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Increasing Productivity

The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.

Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.

1Internal competition

When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.

Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?

For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.

Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.

2Incentive systems

With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.

Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?

For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.

As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?

One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.

Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and senior associate at Dynamic Results LLC, a boutique firm offering strategy implementation, accountability and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for Small Business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?

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Increasing Productivity

Facebook’s Utopia, Our Nightmare: Open Offices Are Destroying Productivity

The open office was an exciting innovation in 1900, and people didn’t like it then, either.

John Rampton

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For as long as there have been businesses in operation, leaders have been looking for ways to boost productivity in the workplace. In 1856, the British government conducted a report on office space layouts.

The report said, “For the intellectual work, separate rooms are necessary so that a person who works with his head may not be interrupted; but for the more mechanical work, the working in concert of a number of clerks in the same room under proper superintendence, is the proper mode of meeting it.”

Fast-forward to 1906 and the opening of the Larkin Administration Building. Dubbed the first modern office, the building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and highlighted an open office plan.

Related: How To Create A Productive Office Space

The open-office concept continued throughout the 20th century, but it really took off in the 2000s, thanks to tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook embracing the open layout.

When Facebook unveiled its new campus in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg claimed it would be “the largest open floor plan in the world.” The campus, which is actually a single room stretching 10 acres, was designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Some Facebook employees, such as product designer Tanner Christensen, believe the new campus encourages productivity, collaboration and creativity. That’s because the open design focuses on mobility, empowers individual boundaries and encourages chance encounters.

Is open plan the right move?

That may be true in some cases, but most employees don’t share the same excitement. In 2015, The Washington Post published an article that boldly stated that the open-office trend “is destroying the workplace” at places like Google because it’s too “oppressive.”

In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple wasn’t happy with the open-office design: “Coders and programmers are concerned that their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting.”

While neither shares Facebook’s version of an open workspace, both articles highlight the fact that companies are prioritizing design over function.

Related: Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

What’s more, two-thirds of the 42,764 respondents to a University of Sydney study on workplace satisfaction found “open-plan layouts showed considerably higher dissatisfaction rates than enclosed office layouts.”

In fact, researchers stated, “Between 20% and 40% of open plan office occupants expressed high levels of dissatisfaction for visual privacy and over 20% of all office occupants, regardless of office layout, registered dissatisfaction with the thermal conditions.”

Besides employees being dissatisfied with open office plans, they’re detrimental to productivity. That spells bad news for Facebook going forward.

Harder to focus, with more distractions

This should be obvious.

Everyone has that one teammate who’s so loud (and perhaps so obnoxious) that he distracts the entire office. Instead of being able to close a door to enjoy uninterrupted work, colleagues are pulled to engage in conversations. Research has even found that hearing one side of a phone conversation is more distracting than listening to both sides of an in-person conversation.

Professors Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks note in their article “Who Moved My Cube” that “some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”

Even more, as pointed out in The New Yorker, “Psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.” Overall, employees claim they’re losing 86 minutes a day to distractions.

Stressed or sick? Probably both

stressed-or-sick

A study conducted by Dr. Vinesh Oommen at the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that working in environments without offices “caus[es] high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover.”

Another study of 10,000 workers, funded by Steelcase, reported that “95% said working privately was important to them, but only 41% said they could do so, and 31% had to leave the office to get work completed.”

Of course, when more people get sick, there are more absences. The New Yorker states that companies with an open-office design can anticipate employees to take 62 percent more sick leave.

Related: The Entrepreneurial Case For A Co-Working Space

But that’s not the only way office mates in the open concept affect each other’s actions: Research from the Auckland University of Technology also shows that open offices often can lead to antisocial behaviors.

Researchers have found that in shared working spaces, there are increases in “employee social liabilities.” This includes “distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both co-worker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened.”

That’s because employees don’t feel as if they have supportive supervision. Additionally, between the lack of support and the noise, employees in open offices eventually “become more irritated, suspicious and withdrawn.”

Busyness as a proxy for productivity

As defined by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work,” “In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.”

