September 27, 2016

Three steps to the culture of superproductivity

Taneli Tikka

Head of Innovation Incubation, Data Driven Businesses, Tieto

Superproductivity leans on the application of technology, so technology choices are in a determining role and they must anticipate even significant changes of direction.

A leader must abandon the traditional technology strategy directed downward from the top and move to a model where experts striving for superproductivity are allowed to make technology choices on behalf of the company, at least when the choices are well-founded. These choices may be for example near-limitless authority of front line experts to choose their own tools, methods, and perfect the processes they run. Figuring out in practice where and how to apply technology holding the promise of superproductivity.

Recognition of superproductivity requires that a leader understand how superproductivity is created. How to facilitate superproductivity in your own business? Probably, a leader must better recognise the signals given by employees, customers and partners about superproductivity. It must also be recognised at an individual level, in other words, the leader must be capable of assessing the productivity potential of individuals. This may mean that the old myth about “a leader should not be close to her employees” – will finally face oblivion. As it will be next to impossible to recognize, understand and deal with superproductivity from a great distance afar.

It may be easy to identify the differences in actual productivity between individuals, but it is more difficult to gauge employees' capacity or potential. A leader should identify the individuals in the organisation whose potential for even higher productivity is the biggest and identify the means for utilising this potential in full. This is certain to be as difficult as comprehensive coaching and educating of people is in the first place.

A coaching approach and supported by the organisation's culture is a start. When very productive individuals are identified, a leader must be able to ensure that their productivity can further develop. An employee capable of 700-fold productivity is more likely to be able to raise his or her productivity to 900-fold than an employee starting at a productivity rate of 100-fold.

This development of superproductivity is unlikely to succeed through basic project management methods or by standardisation of tools. It is more crucial to empower superproductive employees.

Leaders must do all in their power to ensure that the work of superproductive employees is sufficiently supported, resourced and facilitated. Leaders can help superproductive employees to further develop their productivity for example through a series of experiments from which employees may learn ways of further improving their productivity.

Broadly speaking, organisations have to be able to grow a culture of productivity, where effort is made to transfer the means of superproductivity also to those who are not reaching it. A culture of superproductivity requires means of increasing productivity, but also the setting of boundaries. Taking this step will also take management toward coaching: a leader must inspire, motivate and coach the less productive individuals but also be capable of setting boundaries for how much can be invested in learning and growing.

The organisational culture must support every employee taking responsibility for the development of his or her own productivity. Collegial learning together and taking the best productivity practices in use immediately and broadly helps transfer superproductivity. Some highly successful organisations have this approach deeply encoded within their DNA – rocketships like Supercell are well worth the attention on how they run their collegial learning, for example.

Read also my other blogs about robotics; "When a maschine takes control" and "Robots on duty. Assistant or orchestrator – you decide".

The blog is part of a report published by Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA ”Robots to work – what happens in the workplace”. Taneli Tikka wrote chapter "When a machine takes control" for the report, pages 63–86.  The report can be downloaded in Finnish on EVA's website.

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