If the answer is <Increasing Productivity>, what is the question?

Rux Dariescu
Sustainable Business Performance Coach
Automatic Summary

Increasing Productivity: Reevaluating the Questions We Ask

In the quest for increased productivity and improved performance, we often overlook a significant aspect: The types of questions we're asking. This article will approach productivity from a new angle, inviting you to explore the potential benefits of asking the right questions about performance and productivity.

Understanding the Controversy surrounding Productivity

Our world is saturated with conflicting information about productivity, with some advocating for positive work cultures while others highlight the implications of workplace stress and fatigue. The pervasive question remains: Is productivity positive or negative? Do technological advancements and collaborative workspaces enhance or undermine our productivity?

Defining Productivity: An Organizational Perspective

From an organization's standpoint, productivity usually aligns closely with numbers, particularly profit margins. Factors such as market operations, sales, revenue, and business strategy contribute to these margins. However, the primary questions surrounding productivity often gravitate towards quantity and speed: 'how much?', 'how many?' and 'how fast?'

The Individual Perspective on Productivity

From an individual perspective, the idea of productivity changes. Productivity hinges on skills, trust, prioritized work, technology application, knowledge, collaboration, and time management. The intersectionality of these elements forms the foundation of personal productivity.

Disconnected Narratives of Productivity

When discussing productivity, it's crucial to understand that each individual's performance narratives, connected through shared purpose, contribute to overall results. However, micro-stresses experienced by each employee can counteract productivity, resulting in reduced results.

Rephrasing the Productivity Question

The solution? Instead of focusing on "increasing productivity," we should ask: "Are we connected through purpose?" The reality is that without connection, productivity is impossible. When individual performances are unlocked through purpose, productivity increases organically.

Addressing Productivity-Related Questions

1. Lack of Purpose or Interest in a Project

Even without interest or perceived purpose, acknowledge the immediate rationale for undertaking a task, for instance, getting paid. Use this moment to observe and understand what drives you towards purposefulness. Prioritize differently or organize work in a way that frees up space for exploration and growth.

2. Misalignment Between Team and Global Objectives

In large, global organizations, miscommunication and lack of alignment may occur. It’s vital that teams and the upper echelons of the organization bridge these gaps, restoring trust and improving productivity.

3. Two Teams, One Product, Different Purposes

Two teams with different purposes, working on the same product, must find alignment on strategic thinking and work in harmony. Purpose doesn't just happen- maintaining alignment is a daily effort carried out through conscious collaboration.

Productivity is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and its interpretation can vary significantly from one individual or organization to another. It's crucial to keep revising and reconsidering the questions we ask about productivity, ensuring that our inquiries align with our ever-evolving perspectives.

For more detailed insights about purpose and its various dimensions, refer to my book available at book.com. I extend an open invitation to connect with me on LinkedIn or write to me at [email protected] for any further discussions or queries related to productivity and performance.

Video Transcription

Hello and welcome to this session about increasing productivity. I will, we will be commencing shortly. We give another few seconds or up to minutes for everyone to join. Um Please be aware that there is a uh chat option.Uh If you would like to ask questions there, please do use the chat for it. I will um allow time at the end of my presentation to take questions and would be wonderful to interact today. Um If you would like to connect with me, I have my uh linkedin um tag at the end of the session to, to just write it down. It is very simple is Ruxd. Um So you can find me on linkedin there. Um But I think we are just about ready to uh start and I look forward to sharing this journey with you today. Um Really uh today, I want to focus on the types of questions we are asking when we talk about increasing productivity. And that is because, you know, as a coach, uh I work with uh people who are very much focused on increasing their performance and doing the best they can in every moment. But um I, I always come across the same thing. Are we asking ourselves the right questions when it's coming, if it comes to productivity or performance?

