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Productivity Is About Your Systems, Not Your People

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Click to read: Productivity Is About Your Systems, Not Your People

Source: Harvard Business Review

Snippets: The pursuit of individual productivity is healthy and worthwhile. However, unless you work independently outside of an organization, the benefits of most “tricks” will be limited. To make a real impact on performance, you have to work at the system level.

“Complex organizations are defined by inter-dependencies among people, and it’s often these inter-dependencies that have the greatest effect on personal productivity.”

Make work visible in the systems, productivity is about your systems. Most of the work in an office environment is invisible, they are buried in people’s computers or their heads. As a result, it’s difficult to know what people are working on or whether they’re overloaded and unable to take on more tasks. Physical or virtual task boards (such as Trello, Asana, Airtable, Zenkit, etc.), can be used. There, every task can be represented by a card specifying who is handling it and its status. This enables a more equitable distribution of work. It also eliminates both countless status check emails and the need to cover that topic in meetings.

“Companies can make work easier for people if they specified channels for urgent and non-urgent issues.”

Align responsibility with authority. Too often workers are made responsible for tasks but aren’t given the authority to deliver results. This misalignment leads to frustration, stress, and overburden. The rule is simple: if an employee is responsible for an outcome, they should have the authority to make the necessary decisions. And they should be able to do this, without being forced into an endless string of emails, meetings, or presentations.

Also, employees should be allowed to make “above the waterline” (i.e., low-risk) decisions on their own. And only requiring approvals for “below the waterline” (high-risk) decisions.

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