Consultants and management experts have come up with various metaphors and models to talk about the productivity plateau – that strange period after a company has achieved initial success and begins to see its productivity stagnate. For the company’s leadership, this period is as confusing as it is panic inducing. So how is it that the same team that came up with (and implemented) those initial successful strategies, now struggles to produce anything that could be considered productive?
Tap Into The Resource Element of HR
The problem at hand here is not a new one – and the people who work in HR and project management have probably studied the factors leading up to this issue in-depth at some point in their training. Don’t freak out. Concrete solutions are out there, so take a breath, and get ready to get your team into gear.
Too often we think of the folks in human resources as only having a role in the hiring and firing of employees, but this department (or person) could very well hold the key to ending this block in productivity. In addition to knowing the ins and outs of benefits packages and 401K options, human resource professionals tend to come from diverse academic backgrounds and often have a solid grasp of organization behavior, which allows them to help those in leadership figure out how to reorganize the existing team in a way that optimizes productivity (this is also a great factoid to have in your back pocket next time someone disses you for getting a liberal arts degree).
Assess Your Team
You don’t have to force everyone on your team to take a Myers-Briggs personality test or get into a trust circle (though you should note the first option has way more potential to help than the second) but you should start identifying and separating the “big picture” thinkers from the task-oriented folks on the team who do better with details. Author and productivity guru, Les McKeown recommends separating project planning sessions into two sets of meetings with different members of your team.
You’ve found yourself in the planning phase of a project, so get your big picture folks in a room and come up with solutions. That’s what they do best, and tapping into the creativity that produced your initial success will energize your team as much as it will breathe life into the project at hand.
According to McKeown, you should then hold a separate session with the detail-oriented members of your team and come up with a plan on how to bring the ideas from the “big thinker” meeting to fruition. Separating the team might seem counterintuitive and a little antisocial, but from a functional standpoint, it allows the members of your team to shine and it breaks down the planning process into something that has more structure and accountability.
Introduce Accountability Into Your Planning Process
One of the reasons unproductive feedback cycles form is because there isn’t enough personal accountability built into the process of plan implementation. Finding a solution to this is the prerogative of the leadership and project managers, and there are well-designed software options on the market that help with this.
You want to find a PM tool that gets everyone on the same page, and allows you to see how the workload is being distributed. You’re not looking for something that makes your team feel like they are being babysat, but most people who work hard will respond well to a system that allows them to demonstrate what they are doing and the amount they contribute. You can tap into this need, and make it task specific, and before you know it you’re out of the rut and thinking about bigger things like which takeout place offers small business discounts or if karaoke is really the best option for this year’s holiday party.