Productivity tips are too rarely targeted at managers. But it is precisely at the top of the company that the leverage effect is greatest. Top-down you have the most opportunities to anchor a culture of productivity and efficiency in your company. On the one hand by setting a good example, on the other hand by giving employees the freedom to really work productively.
Below are some measures that you can use to implement productive leadership in your day-to-day work, many of which can also be used by project managers in their teams:
In my opinion, constant interruptions are the most important productivity killer - a factor against which employees often feel powerless. With complex knowledge tasks, an interruption of just three minutes - for example, through a telephone call - means that it takes two minutes to return to the point at which the task was interrupted. If these disturbances add up in everyday working life, the loss of time can account for up to 40% of working time.
In IT, the phenomenon is known as "thrashing". In simple terms, this describes the situation when an operating system spends more time jumping from task to task than it does executing the tasks themselves. The permanent change of context therefore results in switching costs, which lead to considerable losses in efficiency - for the machine as well as for people.
Here you can intervene by creating focus areas. This can be meant quite literally. For example, you can provide (meeting) rooms that employees can book for a few hours of undisturbed, concentrated work. Or they anchor a simple system in the company that signals when someone should not be disturbed. Such a signal can be a closed office door or a red pennant on the desk. Such measures are extremely cost-effective, but they must be respected and supported by the management.
Support a better meeting and email culture
Meetings and e-mails are often named as the main time killer in the top lists.
For a more efficient handling of meetings, executives can introduce some simple rules: Every meeting has a clear purpose and agenda, it starts on time and ends on time. In meetings where you are present in person, make sure everyone is prepared and has done their homework. Parallel activities, such as e-mailing on the smartphone, should be abolished - those who break the rule must spend one euro piggy bank - without exceptions.
The handling of e-mails initially appears to be a topic that individual employees have to deal with themselves. However, some of the requirements from above can relieve the mailboxes considerably. For example, I have made it a rule that an e-mail only has one recipient in the To field. The fewer addresses there are in the CC field, the fewer e-mails circulate in the company. The prerequisite for this is, of course, that employees do not constantly get the feeling that they have to secure themselves with the boss for every action and take everyone else on CC.
Lead by objectives
Despite trends such as working hours based on trust and home offices, many companies still live an extreme culture of presence: a "good" employee is one who is the first to sit at his desk in the morning and the last to leave the company in the evening. If this is rewarded by the management as a benchmark for promotion and success in the company, something goes wrong.
Instead, define realistic (!) goals at a macro level and communicate them to your employees. You should leave the way to the goal to your employees as far as possible. Measure your team members by their output, not by their attendance times. If you reward results and not employment, then not only do you release yourself from tedious micromanagement, you also create the necessary freedom that knowledge workers need in order to work optimally.
Managers therefore have various tools to make their employees more productive: From reducing disruptions, creating a meaningful meeting and email culture, to leading through goals, management can take a variety of actions to make productivity more tangible.
These are just a few ideas on how a top-down organization can set the course for greater efficiency and productivity. In addition, it is to be expected that employee motivation will increase and sickness levels as well as fluctuation will decrease.
Originally published in German in the projektmagazin Blog am 01.12.2016: So fördern Sie die Effizienz Ihrer Mitarbeiter
Writer: Dr. Andreas Tremel