done.
- I instill in my people a sense of urgency about their work and why it matters.
- I keep everyone informed about our general goals and how well we are doing as a group.
- I offer more positive than negative feedback when it comes to discussing people's daily work.
- I thoroughly cross-train my people so they can switch jobs and fill in for one another as needed.
- I make a conscious effort to involve my people in decision making and problem solving.
- I see to it that our work is planned, that we stay scheduled, and that everything starts on time.
- I work out contingency plans for times when the regular workflow is slowed or stopped for reasons beyond our control.
- I stress results rather than activity and reinforce efforts people make to get back on track when they fall behind.
- I set the right sort of example by the way I manage my own time and my attitude toward my own work.
What do your answers mean?
Higher scores are better, although it is possible to be too focused on productivity at the expense of team morale. If you gave yourself more than 50 points, be careful that your efforts don't backfire; if you're seen as an unbending taskmaster, your team's morale will suffer, and productivity will go down with it.
On the other hand, if you gave yourself fewer than 30 points, you may end up with the same results for the opposite reason. A workplace where there's little focus on productivity and little structure to support the workflow is also demotivating; people end up feeling they've worked hard but have little sense of accomplishment. And morale and productivity suffer.
Note that focusing on productivity and controlling wasted time doesn't always require negative reinforcement. Praise and recognition, engaging your employees in decision making, giving them variety in their work--these all build commitment and make it easier for people to stay focused on their work, and get more done in less time.