Are Productivity Leaks Lurking in Your Business?
If you answered "no" to that question, you're still reading because. . . why, again? Seriously, productivity leaks happen to the best teams in the world. It's not just you. How do you think we know about this stuff?
Good news: we're here to help with an easy exercise to identify your worst productivity leaks. No consultants or safety equipment required.
Major Cause of Productivity Leaks
Without any productivity measurement tools, it's challenging to assess objectively a team's productivity. Productivity measurements are a "nice-to-have," but not essential to the growth of most young startups.
What you can do is identify and plug "productivity leaks." Productivity leaks are repetitive behaviors or practices that lead to less efficient work.
The causes of productivity leaks are many. Some will be specific to your company's workflow industry. In this post, we'll focus on a major offender, common to nearly every business type: prioritization fail.
Prioritization fail is any unorganized work that must be done, without definition around who will do the work, when, and in what order. Prioritization fail can infect something simple, like an overgrown ticket or issue queue.
The Consequences of Prioritization Fail
Insidious by nature, prioritization fail can find its way into feature builds, preparing board presentations, and returning calls to unknown parties. Prioritization fail can mean no one at your company checked the voicemail. Maybe you'll get another shot at Tech Crunch?
Less dramatically, prioritization fail builds up over time into a serious productivity leak. A team may be working harder than ever, but without appropriate task prioritization, they may not be working productively.
Your team members must make a series of decisions every time they work on something that isn't prioritized.
What should I work on next?
Can I do this if that other part of it isn't finished?
Is this thing more important than that thing?
What happens if I start this thing but I can't finish it?
Consider that some of your team members might be picking up unprioritized work multiple times a day. Constant in-the-moment prioritization for any team member is stressful and time-consuming. You might even say it's mind blowing.
From a managerial perspective, you might not want every member of your team prioritizing work. Let's funnel some of that time and energy into completing work instead.
# Seeking Productivity Leaks? Try a Reality Check
We see you surfing away from this post, startup founders and entrepreneurs with strict product roadmaps and well-organized ticketing systems. Stand down!
Prioritization-related leaks are almost always hidden. (There are other, better-documented productivity leaks, like time spent by team members on social media and the like.)
Work is still being done during a prioritization-related leak. It's just not always the right work at the right time. These leaks cost time and money and can impact employee satisfaction.
**Does your team have prioritization fails that are causing productivity leaks?**
**This five-day reality check will reveal the answers you seek.**
**It's not fun. It is free.**
* Ask team members to record every work-related task that they do for a 5-day period. (A Google sheet works well for this purpose.)
* The next week, have team members trade their Google sheets with someone else on their team.
* Ask team members to identify tasks that do not belong to a prioritized project (ticket, roadmap, etc.)
The results will reveal prioritization-related productivity leaks in your team's work. You will have to convince your team to participate enthusiastically in this exercise.
Might we suggest bribery?
# A Common Productivity Leak and Suggested Fix
The most common productivity leak among SaaS businesses and technical businesses is when the wrong people provide support to a particular customer on an on-going basis.
Worse, that support is often not being logged, so there's no record of the interaction.
Customer directly contacts the customer service or technical support person who helped them previously.
Similar: customers contact their implementation leaders, trainers, or sales representatives instead of a support team. Instead of redirecting the customer, the team member helps the customer with whatever they need.
Soon, your lead project engineer is on three customers' speed dials. Oops.
This is a difficult situation, but it must be dealt with unless you can provide account-level service to all of your clients.
(Who wouldn't like to do that?)
Insist that every incident must be logged regardless of the channel it came through. Then identify clients who avoid the normal channels.
Make a plan on a case-by-case level in partnership with their "adopted" team member to change the behavior. There's no right or wrong approach.
In some cases, such as VIP clients, there will be no approach. Decide that an exception is being made for a particular client and make it known.
Prevent future incidences by training your team how to manage these requests. Provide email scripts and phone scripts.
Help team members test the phone scripts out. It's a silly exercise, but saying the words out loud a few times will make them flow more easily when they're needed.
# Happy (Productivity Leak) Hunting
We can't wait to hear what productivity leaks you discover in your business.
Once everyone has finished a round of reality check and looked for those prioritization fails, we'll publish a follow-up post on another kind of productivity leak to track down.
Please do share what you've learned in the comments of this post.