I read an interesting recent article in the Harvard Business Review about highly productive people. It was explaining the typical traits of these. These can range from being able to set stretch goals, showing consistency, maintaining focus, problem solving and may others. In our profession we spend a considerable amount of time working on productive work systems, but less time generally about productive people.
There maybe a number of reasons for this, It could be that a significant proportion of lean professionals have a strong technical or engineering background, and therefore show a keen interest in processes and systems. It could also be that in this more “isolated” world driven by data and communications we are less likely to, and feel it more difficult to engage with people and their teams. However irrespective of your personal management skills, values and drive, if you cannot engage the team, then you will not be “Super Productive” if you have a team reporting to you. You also run the risk of “losing” the team or leaving the team behind. Personal Productivity is one element, but “team productivity” is more important. This does not negate the need for your internal drive and processing, but you need to recognise that you check in with the team regularly, as they are the “bandwidth” and “horsepower” that will help you deliver. If you can imagine that you are at the sharp end of the pyramid, then they are the foundation stone. The foundation stone represents your “potential bandwidth”. Even if you don’t have a team reporting directly to you, you will be connecting with colleagues and associates. These are analogous to the blocks in the pyramid, and must be bound together with engagement.
So as a productive person, how do we ensure we stay engaged ? Our engagement levels will be driven by our self awareness, consciousness, and ability to balance our processing and emotions. So how do we make ourselves more self aware ? One possible solution is to think about others before ourselves. This sounds obvious, but it is totally congruous with team building. There are all sorts of coaching and mindfulness techniques, that can help us. You may chose to invest in these. However, one of the simplest and best approaches in my experience is just to stop and think, before you act. In addition to making you more mindful, this will also improve the perception of you by others including your team. The beauty of these approaches are that they are synergistic. The more you think of others, the more you will engage, and the more productive you will get. This process becomes self perpetuating, and is perfectly aligned with the lean world and that of “continuous improvement”. You will be driving effectively from the top of the pyramid, and the base will be strong, rather than carrying the boxes as shown in the illustration.