Time fracking and radical new notions of productivity

Stephanie MacKendrick is President of Canadian Women in Communications and a recognized thought leader on women’s advancement and board diversity. You can follow her on Twitter @SMacKendrick.

It’s wise to be thinking about productivity these days as we’re told it is the engine that will drive any hope of growth in developed economies. It’s also a measure that Canada is thought to lag in. So how do we improve productivity? Is it just a question of just trying harder, of doing more?

One could argue that productivity is a secret recipe that combines the application of new technologies with savvy adjustments to how people go about their jobs. We know that perfectionism is a productivity killer, especially in the time of lightning- paced business developments and it’s certainly something that I’ve been blustering about for years from my dainty little soapbox because it is a very difficult issue for many women who struggle to master the old 80/20 rule, which is still a standard bearer of time management (see my March 1, 2012 blogpost).

However, there is another threat to our productivity that comes in the seductive guise of a helpmate, a wolf in sheep’s clothing as it were. And that is the belief that we have to learn how to “do more with less.” Less people, less resources, less time. This notion reverberates throughout the corporate world as mergers and acquisitions, technology disruption and economic conditions put pressure on bottom line results.

The “do more with less” assumes that there is a significant quantity of “wasted” time yet to be wrung from the average worker. It requires that what works in theory, also works in practice, that you can agglomerate all those hitherto unused ergs and semi-ergs into chunks of usable time and effort. Extraction requires aggressive measures to reap that last little bit of productivity. In fact, it’s not unlike a violent mining process known as “fracking” where the idea is to blow up the earth at profound depths with the purpose of shaking the living daylights out of the substructure until it releases those last little bits of oil or natural gas.

For those of us toiling in the transition from industrial age to the knowledge economy, we understand that process. We live it. I like to call it “Time Fracking,” an equally violent process where you shake the living daylights out of the various layers and compartments of a worker’s time and psyche to cause their skills and time to be blown apart and re-settled without any pockets of “unused” time, ergo eliminating inefficiencies.

Sadly, all too often, humans don’t respond as positively or as predictably as shale gas; they lose focus, burn out and start to worship a state of constant “doing”, and in so doing lose sight of strategy and purpose. Reflection and critical thinking are out. Breathing room for creative thought – out!

The alternative to Time Fracking, is a bold new stream of thought that truly grasps the nettle of boosting productivity: doing less with less! This brilliant new school of thought seizes the radical notion of putting pressure on the demand side of work, adjusting the scope of tasks in step with the reduction in resources. It matches resources to output. As we’re learning that the knowledge economy requires innovation by the metric tonne, it is a perceptive, if sneaky, way to address the issue.

Do less with less – pass it on.

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Category: Women@Work

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