Haven’t we all been to an hour-long meeting that could have been an email? Structural inefficiencies lead to lowered productivity. Have you ever wondered why some companies are more productive than others? For example, Netflix and Google, are 40% more productive than others (with 30-50% higher profit margins). It all comes down to how these enterprises manage time, energy, and talent to ensure optimum efficiency with a growth strategy! These corporate giants can better manage what researchers call the “productivity drag.” This refers to the organizational friction or procedural inertia that slows down operations. This could include low-productivity meetings, repetitive and menial tasks, uneven distribution of workload, and bottlenecks in decision-making.
Naturally, removing productivity drag is crucial for operational excellence. But how do we do it? A growth strategy that takes the eventuality of productivity drag into account and aims to reduce it could be the solution. Before we get to such a strategy, let’s take a closer look at what organization drag is.
What is Productivity Drag?
According to Bain & Company, productivity drag, alternatively referred to as organizational drag, involves all practices, procedures, and structures that waste time and limit output.
Although maximizing an employee’s productivity is a key business imperative, organizational procedures and structure can stand in the way of the output. Productivity drag presents a unique challenge to companies because the factors that cause it are deeply entrenched in the organizational structure itself (and are often overlooked), resulting in restraints on employee output and productivity troughs.
Productivity Drag: Does it Point to Larger Problems
The lack of productivity could be symptomatic of bigger, underlying concerns like the lack of a unifying growth strategy. The first step to curbing productivity drag is by understanding why it happens. And a Harvard Business Review podcast titled Reduce Organizational Drag outlines the reasons why productivity drag happens:
1. Ignoring Strategic Priorities
Businesses often chase every opportunity that comes their way without analyzing if it is practical. Therefore, you must weigh the pros and cons. For instance, whether the new project will be a burden on existing resources or whether it will generate substantial returns or not.
In this light, a well-focused growth strategy provides a roadmap for both companies and employees. It helps organizations free themselves from the dead weight of unrealistic goals and allow employees to dedicate time to projects that benefit the business (and not just aimlessly spin their wheels).
2. Inefficient Operating Models
A business operating model refers to how a company plans to deliver on its strategy. This is where companies can fix the institutional factors, procedures, and practices that contribute to the productivity drag. For instance, is the communication between the different departments in your organization poor and unreliable? Is the leadership or hierarchy structure confusing? These are problems that a well-planned growth strategy resolves to remove existing inefficiencies from your company’s operating model.
3. Resistance to Change
Just because we have spent a long time making an error, does not mean we must continue to make it in the future. The sheer resistance to change that comes from either employees or the leadership can cause drags in productivity. Having an open mind and accepting necessary change is the only way to solve for this.
How to Combat Productivity Drag
A successful enterprise requires a great plan and talented, hardworking people to make it happen. For maximizeing productivity, you need a clear strategy that optimizes operational speed to help you achieve your goal. Here are the steps leaders can embrace to combat the productivity drag issue:
Step 1: Design an Optimum Growth Strategy
A growth strategy is a plan of action that allows you to have a higher market share and stand out from the competition. This strategy focuses on both short-term earnings and long-term productivity gains.
To design a growth-focused action plan that reduces productivity drag, include the following components:
- Goal: What do you want to achieve?
- People: How is your goal impacting people across various departments?
- Structure: Is your business model (processes and practices) positioned to help you achieve your goal?
- Tactics: How will you work toward your goal?
Step 2: Communicate Your Strategy
Before you get the wheels of productivity turning, you need to align your entire organization around the plan first. Yes, we’re talking about engineering, marketing, leadership, design, product management, and other divisions too! After everyone is on the same page and shares their inputs on the plan, you can implement your tactics to make informed decisions about “what comes next” and concentrate your efforts on productivity drag.
Step 3: Implement Tactics to Combat Drag
Without a clear blueprint strategy geared toward success, no organization can keep its employees consistently productive. Here are some of the tactics that combat the drag:
1. Minimize Activities That Waste Time
Whether at home or in the office, we have countless distractions around us that steal our focus away from work. Successful leaders identify these factors and implement ways to deal with the worst of them. Here’s how you can avoid some of the productivity killers:
- Agenda-Less Meetings: Avoid low-productivity meetings that lack a clear, focused agenda. Limit the number of daily meetings and make them time-bound so you can end as soon as you have a resolution. Also, make it a part of your work culture to have an agenda for the meeting put down in the invite.
- Emails: There are faster ways to collaborate and share information than email. Send a direct message or launch a video chat using real-time tools to minimize the wastage of time.
- Social Media: According to Global Web Index’s 2021 Social Media Trends Report, people spend nearly two to two and a half hours every day on social media platforms. Design a policy that clearly states when employees can use social media and when they need to focus on work.
- Procrastination: This is something we all do, right? The best way to prevent it is by clearly stating deadlines and establishing accountability. Every employee with a due date for a given project should have a manager who follows up with them to meet the target.
2. Motivate Your Team
One of the crucial tactics of growth strategy is keeping your team members motivated. While how to do it might vary, it is essential to understand what are the things that motivate your team members.
To reach that optimum productivity, you must find the right balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation involves promoting self-reflective benefits that evoke an employee to perform for personal satisfaction. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation includes providing rewards for reaching goals, such as an extra leave or an incentive that motivates an employee to work harder.
3. Use Technology
While technology is one of the biggest workplace distractions, when put to proper use it can be our biggest help too! For instance, you can implement a cloud-based communication tool for faster collaboration between team members. By automating time-consuming, repetitive tasks, (such as invoicing, billing and payments), you can enable your team to focus on other growth-oriented activities. Similarly, you can implement certain goal-tracking and productivity applications to combat organizational drag and boost the productivity of your business.
Make the Small Changes That Can Lead to Huge Growth
Learning is the first step in defining your growth strategy. Productivity spurts do not happen by changing your organizational structure, processes, people, and practices all at once. But instead, you start with small steps like finding a loophole and then carving out the way forward to ensure sustained productivity and growth.
Learn From the Best
Emeritus in-collaboration with renowned universities around the globe has many leadership programs that can help senior executives design the best growth strategy for their organizations. There are many leadership programs and online hacks for improving productivity. But few programs help leaders to apply proven growth principles to themselves and their organization at large Leading Growth Strategy by Kellogg Executive Education is one of them.
This Kellogg program explores the Focus7 framework, which is proven to have yielded results. Including steps like discovery, strategy, rallying cry, people, execution, metrics, and organization, this program equips senior executives with models and tools to drive growth within their organizations.
By Swet Kamal
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