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By Todd Dewett | Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Goals, Productivity — and Breaking the Rules

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This week’s tips focus on two counterintuitive ideas. The first concerns productivity.

Let me be clear: Productivity is important! Having said that, we often over-focus on productivity itself while neglecting a few underlying factors that influence productivity.

You see, a productivity metric (whether that’s sales, pieces of work per unit of time, amount of scrap, accounts serviced, etc.) is a result, a lag indicator. We spend a lot of time defining the right metrics and collecting data. This is useful, but let me ask you: Why do we always focus on the outcome instead of what drives it?

As a quick example, think about goals. If individual and team goals are clear enough and demanding enough, do you think people will be productive (assuming decent accountability)? Of course! We do need to study and manage both goals and productivity metrics, but my point is about where to spend the preponderance of your time: Goals, not metrics.

The second tip is one of my all-time favorites and will help you think more deeply about goals and a host of other managerial topics. The idea is simple: The rules and guidelines that you typically follow to be an effective manager are not universally applicable. The problem is that once we learn how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

You have to realize that the rules you’re taught about great management work half the time. The rest of the time, you’re dealing with quirky variance in situational variables. Situations and people vary widely—so what works for one group in one situation may have little to do with what works for another group in a different situation.

There are different levels of leadership knowledge. First you learn the basics, including things like productivity metrics or goal setting. That’s just step one. Step two requires you to deviate from the basic rules to find a unique approach that works for each situation you face.

Watch this week’s tips to learn more. And check back next Tuesday for more Management Tips.

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