Teamy the Bee (courtesy of Singapore Visual Archive)
Teamy the Bee should be worried.
Labour productivity in Singapore has dropped by 1.9% in the last quarter, making it the 3rd quarter by quarter decline. With the manufacturing sector showing a 3% growth in productivity, it is clear that the service sector is the main culprit for productivity drops.
This is further aggravated by the reduction in non-oil exports, indicating a serious slowdown in global markets.
In a global economy which seems to have more downside than upside, the only way for enterprises and employees to thrive may be to do more with less. Raising our individual productivity helps us to boost our bottomlines while minimising the need for painful retrenchment.
How can we improve our productivity then? Let us consider the 6 Ts.
The first T is probably the hardest to do. We humans have an uncanny ability to add, increase and multiply. However, we’re often loathe to slaughter those sacred cows at work or to simplify our processes for fear that something would be lost in translation.
To truly transform our businesses, we need to “kill our darlings”. Start with meetings, reports, updates and emails. Reduce unnecessary paperwork. Streamline processes. Pare things down to the barest minimum (and then some).
You’ll be surprised to learn that the world wouldn’t fall apart with one less KPI!
The second T looks at how we can systematize those burdensome documents so that they don’t keep returning to haunt us. Instead of trying to reconcile a hundred different formats on excel, find a way to adopt a consistent standard in capturing and sharing information. Standardise data capture so that you need not key in the same stuff over and over again.
Adopting fixed formats does not mean being rigid. There will be room for creativity. Note that even the most innovative organisations like Apple and Pixar are heavily focused on documenting and following their key processes.
Clarity in internal communication is critical in improving productivity. I’ve seen countless instances where misunderstandings have led to countless emails to-ing and fro-ing over a simple issue.
To eliminate this, consider how information can be captured meaningfully and shared amongst those who need access to it. Build systems that allow information and data to be transmitted and shared to those who need them where they need them. Wherever possible, reduce the need for employees to produce and transmit multiple copies of the same information to different parties.
Boosting productivity often involves painful change. You can’t be side-stepping the elephant in the room and pretend that the problem will blow away when the ship comes in.
To gear up an organisation for change, you need to have an open conversation. Share what’s right and what worked, but also be honest about the areas of improvement. Any productivity measure requires changes in job scopes and processes.
As Michael Jordan has said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” To do well in the productivity stakes, you need to work in partnership with your colleagues, suppliers, distributors and partners to address system and process issues. There is no place for prima donnas in a productive organisation.
Finally, productivity is about being thoughtful of one’s work and one’s colleagues. It is about making things easier for both you, your colleagues and other stakeholders. It is about consciously improving processes, practices and policies so that onerous work can be reduced while not compromising on service. It is also about thinking beyond one’s traditional area of work to consider how the organisation functions holistically as a system of systems.