Managing Productivity: Get Everyone on the Same Page

Millions of dollars are wasted every day in organizations, through lack of awareness of the need to constantly improve productivity. Most of it can be stopped through a concerted effort at all levels of management, supervision and on the construction site to produce results.

Traditionally, the concept of productivity centered on the efficiency ratio between input and output but today productivity has evolved to include the human element - the productive capacity of people. By careful training, education, planning, assisting and coordinating the activities of employees solid improvements can be made. To be effective you must consistently think, act and speak productivity, thus displaying leadership in this vital area.

In any team approach to improving productivity, there are a number of fundamental aspects which should be borne in mind:

  • Productivity is a state of mind and should be promoted as such. Involve as many employees as possible in the search to improve productivity so that as many as possible feel, to some extent, the success of the program rests with them.
  • It should be a continuing program, for it is never finished. Improving productivity should therefore be permanent, alive and part of the organization at all levels.
  • Attaining high productivity is a continuing program, for the environment is always changing. Improving productivity should therefore be an ongoing integral part of the organization at all levels.
  • Concentration should be made on controlling the controllable. Unless care is exercised, much time and money can be wasted trying to control the uncontrollable.

As a leader in your company your goal is to produce more with fewer employees for customers who demand more for less. And that challenge requires asking yourself, "Do my employees have the necessary skills to do the job?" If the answer is yes then your company can have a high performance level. However, the next question you need to ask yourself addresses the question of productivity. Ask yourself "how efficiently do my employees do their job?" Unfortunately, many companies find there is a gap between an employees' ability to do the job and their ability to be productive. If your supervisors are spending too much time explaining what they want the crews to do you may need to improve your communication to improve productivity. Before you can improve systems and methods of operation to improve productivity you must have clear communication. The following example illustrates a typical communication problem:

Rusty just completed a leader's morning "huddle" before the rest of the crews got to work. He was sure that each of his foremen were clear on the changes needed that day because of equipment problems, a slight change in the customer needs and the fact that they were short a few laborers due to illness and vacations. However, within 30 minutes of concluding the meeting, Rusty was receiving phone calls from his foremen, each asking him to repeat what he had said earlier.

Situations like this aren't foreign to most contractors. You thought you were crystal clear but the same people who just minutes before stated they understood their instructions are either calling to have you repeat what you wanted or, worse yet; they perform the wrong tasks thinking they understood the initial instructions or directions.

Specifically, you can determine your productivity level by how effectively and efficiently your employees do their job, meet company goals and satisfy customers. Employees who do not keep up with the productivity needs of their companies bring down everything from revenues to employee morale to destroying a company's reputation. Unfortunately managers often don't confront employees who are slow moving and low-achieving. By not addressing the issue it sets the wrong tone for the whole company. Here are a few tips to help build productivity through communication:

  1. Before communicating with your people, be sure to confirm that they are focused and attentive. Too many meetings involve people who are distracted, having small talk with the person standing or sitting next to them or working on something else. And, with cell phones constantly ringing you need to ensure they are not allowed on during your meeting when critical information is being presented. Getting your people's attention can be done simply by asking them to get focused, waiting for their eye contact, pausing occasionally after you speak to draw them back to you, and even stopping your own speaking when an individual or two are obviously not paying attention. You are not rude by employing such simple tactics; in fact, the individuals to whom you are directing your focus and attention are projecting their own rudeness if they are not focused and attentive.
  2. To ensure your people are with you mentally, don't be shy about asking them to repeat what they thought they just heard from you. Having them repeat back to you will provide you with proof of what they thought they heard compared with what you thought you just communicated. For example ask each group to tell you what their objectives are for the day and what might cause a problem getting the work done. No matter what approach you choose, do not be shy about asking your people to repeat what they believe to have heard from you. Your goal is to have them meet their goals and be productive.
  3. Give your crews specific tasks relating to productivity. Getting them to report back each day on their efforts will help you reinforce your productivity goals with everyone.
  4. As a leader communication is essential to keep productivity levels high. Think about your day as being made up of four quarters. Therefore, you have four quarters in which to touch base with those you most need to talk to at the beginning of each "new quarter." This gives you a chance to review what is recent history (the last quarter) and what needs to be addressed in the near future (the next quarter). This will ensure you increase your performance and productivity.
  5. Document your daily, weekly, and/or monthly game plan. Such planning is often captured through a daily goals list or a more formal look-ahead schedule. No matter your method of choice - and you should use a schedule method - be sure to document your future tasks and projects and give a copy to each person reporting to you if necessary.

There is a great amount of time wasted and rework experienced in construction when much of it could have been eliminated had everyone involved been focused, attentive, and clear about the direction or information. Don't let people get away with not taking notes or not giving you their undivided attention. Such behavior speaks of poor behavior and performance. Take charge of your communication and strengthen the effort to get everyone on the same page by being more active in your communication.

Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.

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