Four things that are killing productivity in your office

time-1752164_1280What are the biggest barriers to productivity, efficiency and creativity at work?  Which activities absorb the most time for the least return?  In her book, The Innovation Revolution, Melissa Kennedy accuses four key suspects.

  1. Meetings.  Typically people in organizations spend 15% of their time in meetings.  For middle managers the figure is 35% and for senior managers it is 50%.  Surveys show that two thirds of participants consider the meetings they attend to be failures.  The reasons for failure include lack of purpose, poor structure, wrong participants and multi-tasking during the meeting.  When meetings are held by video link around 80% of the virtual attendees are actively disengaged.
  2. Email. Most office workers spend between 30% and 40% of their time handling email, most of which is internal.  The average employee receives over 300 emails a week – a figure which continues to rise.  Some surveys show workers checking their email over 30 times per hour.  Every time an employee is distracted by an email it takes them up to 20 minutes to return to their previous task.  These interruptions seriously damage productivity.
  3. Presentations. Microsoft estimate that worldwide there are 30 million presentations every day.  PowerPoint has become an obligatory tool for communication with consequent time lost in preparing and prettifying slide decks.
  4. Spreadsheets.  This legacy tool is used for analysis, presentation, project management, contact databases, calendars etc.  Many of these tasks would be better handled elsewhere.

Office politics mean that you must show your face at meetings, read and respond to emails, prepare and give presentations and update your spreadsheets.  Otherwise how can you survive?  But how much time does that leave for real value-added customer facing work?  How much time is left for thinking , for creativity and for innovation?  Precious little.

Kennedy recommends the following corporate policies and actions to plug these productivity drains.

  1. Set a meeting limit for the week.  Give everyone a maximum quota of X meetings per week.  They cannot schedule more than this in the diary so they have to choose only the effective ones.
  2. Decline meetings with no focused outcome or agenda.
  3. Stop responding to email chains after two replies. After that pick up the phone and sort it.
  4. Impose a slide limit.  Maximum of Y slides per presentation.  Similarly with spreadsheets; focus on essential data only.
  5. Provide a safe space and time to vent frustrations. Listen to people’s productivity concerns and action them.

More hints on how to run super effective meetings here.

The Innovation Revolution on Amazon.co.uk

The Innovation Revolution on Amazon.com

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