Some managers try to increase productivity by pushing people to work harder or faster—as if their workers are lazy. Others try to increase total weekly output per worker by working people increasingly longer hours—as if those workers never experience fatigue (a common reason for errors).
These strategies are prone to failure, sometimes spectacularly. They are based on a negative assumption about the people that someone at your firm thought would make good hires. Do you see the illogic here?
An electrical testing firm based in Texas has increased productivity by seemingly pushing people to work slower. The test technicians take more time to set up a job than is typical for the industry. They take more time to shut down for the day, too. So how can they possibly be more productive?
The answer is the technicians aren’t working more slowly, they are working more methodically. That is, they are working smarter. They aren’t backtracking to redo work because of a missed step. Nor are they losing time to injuries because of unsafe work practices or ignorance of unsafe conditions at the site. Nor are they leaving a mess behind; cleanup is part of the job, and it’s one clients do not overlook.
This firm’s technicians do appear to get through the actual testing with surprising speed. But they are not working frantically to do so. What’s the secret? This firm is not afraid to invest in the test equipment needed to do precise, efficient work, or in the training needed to use that equipment to achieve that goal. This is the key reason they achieve that goal.
Pushing people harder is the lazy manager’s way of addressing a problem based on an assumption that people are lazy. That assumption is rarely correct.
But what if it is? Consider the difference in motivation between employees who are told they matter and are trained and equipped to do the best work they are capable of, and employees who are given a very different message.