My definition of productivity

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 11th May 2021

I have been running personal and team productivity training for almost twenty years. Recently, a client asked me to run some training for their team, but they asked me not to call it productivity training, and not to use the term ‘improving productivity’. I was initially perplexed, but after a bit of explorative discussion, I began to see their perspective. They did not want their passionate but very busy workers to feel like management wanted more from them. I realised that their definition of improved productivity was to produce more, and I could see how that might be problematic.

But on reflection, I also realised that my definition of productivity was different.

When I am not working on productivity you will find me in the kitchen cooking. That is my relaxation. There are five basic tastes (they have discovered more, but these are the classic five) that make food enjoyable to us. Bitterness, Sourness, Sweetness, Saltiness and Umami. Great cooks get the balance right between these tastes, and magic happens.

When I think of productivity, it is not simply about producing more. That is one of five indicators of productivity. I reckon the five productivity ‘tastes’ would be:

  • Efficiency – Getting things done with the least amount of effort or friction
  • Effectiveness – Getting the right things done
  • Quantity – Getting more done in the time available
  • Quality – Getting things done to the appropriate level of quality
  • Balance – Doing the work in a balanced way that supports wellbeing

So, when I run a productivity training session, my focus is helping the participants to develop the right skills and systems to do their best work in the best way for them and their organisation. It should always be a win/win outcome. This is a useful reframe that hopefully communicates to participants and leaders alike that training should always serve the participant, their team and the organisation.

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