3 Steps for Solving the “Everyone’s Busy, But No One’s Productive” Problem
As a team leader or project manager, you know that everyone is working hard. You don’t doubt that your workers come in to the office and try their hardest to complete tasks and move projects forward. But, are they working on the right things?
This is the ultimate question, and the answer can mean the difference between a team that is just “busy” and a team that is “productive.”
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Busy teams waste a lot of their time just hunting down information, sorting through emails, performing administrative tasks, and trying to find what they need to actually do their job. In fact, this is a widespread problem; we found that workers spend less than half, 44%, of their time on their primary job duties.
On the other hand, when your team is working on tasks with the highest priority and that are aligned with the company’s key objectives, people are productive. Real work is getting accomplished and team members are satisfied with their jobs and management is happy with results.
Here are three steps that will lead your team to ultimate productivity levels.
1. Align All Work to Business Goals
You can’t stay productive if you don’t align your work to the company’s goals. In other words, your company’s goals will tell you what productive work will look like for your team.
Chris O’Neal, product evangelist at Workfront, believes this should be project managers’ main focus:
Everything a team does needs to help move the needle at the corporate level. It needs to tie back to what the business is trying to accomplish and contribute to the bigger picture.
J. Alan Goddard, director of operations transformation services at Leappoint, recently described how he helped a technology company adopt Workfront to align their work with specific goals.
The project bridged divides between teams, saved the company millions of dollars, and helped workers know exactly how their efforts pushed the company toward meeting its goals. He said:
Another key to aligning your work to business goals is communicating to your team which tasks to postpone when last-minute emergency requests come up. This kind of leadership requires solid priorities management and deadline management for every existing deliverable and new request.
“When it comes to people management in an organization, that prioritized list of ‘here’s the most important thing today’ cannot be understated for anyone that is in management,” O’Neal said.
Alignment with business goals fuels productivity. Everyone knows what they should be working on and how it fits in with business goals and time isn’t wasted on tasks that aren’t a high priority.
2. Provide Visibility into Commitment
If a project manager doesn’t know who is working on what, or what his team’s workload is, team members are at risk of spinning their wheels in an effort to check off busywork, without actually accomplishing anything of value.
O’Neal says that having visibility into commitment is one way to make sure a team stays productive:
He explained that when visibility is lacking, time is wasted:
So, how is this visibility gained? By using a work management tool that allows for ultimate collaboration, real-time status updates, effective task management, and communication in one, central location.
The teams Goddard has seen implement Workfront were equipped to make better decisions. “Ultimately, they learned how to make better business decisions just by centralizing their projects, their work effort, and the resources that are going to enable that,” he said.
3. Remember: Resources are People, Too
Being busy, but not productive, can be a symptom of a team that treats people like resources. Remembering that team members are only human and are susceptible to burnout, frustration, and over commitment can help teams avoid becoming busy without being productive.
O’Neal said that these days, employees are often overworked and it’s important to keep in mind that it’s impossible for anyone to work non-stop. He explained:
Becoming overwhelmed with busywork and failing to be productive is an easy trap to fall into when tasks don’t align with business goals, visibility is lacking, and team members are burnt out.
But, when working in tandem, these three steps have the power to help teams abandon busywork and focus their talents, time, and efforts on providing value through productive work.