In last month’s Productivity Pulse, our exclusive monthly newsletter, we announced our MPS Productivity Philosophy.
Through our decades of research in optimizing productivity at companies around the world, we’ve identified five key disciplines that must be focused on in order to create cultures of sustainable productivity at the organizational, team, and individual levels: alignment, accountability, workflow management, digital fluency, and well-being. We wanted to give you a little more context on what this philosophy is and how it was developed, so I sat down with MPS Founder and CEO, Sally McGhee, to pick her brain on the topic.
What inspired you to introduce this philosophy to clients now?
McGhee: I believe that productivity has a lot to offer to teams and organizations, but that it has been put in a corner with time management within the business community. It seemed as if organizations weren’t seeing it as a broader cultural change that requires more thought and leadership to implement effectively. Productivity can be looked at in the same way as Six Sigma and Lean—there is an education and skills that can be taught to make a culture more productive. Based on that mindset, I wanted to communicate that productivity is a philosophy, and it’s a multi-faceted philosophy at that. As our leadership team analyzed productivity, we found there are five disciplines that are necessary to implement a culture change within an organization, and from there, the MPS Productivity Philosophy was created.
What specific events in your career of productivity consulting shaped the formation of this philosophy?
McGhee: Earlier in my life, when I was coaching executives, managers, and individual contributors, I noticed that there was a lack of focus on productivity at all levels. I found there was a lack of knowledge surrounding productivity, so it then became a priority for me to support individuals and teams on how to improve their productivity to drive results. Additionally, I worked with Microsoft when productivity was still being organized by paper, so when the digital age came, I realized how much productivity could improve with the new technology. Expectedly, the issues of working with paper transferred in to issues of working digitally, and it became a passion for me to solve these problems by intertwining technology, people, and behavioral changes to create more productive cultures.
From your perspective, what is the importance of each discipline?
- My experience working with leaders is that if there is alignment with a team, it reduces a lot of noise; meetings are quicker with less conflict, emails are clearer and there are less of them, the cycles of actions are reduced, and there’s less confusion on what needs to get done and who needs to do it. Alignment can touch on any area of a company, and once there’s alignment within the organization it’s an easier and more pleasant environment to work in.
- Simply put, accountability allows people to dig deeper to hold themselves and others responsible. The standards set by a company may not be set high enough, and they may not represent the many levels of accountability that apply differently to the different positions. There’s also a coaching element surrounding accountability which is feedback; giving feedback to employees helps them and inspires them to be more accountable.
- Workflow Management:
- We are so busy sometimes that we rarely stop to ask ourselves, “Is there a better way to do this?” Everyone’s workflow can be reduced and standardized to move quicker and produce results sooner. Right now, people react to their work and to their email; they’re not proactive enough about it. I understand that not all areas of work can be workflowed, but the ones that can should be.
- Digital Fluency:
- Right now, people are flying by the seat of their pants with digital tools. Most don’t have time to learn how to use their tools, and those who are being taught, are being shown the over-arching features and benefits, even if they don’t apply to that person’s role. We need to look at how different tools help different roles. For example, looking at which Microsoft Outlook features are most beneficial to executives, but that wouldn’t be applicable to an executive assistant’s role. There are many features and benefits of every tool, but not all of them should be used by every person.
- There is an increased interest in how to be healthier at work, and how that can impact an individual’s productivity. We need to create a culture where employees are given permission to have that conversation, as research has shown that having greater work-life balance drastically benefits organizations and individuals. There will undoubtedly be times where work life balance shifts, and a person will work more or spend more time at home, but it’s important to recognize that as normal while placing an emphasis on living as balanced of a life as possible.
Is there an importance in the five disciplines working in tandem?
McGhee: The 5 disciplines are interconnected. You can work with them individually, but as soon as you start working with them in a team, they play off of each other. Workflow and Digital Fluency are beneath everything we do. Alignment and Accountability have a strong impact on Well-Being. If you don’t focus on one, it will negatively impact the other four to some degree. You may be able to work with one or two, but the system will work best with all of them. Focusing on any of them will make a difference, but you will not have the same impact as you would if you were focusing on all five of them.