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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Extreme Productivity: Basic principles to doing more with less

Having been in a managerial capacity as a functional manager and having led several complex programs and projects as a project manager in many industries, I have seen challenges from people on work life imbalance and from organizations for maintaining business productivity by doing more with less. However, in my experience, the percentage of the population that seek continuous growth pursuing the professional certifications or attending the networking events or conferences is slim.  

Having taught more than 150 classes through various academic institutions for adult learners, I observe learners missing classes because the academic institutional policy allows missing 20% of classes or accepting a “C” in their courses as that guarantees employer compensation. So, why should organizations invest in people that won’t invest in themselves by integrating their professional and personal life by managing time to acquire knowledge? By the same token, how could organizations allow mediocrity with a "C" and expect stellar performance? Aren't the organizations then enabling a behavior that allows individuals to be satisfied with the knowledge in their chosen fields that doesn't scale with the growth?

Remember that the growing organizations in the future will no longer be characterized by 8 to 5 jobs but will require one to be digitally connected.  So, waking up to the reality to know the demands of your profession is critical for career success. In this blog, I present three simple and powerful principles that I have found useful. I would like to call them “Extreme Productivity” unleashing people’s energy towards what the organizations are going to be looking for in the future in the midst of growing business challenges so that the value the individuals add become indispensable.

Principle #1: Look for a role and not for a job
You interview for a job and so getting a job offer is just the beginning. But, if you continuously do what you in your job, you continuously get what you get.  Will the same compensation and career challenge keep you satisfied? Even if you say, “yes,” because of personal challenges, comfort zone, or unwillingness to change, will that be good for the organizational growth that provides for you?  The organization is constantly changing to meet the market conditions and so the conditions under which one got a job can no longer be the same. When the economy shifts and the organization sees the need for sustaining growth with competitive high performers, they look for those that have already proven their multifaceted skills in the organization. It is not time for them to skim the individuals resume for past experiences because current performance paints an accurate picture. They look for those that exceeded their job responsibility and went the extra mile. These members succeed because they look around, prepare themselves early, and take on a role to make themselves useful. This is not a role given by the organization but assumed by the individuals,

Principle #2: Business Impact is measured by results and not the efforts
Sometimes, the business may demand someone to put more hours. But, from a business perspective, long hours doesn’t always mean more productivity. It may also mean that you are not doing your job efficiently or expanding the work to fill the time. If ambiguities in task, missing analysis in backlog grooming, lack of adherence to process control, or deficiency in the required knowledge domains surface to the organization, then, one is not only wasting their own productivity but also that of others. Depending on your role, the earlier principle will be extended so that you are becoming efficient by analyzing the market for latest trends and being ready, investing in a tool that the businesses use, learning about the trends being used in your practice to make you more success-friendly, or setting effective time management practices for yourself to manage personal and professional balance.  

Principle #3: Pack value in your day for the team
Everyone must have heard the saying about seeing things from others point of view. Those that really look at productivity will focus first to ensure that other’s time is not wasted. For instance, should the people copied on the email be copied, are those meetings necessary, will that person receiving the task know what to do? When the other person is actually more productive and you are not, you have just created a producer-consumer imbalance. One can avoid this imbalance and other’s dependency on them by first planning the day on those deliverables others will need. This will add time to our schedule. By putting timebox around activities on what takes less than 10 min, 15 to 30 min, more than 60 min, etc., one can start addressing these tasks efficiently. Readers are advised to an earlier post on Scrumban approach (http://agilesriram.blogspot.com/2014/10/adapting-scrumban-to-personal.html) on personal productivity.


In the end, any professional has to be productive to some extent. Everyone believes that they are definitely worth more in money and career status. If this is true, then everyone should understand that their value to the business should always exceed the economic value the business can derive. When that happens, the business will always find new ways to benefit from your talent. The only way to satisfy this equation is when one can be “extremely productive.” In today’s digitally expanding, virtually global, and multicultural distributed workforce, one’s value is constantly challenged every day that can only be addressed by a continuous improvement mentality. Are we ready to take on this challenge? 

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