Newport goes on to explain: “If you send and answer emails at all hours, if you schedule and attend meetings constantly, if you weigh in on instant message systems… all of these behaviors make you seem busy in a public manner.

If you’re using busyness as a proxy for productivity, then these behaviors can seem crucial for convincing yourself and others that you’re doing your job well.”

This is what happens in an open office: Managers tend to evaluate their team members on how busy they appear. That’s because they look out on the floor and see people on their computers, but they could be playing a game or updating their social media accounts instead of working.

Ending the nightmare

If you’re designing a new workspace for your startup or business, you can consider some alternatives to an open layout.

Hub and Spoke is actually a hybrid of an open office and a closed office. While there are central spaces and hallways that are open, there are still individual offices. M.I.T.’s Building 20 is an excellent example of the Hub and Spoke approach.

Eudamonia Machine comes from Newport himself; in this concept, offices are divided into five spaces: the Gallery, Salon, Library, Office and Chamber. You must pass through each room to get to the next. However, each room encourages more concentrated and focused work.

Writer’s Cabin doesn’t have to literally be a cabin. It’s actually any location where you can get serious, uninterrupted work done. It could be your local coffee shop, the library or even a tiny house in your backyard.

Related: 5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Open offices may have sounded like a utopian dream to many entrepreneurs in the last decade, but seeing how they’ve played out in recent years proves they’re a nightmare for productivity.

Leaders looking to keep their teams sane — and working — would do well to explore other options. Design over function is a fun way to run a business, but it’s not a very smart one.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Keep Up The Momentum 

The year has kicked off with a whirlwind ride and already the first quarter is done and dusted. It’s important not to lose the momentum. 

Uwin Iwin

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Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere.

A powerfull driver

The statistics here are unambiguous and speak for themselves: Research shows that companies with motivational programmes outperform those that don’t by 30% to 40%. This figure is not to be overlooked. Increased productivity will mean, at the very least, lowered costs in production and improved profit margins.

Related: Have Your Incentive Scheme In The Palm Of Your Hand

The role of employee motivation is a significant element in the chain of value production. There are various means to increase drive, and ‘progression’ is one of the strongest among them. It’s important to note that ‘progression’ doesn’t only imply change, but the movement towards a target. This means that progress needn’t be confined to upward development: Instead, a manager may set up goals that an employee will find rewarding either in terms of:

  • Learning,
  • Personal development, or
  • Tangible returns.

This last element is where incentives come to the fore. Incentives provide recognition and material reward to those who have earned it.

As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.

Stagger the awards

It has been a long few months since the Christmas bonus and January, February and March are traditionally ‘lean’ months. It might be a good idea to have quarterly award payouts to just keep employees motivated to perform.

Increasing normal rewards

There is nothing that destroys motivation as quickly as boredom. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible. Keep it interesting and you will keep the employees’ interest.

A targeted approach

When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way to determine them is to ask staff members to suggest their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole team.

Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.

Appropriate rewards

The challenge that many businesses face when planning their reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day-to- day necessities.

Money uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card (www.kudosh.com) that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.

Rewards beyond gift cards

Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is earning days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.

Communication is key

Communication about the incentive scheme is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation. The trick here is make the communications so powerful that they keep the momentum.

Incentives are an extremely powerful tool that business owners and managers can implement to assist with motivation and performance. It has to be done properly though, which is why investing in a professional platform is an imperative.

Ask Uwin Iwin to help you relook your incentive programme. We will come up with the perfect solution tailormade for your company. For more information, visit www.uwiniwin.co.za, phone +27 (0)11 557 5700 or email info@uwiniwin.co.za

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Increasing Productivity

5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Innovation happens by design. Build it in to your company, and it will show through in your results and relationships with customers.

Sonia Thompson

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Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.

Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation – Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them – garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.

And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.

Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment – one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.

Related: 3 Ways To Find Ideas For A New Business

1. Create a culture of experimentation

Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.

The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable.

2. Make idea generation a habit

Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you.

Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options.

Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.

3. Diversify your experiences

diverse-experienceWhen it comes to innovation, realise that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.

The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

4. Encourage dissent

Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone.

Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.

Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.

5. Obsess over your customers

Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.

Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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