Much has been written about need to improve productivity in advanced economies; and whilst the productivity gap has been highlighted as a particular concern in Britain (especially since the last recession) there are few counties where it does not feature on the political agenda somewhere.
Companies are rightly being encouraged to invest more to raise productivity but, in recent years, investment in IT systems and technology has not driven the productivity improvements that would previously have been expected. In short, the benefits of technology do not seem to be always feeding through to the “real world”.
So why is this?
If we look on-line for guidance on productivity, there are numerous articles giving guidance to office workers on how to improve. Many of these articles contain lists of things you can do to be more productive, with ideas such as:
- Define a small number of things you want to do in a day
- Make To Do lists
- Track time
- Take control!
- Reward yourself (when you complete what you set out to do).
The common factor is that they are intended to help you focus better and remove distractions. But, what about the underlying efficiency of your work?
Inefficiencies are different in small and large companies
When one considers that the many of the underlying office tasks have changed little over the past 50 years (we now use IM and emails instead of Memos and databases instead of manual ledgers) it is perhaps unsurprising that we are struggling to improve efficiency!
This problem applies to both large and small companies, but in different way…. In large companies, we see an increasing need to standardise and ensure the systems are secure. However, standardisation, by its very nature, tends to discourage people from seeking creative ways to improve efficiency.
Smaller companies, where the IT department is “less structured”, will tend to deploy “vanilla” IT systems with little or no customization. This, in turn means that many tasks are less efficient than they should be (with too much activity that does not add value).
At the same time, we have seen over the past few years a huge growth in the availability of high quality cloud-based systems. Indeed, one of the most significant changes I noticed, when starting SKCI (after working for a large organization for a number of years), was the dramatic improvement in the quality and availability of business software – much of it in the Cloud…. whether it be the increased power of core office software (such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google OfficeSuite) or the range of online Accounting and business planning systems that are now readily available.
Indeed, it has never been easier to get things done…
So why is productivity still lagging?
My personal view is that, as individuals, we have become too cautious… We are so worried about messing-up the system that we have stopped doing new things. We know that a certain task can be done in a particular manner and we keep doing it that way, fearful of experimentation!
As an example, even though I would describe myself as quite adventurous in my use of technology, I have been meaning to start using voice recognition to reduce the amount of typing I do (I can certainly speak faster than I can type!) but never quite get around to it…. fearful that the time I spend on this might be wasted.
In short, if we are going to make productivity improvements in services, we need to find time to make small experiments, to try something different, and then tell our colleagues about what we learn… whether good or bad.
So, my challenge to you, is to take a risk… do something different today and just see whether it helps you to become more productive!
Me.. I’ve had enough of typing, and I’m off to try out voice recognition…. “Hello computer… is there anybody there?”