So this is the focus of the presentation today and to be able to make sense of what I'm saying, I would like to share with you a little bit about my background and uh why this topic is uh of such a high interest to me. I am. Um I've been working for over 25 years in the technology world. I delivered uh over 10 businesses from a startup on and I've managed hundreds of people on this journey modernized many many product portfolios, optimized processes and delivered thousands of coaching hours. I am an award winning business performance coach and I've been working and um supporting the network of uh women tech for at least three years now. And my purpose is really to help leader understand that recognizing an interaction play pattern between people can truly transform performance.

It allows a lot of free space for exploration for passions for well-being and sustainable growth. Um Last year I had published my first book that focuses on our ability to deliver together a term. I have, I have coined a sustainable project deliver and this book is available at book dot com. Um If you wanna work with me, I mentor via um the human tech mentors network and I look forward to seeing more of you joining me there. So are we, we are surrounded by a lot of information in our world and some of it makes sense. Some doesn't make sense. Uh Many, many other types of information are controversial. And one of the points about productivity, it's actually quite controversial because what the world is telling us about productivity is um coming from many, many angles and I picked a few that will help us journey together today. Number one I picked up is about the business strategy and productivity. So we look at um at news every day, we look uh into how people talk about productivity and we actually come to see different aspects of it. Headlines from the past two or three months um In, in um our media about productivity are focusing on productivity as a crisis like a problem with the management.

Um Questions, why are we getting uh so bad at productivity or you know, burnout and staff shortages cause decline in productivity. But at the other end, we also find information that, you know, prove that positive work cultures are more productive. Uh Our culture is developed through a strategy.

So how come on one hand, we talk about the problem and on the other hand, the same problem becomes a solution and it's, it's what we see every day. And there are organizations that are capturing this in monetary um parameters and they say that about 500 million work days and uh equivalent of 500 billion in productivity. Are lost because the workplace stress. Now, that's an interesting number. It's quite high. And if you think of the numbers that are articulated in, in the media these days, about losses, about downsizing businesses, you probably are on that uh ballpark. But they also go deeper and say, you know what, we can calculate the loss um in uh productivity per employee that is linked to fatigue. Now, we know all this because we all feel tired and we all feel there is something there that has to give at some point. So that's that's you know, the view of business strategy and productivity. If we take the look, a look at the productivity and the digital world we are in, this is also at the opposite ends.

One time, we see that digital distractions and information overload, impair workplace productivity or the digital workplace, it's a dark side, you know, it has a lot of um uh um techno techno stress, overload, anxiety, addiction, all kinds of negatives around it. But we also use digital and technology for um productivity and output for um in enhancing our interaction with technology. And not only but looking at the bigger stories of our planet, you know, the United Nations Coalition for Digital Environment Sustainability. That is prioritizing the application of digital technology to address big questions of our um humanity like climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and waste. So, you know, productivity and digital again are negative and a positive if we are looking at another aspect at the workplace specifically, you know, we create workplaces for collaboration these days. But there are many studies that are showing that too much collaboration is actually detrimental because it impairs concentration and reduce of job satisfaction and or you know, they can create a culture of constant interruptions. But you know what that is also having a positive side because collaborative workspaces are enhancing productivity and creativity. So who do we believe in the question of increasing productivity? Is it a negative or a positive that the workplace is collaborative?

Is it a negative or a positive that we adopt digital technologies? We don't know because we are actually not asking the right question. So let's start with the basics productivity. What is it one of the things that we are looking when we define productivity is coming from the knowledge industry? Because we our output in the knowledge industry where we we have technology creation um is not in, you know, how many bytes or how much, how, how many megabytes of stuff we create? Yeah, that would give us an output. But in reality, uh the productivity it's actually measured by the amount of value created for each hour. This is how we are uh quantifying our work. The tricky thing here. And this is a definition coming from mckinsey. The trick tricky thing here for me has been what's the definition of value? Yeah. And then we have the other aspect of productivity in economics, which is a measure of output per unit of input. Now being in the knowledge industry, a unit of input equals a brain because I use my brain for my productivity. So now that can be quantified. So how do we look at productivity?

