Stop Incessant Interruptions to Increase Productivity

When a CEO or Owner is working with me to grow their business 15 or 20% or more, we work hard to flip their approach to everything. The overall flip of their mindset switches from paying a little bit of attention to a lot of things to paying a lot of attention to a few key contributors to dramatic growth.

Putting the company under the microscope and looking at it through the lens of each Focus Area brings many unexpected and previously hidden details to light.

One of those details is productivity—or the lack of it. I’ve found too many companies emphasize quantity over quality, speed over thoughtfulness and packed schedules over accomplishment. The CEO is usually responsible for the beliefs about what constitutes productivity. It is critical that the CEO redefine these beliefs, and live the new definition repeatedly, in order for the rest of the company to follow suit.

Two beliefs about productivity have to be changed in order to achieve this magnitude of growth.

  1. Collaboration is the primary way to ensure the innovation and market leadership that propels dramatic growth.

Companies take longer to get innovative offerings to market when collaboration is valued to the extent that independent work is discouraged and dismissed,. Why? Because endless collaboration requires tons of negotiating with other team members; lengthy and repetitive chains of emails or chats to arrive at conclusions; and a rush to contribute that precludes deep thought.

The few companies that don’t demand collaboration all the time are more successful getting innovative offerings out the door. Employees spend more time thinking—even dreaming—and tinkering with possibilities than they do talking and bouncing ideas off one another. This avoids the swift judgement, dismissal or endless tweaking needed to gain consensus.

  1. Speedy responses to emails, chats and other communications indicates commitment and leads to success.

As Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, points out in an interview with HBR’s Sarah Green-Carmichael (“Restoring Sanity to the Office”) every time a person stops what they’re doing to respond to an incoming communication, they lose momentum and forward progress on whatever they were doing. He strongly recommends adopting the concept of asynchronous responses: receivers, not senders, decide when the time is right to read and respond. If a question truly needs an immediate answer, keep the respondent group to no more than 3 people. He believes that emergencies requiring immediate responses that interrupt the recipients work happen only a couple of times a year. That means that most of your demands for instantaneous responses are either made up, or the result of having put things off until a crisis arises.

I help bring a CEO’s beliefs and behaviors about productivity to light. They may be so well-entrenched that no one realizes how much of an impediment they are. Once the CEO sees them, he or she also sees a path forward to maximizing productivity.

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