Juicing up your productivity: tips from the management frontline [2017 Future Forecast insight]
This year’s Future Forecast survey exposed real concerns about economic prospects, but dig even deeper into the data and you find inventive managers determined to reinvent their own organisationsMatthew Rock
The headline findings were stark from CMI’s 2017 Future Forecast survey: the 1,180 managers surveyed at the end of 2016 revealed a certain optimism about their own organisation’s prospects, but jitteriness about the wider economy. The Trump effect was under way.
But these were only the topline findings. Beneath the surface, the respondents painted a picture of deep operational scrutiny; a sense that 2017 would be a year in which they really focused on how their organisation and their teams functioned, and what they, as professional managers, could do to extract ever greater productivity.
Take this startling finding: for 73% of managers, controlling costs would be a high priority in 2017; a further 20% said it was a medium priority.
The only other operational consideration that came close was productivity, regarded by 90% of managers as a medium or high priority.
And that’s even though the majority of managers already view their organisation as reasonably productive. Productivity improvement is a clear priority.
Combine these twin facts – that managers are focused on costs and productivity – with their interest in improving the data on the contribution that people make to organisational performance (see below), and a picture begins to emerge. While volatile global, political and market forces cannot be controlled, the things in front of you can. You may not be able to solve the simmering Sino-American tensions in the South China Sea, but you can get to grips with which members of your team are contributing the most.
So what can be done to boost that individual, team and organisational productivity? Managers appear to see an answer in technology. As we know from daily commercial life, there’s a plethora of tracking data and tools available that can give a pretty instant, accurate view of which parts of the business are performing well, and which might need improvement. It’s the manager’s job to identify the signals amid the noise, and then put plans in place that will drive greater efficiency. Little wonder that more than a third of managers (36%) will be investing in IT in 2017, and IT investment is rated so highly in terms of its contribution to productivity improvement:
But poor productivity has many fathers; IT under-investment is only part of the picture. And managers are well placed to see the root causes and then act on them. This data, for example, shows that poor productivity rooted in everything from organisational culture to bad management and employee engagement.
Free-text responses about further barriers to improving productivity threw up:
- “Lack of bigger-picture vision and yearly changes to remits”
- “Unprofessional managers with no management training and lack of professionalism and ethics”
- “Outdated technology that forces people constantly to create workarounds”
- “Lack of intrapreneurship among colleagues”
- “Dysfunctional change programmes”
- “An autocratic, bullying managing director”
So what steps are UK managers taking to lift productivity – remember that Britain’s overall performance in this regard is pretty dire? Again and again, the answer comes down to two things: professional leadership that’s informed by integrity and vision; and genuine employee engagement so that everyone is inspired to contribute to improvement:
- “We are currently engaged in a programme with employees updating company values and working on improving the social fabric between employees. This should increase morale, trust and productivity”
- “The new management team is tackling issues head on”
- “Thankfully I work for an organisation where morale and engagement are high priorities”
- “Central functions need to support departments, not overrule them”
- “We are working to speed up the dissemination of global best practice internally”
- “Strong leadership and fun!”
All in all, this cut of the Future Forecasts data points to 2017 being a year of some introspection, in which managers are looking closely at how to make their organisations work better. A national reboot seems to be under way….