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Self-Rating and Improving Small Business Productivity

July 15, 2014 - 0

In business publications and seminars, productivity is often a primary focus – as it should be. Higher productivity means higher profits. The focus, however, is usually on two aspects of productivity while generally ignoring a very important third. Although improving business flow and practices is important and while increasing the output of your employees is vital, neither can be accomplished without either adding more work load or objectively considering all that can be changed to find targets for improvement focus.

In business, we call marketing without a focus “shotgunning.” You put your advertising into as many venues as you can, ignoring any semblance of targeting, and let it loose, hoping some of it hits the right audience. The result is always the same: you spend a lot of money on marketing and get very little return for doing so. The same goes for productivity improvement.

You can blast away with all of the latest and greatest productivity improvements you’ve learned at seminars or the latest book, but without direction and focus – without an aim – they’ll accomplish little.

Every one of us has worked at a company where management seemed clueless or out of touch. Where they were ridiculed around the water cooler for appearing to be floundering around hoping to find something that worked to improve things. Where they’d gone to retreats or seminars and returned with baskets of new ideas only to foist them on the workforce with little explanation and even less focus. It happens. Many of us became entrepreneurs because we thought we could be smarter than that.

So learn to focus before you fire off those productivity enhancements.

First, Be Observant

The first thing you should do is always be observant. Pay attention to what’s happening in your business. Which employees need encouragement, which should be praised? Watch your employees doing their daily tasks and observe how they do them. If at all possible, go and do their jobs yourself as a replacement when they’re sick, have the day off, or are just gone to lunch. If you learn to do the job, you’ll likely see ways to improve on their workflow.

In short, watch and learn. Encourage your employees with incentives to find better productivity or easier ways to do things.

Second, Get Fresh Eyes

There are two ways to look at your business with a fresh set of eyes. One is to leave it behind for a while and come back renewed. For most small business owners, this is extremely difficult. Even vacations, when they are taken, are filled with thoughts about work. For most of us, our businesses are our lives.

The other option is to hire someone who’s never worked for you before. Bring in a consultant – an expert in productivity improvement, preferably – and have them observe every aspect of your business and report to you what they see that could use improvement. It’s amazing what an objective observer can find in just a few hours or days.

Management, Improve Thyself

Before you start demanding improvements from your employees, be sure that you are already a role model of productivity. Don’t work harder, work consistently and smarter instead. It may seem odd, but one of the best ways to learn how you work is to film yourself doing it. Put a camera in such a position that it catches you and your desktop (computer screen), preferably with audio so you can record any distractions that may be off-camera. Film yourself for a day or two as you work – long enough that you forget the camera is there most of the time. Then watch it, or at least enough to start pinpointing problem areas. You’ll be surprised how many things you do every day can be changed to improve your workflow.

Take what you’ve learned about your own work habits and use them, along with your observations, to help others around you improve.

Productivity is not difficult to improve. If you have focus.

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