Questions to Improve Productivity

We are addicted to knowledge—to having the “right” answers. Things would improve quickly if we became addicted to discovery.

When is the last time you took a look at how things are done in your work environment with an eye toward improvement?

How often do you ask one or more of these questions about the processes in your line of work?

  • How could we improve this process?
  • Is there affordable technology that could improve the end result?
  • How could we make it faster?
  • Are there people involved in this process who don’t need to be?
  • Where are the bottlenecks and how can we eliminate them?
  • What takes the most time when completing this process?
  • Does the customer (internal or external) even want this anymore? Is this the format s/he wants?
  • What’s the lowest pay grade it makes sense to assign this to? (This could free up your senior talent to do other things and give your less experienced team members an opportunity to grow).

After facilitating hundreds of these types of discussions for both private and public organizations, I can say unequivocally that the quickest way to identify areas for improvement is to ask your team. Give them an opportunity to identify and submit those processes they believe could be improved, their ideas for improvement. Turn their complaints into solutions. Challenge them to say how they would do it if they were put in charge. They’re discussing this when you’re not around; it’s time you heard their ideas.

If ideas are submitted that cannot be implemented, let them know why. They may not agree but they’ll be glad you let them in on the decision making process. It could also prompt them to come up with an even better solution.

This discovery process also has the advantage of teaching them how to apply the same questions to their individual work, which in turn, leads to personal improvement and greater productivity.

A “one man band” is, by definition, not a leader, so stop thinking you’re the one who needs to have all the answers. You have players in your particular band who want to help make it the best band ever (U2? Heart? The Boston Pops?). Work with them to adopt an attitude of discovery and watch employee engagement increase.

Change your focus; engage your team!

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