Productivity Scientists

If you are going everywhere, where exactly are you going? If everybody everywhere is talking of productivity, where is the talk taking us? I do think that the more we talk of something, emptier our words get. ‘Productivity’ is inching in that direction, nowhere. Soon it may officially be declared just a sound with no meaning to it!

How do you see your friend off after a drink? ‘Take it easy bro’! And you are absolutely right. Most things are worth taking easy, spending more time on. Eat slowly, it digests better and provides most nutrients. Drive slowly, it saves lives and gives you a few more minutes with your daughter. Reading “Miles to go” with the little one? Well go slow with it, she will remember that poem for her life. We urge our children to be simpler and pleasant to others, because that’s how long lasting connections are made. For personal matters, we understand permanence and seek it out. We just haven’t learned to extend it to our workplace. The person leaving home is often not the person that reaches the workplace.

If we were both on the sales floor and I served another customer while you spent few minutes more being jocular with yours, I am considered the more productive one. Yours was a more humane act and thus a more sustaining sale. It at least raised the prospects of a repeat business. But I would count more for the quarterly earnings report. Outside the workplace, I would envy you for being the guy who can form connections easily. But the workplace hasn’t figured out that your ability to be more personable makes you more productive in the long run. Our idea of personal productivity doesn’t allow for longevity.

“Take it easy with that machine. You don’t want to get hurt and we want the machine to last longer too”. “Don’t rush from your lunch back to the sales floor, stop along the way at your friends cash counter and tell her a joke”. “Spend two minutes more with that customer and smile a bit more”. “Take a few days more writing that software and make it look pretty”. Now that’s productivity. It shouldn’t just get the job done. It should get the job done with a couple of touch downs and make it more sustainable at the same time.

I have spent years working on labor standards. A labor standard is basically the average time taken to perform a task with some time added for fatigue. That is how we decide how many shifts we need to staff. I guess, it is time we add the ‘Take it easy’ time to our labor standards. Hopefully the factor will go instantly viral, every labor intensive company will latch on to it and a decade from now there will be more smiling employees everywhere. I would rather see the word “Productivity” stay meaningful and phrase “Service with a smile” lose it’s meaning. Because, servicing with a smile would become a forgone conclusion.

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