pro·duc·tiv·i·ty / noun: the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. Eg. "Workers have boosted productivity by 30 percent."
Productivity: easy to define, hard to achieve.
...and as a leader responsible for your team’s output, you know it’s impossible to master.
You may be the CEO of a shipping company. You may be the CFO of a beverage distributor. You may be the VP Operations at a TPL company. You may hold another critical leadership role that makes your company succeed and our physical goods economy spin. Regardless of who you are, you’re likely obsessed with productivity.
You’ve studied, learned on the job, read the operational management books and problem-solved with colleagues. You’ve instituted process improvements and invested in automation, equipment, plant layout and systems. You’ve consistently advanced your company’s productivity.
However, have you overlooked one of the most powerful productivity tools?...or at least given it inadequate attention? This tool is teamwork and, if you’re like many leaders out there, the answer is ‘yes’.
It may sound trite, but good old-fashioned teamwork combined with a clear goal is the foundation of productivity.
The power of a clear goal is perhaps best illustrated by how steel magnate Charles M. Schwab, famously transformed a lagging mill into the most productive in his company. He did this by stimulating competition between the day and night shift teams by chalking the day shift’s output (‘6’) on the floor. When the night shift came in, they asked what the number meant and then rallied to beat it. Their ‘7’ was then bested by the day shift the following day. With friendly competition and a clear productivity goal firmly established, the path to consecutive productivity gains was set. Simple, but genius. Read more about this story here.
However, without a strong sense of team, the clear goal Mr. Schwab set may have motivated some individuals, but fallen flat with others. Without a strong sense of team, he wouldn’t have seen the productivity gains he sought.
What makes a good team? Many books have been written about this and there are countless lists with great suggestions. However, we at Worklete, believe a great team is one that possesses four key things:
#1: Clear and open communication
Teams need to be able to communicate. This means clear and open expression of ideas and, perhaps even more importantly, active listening. A shared vernacular can be incredibly helpful as it simplifies communication (especially helpful on a busy plant floor) and reinforces messages.
#2: Shared accountability
Unless everyone on the team feels responsible for the outcome, the team will never achieve its potential. Shared rewards and performance transparency are critical here.
#3: High level of trust
Team members need to be comfortable admitting weaknesses or mistakes. Only by doing so can their mistakes help others and can others help them improve or find another way.
#4: Supportive environment
The other three team elements will only really manifest if the members of the team feel safe and supported by the rest of the team and their company. They need to know that everyone (including you!) knows that no one is perfect. Only by openly communicating ideas, feedback and mistakes, and by holding one another accountable can the team continually improve to achieve the goal.
When it comes to productivity, there’s no silver bullet. However, if you establish clear goals and institute programs that build and reinforce teamwork, you will get ever-closer to the operational panacea -- and the results -- you seek!
Plus, your workers will thank you.
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