The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commission on Industrial
Competitiveness once stated that productivity is the key to a successful economy. The message for our organizations is
that productivity is the best shot for business success.
“A well-positioned strategy and high-quality products/services are essential, but only
speed makes you the leader in your particular industry,” says Bob Preziosi, a professor of management in the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University.
“People want everything faster.”
Smart Business talked to Preziosi about
how to manipulate productivity variables
to the benefit of your company.
How do organizations and individuals gain
an edge in the race for higher productivity?
There is no magic formula. However, a
set of perspectives and some operating
approaches should be used. There are at
least eight perspectives and numerous
- Organizations should establish (and
enforce) policies that enhance individual
and organizational productivity.
- Leaders should take actions that reinforce the importance of productivity.
- Productivity objectives should be set
for each individual, each department and
the overall organization.
- Limits on input use (money, people,
technology) should be established and
- A results-oriented performance management system should be established.
- A technology plan that produces quantifiable productivity results across the
organization should be implemented.
- Every aspect of existing work procedures should be continuously assessed
using standards for efficiency.
- Every aspect of the business that
touches a staff member should be evaluated for positive impact on productivity.
- Identify the most important human elements in productivity.
One of the human elements in the productivity equation is leadership. Leaders must
address productivity management with a
data-driven and team-based approach. This
is a collaborative effort that involves everyone. It means that leaders must see annual
reports on productivity success.
What are some other operating approaches?
Next, leaders must require a balanced
effort from all units. The system for managing productivity must allow resources
(money, people, technology) to be redeployed to maximize return on investment
and value-added economy from all units.
Whenever there is a lull in one part of the
organization, leaders should address moving resources where there appears to be
more work. This requires a great deal of
flexibility and fluidity on the part of leaders
and the work force.
When can attention be shifted away from
There are times when certain work units
or individuals think that there should be an
exemption from productivity improvement
because of special circumstance. The only
special circumstance is innovation in product or service or process.
Many leaders believe that mildly competitive contests can lead to productivity
increases. Guess what? They are right. It is
important, though, for them to keep in
mind that the best programs to put in place
support a sense of collaboration.
Leaders must learn to balance both sides
of the scale. It is equally important that any
program totally avoid any aspect of personal favoritism.
How do leaders know if productivity is on the
Leaders must require that the total productivity system be audited on a regular,
probably annual, basis. Monthly, or even
weekly, status reports also are desirable.
The audit will provide information to
leaders that can be used in decision-making about the productivity system.
Everyone knows that occasionally someone stumbles over a good idea. Most good
ideas, though, come from an organized
effort. Leaders must make budget dollars
available for work units and individual
employees to conduct problem-solving and
research projects on productivity. Leaders
must encourage the use of that money.
Constancy of purpose is the foundation
of leaders’ actions to improve productivity.
Steadfast commitment is the necessary
launchpad to increase productivity. Ongoing conversation will make it happen.
Leaders must tell stories about ‘great
moments’ in productivity.
BOB PREZIOSI is a professor of management in the H. Wayne
Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova
Southeastern University. He has been delivering leadership training and education for more than 30 years. Reach him at
[email protected] or through the school’s Web site at