There are many perspectives and it really depends who is asking the question if you take productivity as the question coming from an organization, like what does being productive mean for my organization, we will often see that productivity, productivity there is actually tightly linked to numbers to the higher profit margin usually.

And you know, we, we say it's customer satisfaction, we want to deliver on time on cost, we want to deliver on strategic plan. But in effect, the productivity, there is only measure for the profit margin. Now, there are many elements that are contributing to the profit margin and there is an expectation that it's constantly increasing and it's unidirectional, it's always going towards growth. And you know, all the business functions are contributing to that. Um They, we, we look at the market we sell into the market, we have a number of people working into it that cost money. It's about business operations, revenue, business strategy. And if we have so many components, then you know, the the next thing for me is asking what questions are we posing in each one of the dimensions of the business that are generating the higher profit margin representing productivity in this case, where we are actually looking um to uh create an environment, right?

So most of the questions I've been able to come across are about how much, how many, how fast? Yeah, these are, these are things that are asked around the profit margin. And this is the perspective of asking about productivity from an organization point of view. Now, if I am uh looking at perspectives from um my um role in an organization, the question is what does productivity look like looks like for me? And I'm in a role, my role belongs in a team. My team works on projects and we connect at project level for purpose. So my purpose is to be able to connect market salespeople cause business operations revenue in a way that represent what I can deliver to have an organization becoming more productive. And what I can deliver is very, very simple. Yeah, when it comes to my skills, my what I can I can deliver if I have the right skills, when it comes to the work environment, it I can deliver. If I actually trust the place where I live, I can deliver privatized work. If I understand what matters in my work, what matters from my delivery point of view, I can use technology. If I have technology that helps me to do my work, I can apply knowledge. Yeah, if I know how to do things I can collaborate. But many times I have to ask the question if everyone I collaborate with is actually valuable to deliver what matters and I can manage my time um in a way that I can do everything I commit to.

Now, these are aspects that unless they are intersected, I cannot really be productive nor I can be performant. I as an individual sit somewhere in the middle at the intersection of all these things. And my purpose is bidirectional at a minimum. On one hand, it's my personal purpose and growth in an organization in a career. And on the other hand, my purpose of now, right in this moment has to connect with the purpose of the organization. Now this thing, the story of what questions do I ask in terms of my productivity, I think that we are in a position of saying that the narratives we are um uh told about uh what it means to be productive are actually a series of disconnected stories because I work at the intersection of my questions and I connect through purpose to unlock performance only then the organization becomes productive.

So in fact, my performance narratives being connected through purpose become a compounding force that contributes to results. My performance compounds equally. At the other end, my individual micros stresses are compo are compounding forces that are contributing to shrinking results.

And I see that because every single aspect of the will where we look at skills, the work environment, privatization technology, knowledge, collaboration, or time management. They are elements that could add or remove stress from the way I perform. Therefore, my organization becomes productive.

So if we are to rephrase the question from um uh increasing productivity, what is the question we can look at uh uh the different way of formulating it? Which is are we connected through purpose? In that case, the answer that delivers that its increased productivity, no connection means no productivity. And as much as we would like to be in a world where we are connected, we have to work constantly to get to that level. So individual performance is unlocked and then it's it, it becomes what we all want in our workplace. The future of our workplaces can happen today. We want to be highly creative. We want to be um to, to maintain a positive optimism in our work. We want to have space for exploration. We want to be all this and more if the right question about productivity is asked, so I will stop here and would like to thank you very much for listening to me. It's been a pleasure to be your purposeful guide today. And I'm now ready to take your questions. I have a question that reads like this. Um I have no purpose or interest in a project I'm doing but I have to do it and I would, it would be hard to be productive. How do I go on? Is there any way. That's a beautiful question because to be honest, I come across these situations, day in day out. Indeed, when we have no purpose of interest in a project, you know, we, we have made a decision why we are there. It's not just happening to us.

