Businesses love the idea of cranking up productivity levels. It means they earn more per unit of expenditure. At least, that's the theory. The trouble is that people get in the way. The company will install equipment that works harder. And you can be sure that they will either exhort you to work harder or provide you with tools …
Technology has made me fat
In the old days before reliable ADSL was everwhere I used to walk around London and maybe vist around 7 or 8 clients a day. Now I can just sit in my office, eat and do everything via remote control. This meant I had to buy bigger trousers. So really, new technology hasn't helped in my case.
Paris, because she would never get fat with all the exercise she gets.
not really software
but multiple monitors make me more productive. the more, and the bigger, the better.
My productivity took a huge jump when I did courses on human-computer interaction and information theory. I realised that the tools that the managers (note, not "the business", but the managers) wanted us to work with were a massive hindrance to productivity, and we ended up replacing them with faster lightweight tools that had been written by people who would have to use them day-to-day.
The most obvious change was binning ClearCase in favour of SubVersion and Perforce (depending on whether the business unit wanted a "proper support" license). Similarly for issue tracking and collaberation software - dumping the "big name" stuff in favour of smaller, lighter and (most importantly) friendly software almost always resulted in huge increases in productivity.
There were also a lot of free beers, as users came to us saying "Thank you for replacing that horrible system with one that works for me". To be fair, most of the replacements were done because we had someone (often me), who would sit with the end-user and see the way they wanted to work. It's not so much about the software itself, but it is about choosing software that is good for the people who are going to be using it, and that does usually mean stuff that "just works" instead of having a "big name".
managment ? incentives ?
I have worked in many work places, IT and otherwise where "incentivising" (sh*t, it's not even a real word) the workforce consisted of as many managers as possible standing over the workers shoulders and shouting the odds...... I'm not even going to get into some of the more bizarre stuff (although being told we should wear safety glasses in order to use tippex must be worthy of mention), where one crowd of managers seemed to be trying their damndest to ensure that things were as hard and mindless as possible. Oddly, these places were the ones where productivity went up whenever the managers made themselves scarce. At one place I worked such managers were encouraged to leave production areas by well aimed missiles.
The best incentives - Being listened to by bosses. Bosses who recognised that have given out tasks, they could achieve more by giving workers the support, tools and necessary space (and occasionally even - protection from other managers trying to queer said managers pitch) to perform them.
In general though, I've always found that marketing and sales get lots of carrot, and everyone else gets lots of stick.
Skills before tools
Tools are great - but if the people using them don't know what they are doing then nothing is going to improve productivity.
And before we start in on the productivity of the 'workers' how about skilling up the managers & leaders?
I am married to organisational psychologist and I have worked with her on lots of projects where technology (my area) was not the problem - it was getting the fundamental skills in place across the board. How to prioritise, how to organise & most importantly - how to help somebody else get sorted if they are overwhelmed.
Over and over again it is this last one that improves productivity. If you can take a team of people who are swamped and help them plan a way out that gets the job done - then you see huge increases in productivity.
Inverting the pyramid
Hi folks. Thanks for the comments. Please keep 'em coming.
The business of 'inverting the pyramid' is a good one, where bosses become the servants to the workforce. The two-screen one too: I'm using two at the moment and I really hadn't thought in productivity terms, more convenience. But one probably equates to the other.
As for the big trousers. Hmm, I'm with you there. I've almost stopped using the car, but then if I don't get out much anyway....