Productivity: yesterday’s measure? Post-productive Places

by Paul Carder on December 15, 2013

Productivity is important at a macro-economic level. How much a country produces, measured by GDP, is still important.

Productivity at an organization level is also important, when measuring ‘output against inputs’, usually turnover and profitability.

But, unless an organization is a simple ‘producer’ (e.g., manufacturer of items for sale), then productivity is yesterday’s issue. This is now one of the key challenges for any non-manufacturing organization – and even many parts of the manufacturer, not directly working on the production process.

A government organization delivers output, not measurable in ‘units’. An advertising agency originates ideas, sometimes a spark of genius, or sometimes the result of a process of team brainstorming and analysis. The productivity of the work process is hard to measure – maybe impossible.

Traditional ‘productivity’ is about “stuff” made/time taken. So, time is the measure. But, non-manufacturing organizations do not work that way. How long the Creative Director takes to produce a new TV advert may become a problem if the project is running late. But, equally, the whole concept could come quickly as a flash of inspiration, as ideas bounce around a bright team of thinkers. Where does productivity come into that process?

Society (and therefore corporations delivering products to society; consumers) needs creativity. And, that creativity needs inspiration. It needs many other things also, as the process of innovation is not just about ideas. It needs knowledge, and people who are engaged in what they are doing – not just going through the motions. For more about the innovation process, read John Kao, who we heard speak at the CoreNet Global Summit San Diego in 2012 – certainly a process, but can it be measured by ‘productivity’?

Post-productive Places must inspire people to be creative. Places must also make people feel valued, and part of the organization, to be fully engaged in their work. Increasingly ‘places’ are also one element of the process to attract good people to work for an organization (or at the least, not to dissuade them from enquiring!). The result should be engaged people, working together in “places” designed (and managed) to inspire.

We need ways to measure the success of such places – but, it is not “productivity” as such – it is more about performance. Human performance, leading to team performance, leading to organizational performance.

Paul Carder (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com); Twitter @occupiers

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