Life doesn't just happen to us. We have a decision why we are there and your purpose may be just immediate to get paid for it and that is sufficient to keep you going. It's not gonna keep you highly motivated or is not gonna open space for exploration at this moment in time. But if you are starting to observe yourself and become aware of the things that will drive you in the direction of becoming purposeful, you build them one at a time. Yeah, you may want to organize your work to free up more space for you. You may wanna prioritize more work in a different way. So you can go through it faster and again, free up space for exploration because that space in our mind is what's gonna drive us to become purposeful. And I, I hope this helps. I have uh another question that is if purposes are not aligned between teams and global, this is a very classic problem and it is a continuous one. It's uh purposes are given, giving us a direction uh and explain to us why we are there. And there are many times when teams and businesses, especially the global ones are disconnected on purpose that uh those are the hard situations to swallow.

But uh every business will have a business strategy to drive towards something and the team can generate its purpose when it's finding one aspect of that big strategy that it connects with and focuses on that to deliver. It's much easier said than done because between a team and the top where the strategy is created, probably there are many layers to, to go through to actually be able to connect on purpose. But there has to be a little starting point that uh brings the team, the confidence and the trust that the work environment will allow them to become connected to become purposeful and become productive. You know, there are no businesses about people and there are now no projects without people. So it there is when, when these disconnects are happening, it's on both sides, the team and the leadership of the organization to start bridging things. I when, when there is no alignment, trust is being broken, trust is the hardest thing to reestablish in a business. And people switch off from that you don't want to deal with it. You don't go to work to be put down every time. But this is where sometimes we find ourselves and these are really hard situations to, to uh deal with. Uh if you want to reach out to me outside this forum to further discuss what's possible, please um write to me at, hello at dot com.

I would be happy to um uh work through, through uh the questions together. I have another question coming through is um what if we are working on the same product? But we are two teams and each one has a different purpose. Well, these are situations that are um uh easier managed through uh alignment on strategic uh thinking. Um If, if the two teams have different purposes, they will work in different rhythms. And if you work on the same product, you typically have to deliver together, the end product is one. So if you, if a team has a purpose and another team has a different purpose, they work in different rhythms and their ability to deliver together meaningful work, that will mean something of value to an end user or a market, then that becomes um uh disruptive. So alignment of on purpose, it's important, maintaining that alignment, it's a day to day effort. Purpose doesn't just happen and maintaining, it doesn't just happen. It's a conscious effort and this is done through people. You know, collaboration has a meaning, but the meaning of what we collaborate on reconnects people on purpose, we have a tendency to be in all meetings all the time.

And um we feel that we miss something if we are not part of it, but that tendency is not making us more performant. It's actually adding more pressure because we are, we are involved in things that have no value to us. So they move us away from our own purpose of being, they are doing a good job. And so when things are uh separated by purpose, working on the same product that has to be corrected sooner than later before, is becoming a big conflict. If you are um interested uh in the book, here, there is an entire chapter dedicated to purpose and the many dimensions of, of uh purpose and how we can um bring those dimensions together. I it's one of the areas that for the past 15 years or so, I've been researching a lot in business as a product leader, as a business leader. Um because, you know, each individual has its own perspective and when you bring together many people, um you are actually uh bringing together many perspectives. So it is really important to discover the nuances of those perspectives and referring back to the question of, you know, two teams, two purposes, one product. Now it's, it's, these are nuances that have to be discussed, have to be understood and accepted.

We have to become aware of what they are and what they mean because the only perspective that is true it right now, right in this moment, why do I say that is because when we are looking at the um overall um perspective uh system, um I have, I can have my work today from the perspective of what I know today, some things could change by tomorrow and that brings me a new perspective.

So what question do you ask at what point in time and who is the audience for it? It's very important. Now, I will pause here and would like to thank you very much for joining me today. Please do reach out and stay in touch via linkedin. Um You find me with the little tag SD or write to me at, at sorry. Hello at dot com and I look forward to uh connecting. Thank you very much.