Ambition and Productivity

Last week the Associated Press reported that “Worker productivity, the key factor in rising living standards, slowed sharply in the final three months of the year while wage pressures increased.” This drop in productivity coupled with the news that the service sector shrank for the first time in five years has many economists talking about how big the impending recession will be rather than debating whether one will occur.

At tpc we have long advocated enabling IT efforts and structures to increase organizational productivity. Many of you are familiar with Tom’s rants on the white collar revolution and the advent of white collar robots. We also believe there is another, powerful mechanism for improving productivity. People will become more productive when they want to become more productive! And they want to when their output is moving the organization closer to a compelling shared purpose, vision, or what we call “Ambition” in our Future Shape of the Winner model.

Many of us have probably known someone in the workforce who was going through the motions, fulfilling their job duties with no particular zeal, and sometimes even beginning their retirement while they were still on the payroll. And yet this same person may be a hardworking volunteer for a charitable organization they believe in. The difference is having a purpose that has real meaning. Being part of something that really matters! And improving the return for investors (although the lifeblood of a successful business) is not compelling enough to pull out that voluntary discretionary effort we all have available. It has to be a statement of the common cause for the common good.

That is why we advise our clients to start with ambition. Who do we intend to be and what part might the individual members play? Why does it matter? When it is important, it becomes a “want to” driver, rather than the “have to” necessities of my job. And the work we perform when we want to is always more productive than the work we do because we have to.

What do you think? Agree or disagree that it’s the place to start in your strategic plan? Can that raise productivity? Do you have any ideas for building passion through purpose?

Mike Neiss posted this on February 18, 2008, in Strategies.
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