Improving Productivity and Momentum through Engagement
by Kevin D. Crone
With knowledge workers, it seems almost impossible at times to motivate them to urgent, profitable action . We tend to use meetings as a way to generate that urgency. Unfortunately, few people in meetings are clear on the: what, why, where, when, how, and with whom (including management!). It happens so commonly that few people see this as a productivity breakdown, but this is exactly what it is. If meetings are inefficient, muddled, and unproductive, it’s because of the lack of business clarity surrounding the big questions that need answering.
Some people see business as too complex, with too many moving and competing parts, and few leadership teams that are eager or able to figure it out. In turn, they can’t easily create the business momentum required in this rapidly changing world. It would help to get a grip on the big questions; what are they?
WHAT IS OUR DIRECTION?
The San Diego Zoo was once home to a very popular two-headed snake, but it didn’t survive for long. The heads battled over everything – which way to go, when to fight over resources, etc. A business needs clear-headed thinking, one direction, and a common vision that permits wise and quick decisions. If you know where you are going, you can figure out how to get there.
It begins by being about what your customers want, what they are struggling with, and ultimately, how you could make them more productive and /or reduce their costs. It’s about doing this with the customer, not to the customer. Any organization can engage 60-70% of their people (those who are already excited, and those who could be if someone took an interest in them). They could figure out with the customer’s involvement how to help them, such as by determining new ways to match up with what customers are motivated to buy. Your people and their customers would know that they made a difference. Ultimately, this team engagement should become a vital part of how you continually improve, innovate and grow your business.
Who knows what direction your team can take? The only answer to where you have to go needs to include the customer. Our customers will tell us what we need to know. Unfortunately, there are many “spreadsheet managers” who have trouble with this concept. They think they have to have all the answers when, in reality, the answers are within – they’re inside your customers and your people.
It’s hard to imagine that you could dramatically improve the business or the productivity of your team without effort being directed towards improving your customer’s business. There is no doubt about it – things have changed. Your customers have changed. Your competitors are changing. The value you need to offer has to continually change as well.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
The best way to communicate a new direction is to articulate the contrast between the present and future using important facts: what your customers need, what their aspirations are, and how that stacks up against the current reality.
How are you impacting their wants and aspirations? This communication gives clarity and gets everyone in the organization pointed in the right direction, and willing to stay continually engaged.
WHAT HAS TO BE DONE?
It’s necessary to be crunching the numbers, determining priorities, creating clear customer value and a competitive advantage, and putting the plan in place so you effectively respond to what needs to be done and when. Now you have a specific design for productivity gains.
WHO DOES WHAT, WHEN?
Plan all the things your team needs to have in place to support your vision. For example, be clear about the new offering, how you service, sell your story, your website, the people you hire, and what they do and when. You are imposing a structure that pulls the behavior you need and causes the results you’ll get, and it’s connected to and derived from the vision. You outline the outcomes you want, the time frame, and who is responsible.
Most companies are so fragmented that they lose their customer focus. As Peter Drucker said, the customer is your number one reason for being in business. Get people to focus on value in your meetings. Help them be more valuable to the customer. Build them. If you can lower customers’ costs and increase their value, you can increase your value. Then you automatically have a sustainable value proposition. When you don’t, you’ll lose your price power and find it difficult to profitably grow. Innovation must grow profits to truly qualify as innovation. Innovation is the only thing that earns a genuine profit. Allow and structure a culture of engaged innovation by keeping teams listening to customers. Remember, organizations don’t decide what is innovative or of value – customers do.
Take advantage of trends because it is cheaper than fighting them. Build consistent experiences for customers and reduce infrastructure costs over time. You can’t have organizations that are internally efficient but disconnected from the market.
Overall, to improve productivity, your company needs leaders who set the tone, engage others by connecting with their employee’s personal lives, support everyone when they struggle, and encourage and motivate everyone to achieve the company’s direction.
Engaged people give one hundred percent. That could be forty or fifty percent more than you are getting now. The question becomes, what are they engaged in, exactly? The answer of course is the direction of the business, which includes how and why the enterprise can increase value to your customers, what has to be done, by whom and when.
To accomplish all these things well, we need to use the business and people tools. I will guide you to the best tools I know of to help you. But remember, action is all there is.
- Are you engaging your people in innovative action to improve the business?
- What is your team’s direction? Is it compatible with what your customers want? Are you involving your customers?
Remember, perfection exists only in the dictionary. We all need the spirit of action, imperfection, forgiveness, a short memory, some fire in the belly, and continuous movement. Just as you can fix a tire on your way, you can improve your productivity on the fly. Just begin. What’s first?
If you want to discuss productivity improvement at your business, contact us: 905-826-7300 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great week!
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A recent research study by Dale Carnegie Training, identified the specific behaviors you need to employ to create an engaged workforce. Our Employee Engagement White Papers explore business issues and tips critical to for an organization’s success.