Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Consciousness and Enterprise Productivity - The 4 Levels of Improving Performance through People

People are at the heart of any enterprise. They are even more critical to the performance and growth of a start-up or small enterprise. How can we best manage this resource? How must an enterprise especially a smaller one approach its objective for improving productivity through organisational change and development?
In our journey as an enterprise, we’ve been through many experiments, always believing in the great potential that humans hold but also realising along the way that it isn’t always easy to get people to tap into that potential. Then there also is the immediacy of the need to deliver results, which leaves little room for long drawn out transformation projects. In the process, we have discovered four levels of organisational work to drive productivity improvement and transformation that I describe here in brief. 
"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" ~ Albert Einstein
Consciousness
Ideally, we’d be blessed to be working with all enlightened people around us. It is perhaps the best guarantee for a sensible and durable enterprise, but working on raising the consciousness of a team can be a long hard task, loaded with potential disappointments and little to measure by way of progress.  And while it may be pursued collectively, the journey to higher levels of consciousness and awareness is a personal one; its success deeply dependent on the mental make-up of an individual and her immediate environment. The gains therefore are likely to be uneven across the team. 
But just because the gains are hard to measure and come with little guarantees of quick-uniform gains, it should not be left to itself, but perhaps worked on as a long term initiative for improving the productivity and effectiveness of the team. 
So what could be a faster route to improved productivity & effectiveness?
“Our contribution purely depends on our consciousness and our willingness to support those in need, to show vulnerability and accept the support of others, to share without expecting the credit, to give it our all and allow our hard work to decide the outcome, to understand that control can only be achieved with a shared responsibility.” ~ Yehuda Berg
Culture
Attitudes people carry have a large bearing on their performance and that of the team in which they function. That in turn is a function of the culture and the prevailing environment within the enterprise. The values, idioms, rules, rituals and expected standards of work and behaviour. The culture is what shapes the attitudes of the individual and teams within the enterprise.
To build a culture needs regular ongoing work and reinforcement with much depending on the conduct and initiatives of the team leadership. Things can happen a little faster here, with deep impact on productivity & effectiveness but here again its hard to quantify and measure progress in the short term.
So what does one do that provides more measurable outcomes? 
Competence
Working at enhancing the skill and competencies of the team can bring quicker and more tangible productivity gains. Again this is ongoing work, needing a sustained effort in training, talent acquisition, team organisation etc., to deliver progressively better results. Enhancing worker skills can be slow and sometimes extremely challenging depending on the complexity of the skills that need to be built, individual abilities and willingness to learn, the quality of training inputs available etc. 
What if you can’t wait? What if you need a quick step jump in productivity to ensure survival?
“Either you run the day or the day runs you” ~ Jim Rohn
Codification
The fastest, perhaps the most measurable and biggest gains (at least in the short term) can come from improving the ‘systems’ within which people perform their work - the tools, methods, processes, resources(material, technology) etc., that enable people to raise the level of their work with greater ease. And in Codifyingthe behaviour of the enterprise through calendars, routines, standardisation, processes, automation etc. I use the word codify here because it is best done by encoding it into a system (software) that can notify, track and monitor the compliance to the desired methods & standards.
This is not to drive the employees like a herd but to free them of hundreds of unnecessary discussions, decision making, exception handling that chew away productive time, slowing down operations and leaving little time for deeper transformational work. 
That incidentally might also be the order of how you should do it. Getting the plans, systems and resources in place would create the space for the the skill enhancements, which creates the space for the building of a culture that fosters the right attitudes, which in turn gives you time to work on raising the consciousness of the enterprise. Get the order wrong and you are heading for a people muddle. 
Collaboration - Getting it Started
However, to infuse these changes in the system, it needs at least a few good people to pilot the transition. It means getting the best people you can find as fast as you can and putting them to work on the short and long of building or rebuilding the enterprise. People who can plan and set-up systems, people who can coach, people who can exert the cultural influence and people who can help raise the consciousness. 
For any enterprise (especially the smaller ones), freeing up the time of its best people from operational tasks and challenges for transformational work is hard though. The enterprise must do this transformation while in motion. Taking too much time off operational work for transformational work can put at risk the immediate future of the enterprise.
Here a good team collaboration tool can come handy. A good collaboration system can help in both - building a faster response system for the team to the everyday situations while at the same time enabling in depth collaboration for more durable changes. It can help in aggregating hundreds of little pieces of collaborative work to create something bigger, reducing the need for meetings, making meetings and follow-ups to them more productive, ensuring continuity of the effort and wider participation.
So the first thing to do in getting started on your transformation journey could be to Connect-Up the people through a team / enterprise collaboration system and setting the conversation going on the needed change.
A Word of Caution - Driving Deeper Change
Grass grows pretty quickly with a little rain but dries up just as fast with the onset of the dry season. So it is with interventions involving systems & tools - they deliver quick returns but the improvements may not run deep, may not be enough to sustain growth for long. Working on consciousness is like planting trees - it takes a while for the tree to grow but it can weather a lot more. Bear fruits for a longer period of time.  Woking on a culture is like gardening, it needs continuous work to keep it beautiful and vibrant but a lot happens by itself. The rose plant you had been working on for a while greets you one morning with a dozen flowers and the lilies you had almost forgotten come to life as the weather turns and the rains comes in.