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Productivity Is Not the Only Measure

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We’re all interested in being more productive at work. But increasing productivity isn’t the only measure that matters—and it probably should not be the first one to focus on.

measurement camp

© Flickr user Josh Hallett

The measure of your effectiveness is not productivity alone. Getting more done in a short period of time is important, but it should not be your primary measure of effectiveness. With my background in manufacturing, this was an idea that took me some time to put into perspective. After all when you are making something, how much you make and the quality of what you are making seems like the bottom line.

It turns out, however, that excellence is more important than productivity. People pay for excellence. People admire excellence. Excellence has longevity. Productivity is based on what you accomplish only during a specific moment in time.

Or to put it using another phrase that you may have heard before: quality is free.

So here is the question to ponder this week. In your business, or your life, where is excellence more important than productivity? We cannot be excellent in everything. So for you, what matters? Where do you need to be excellent, and where do you need productivity?

I have learned that in most cases when you focus primarily on productivity, you risk short changing the result. You risk compromising excellence for time. In many parts of life, this may be acceptable. But there are key areas of your life and your work where you should never compromise excellence for time.

Where is it more important to be right than fast? Where is it more important to be fast… to be first? Where can you adjust and improve as you go? Where are mistakes more costly?

There are areas of your life where you need to be prepared to always give your best. Do you know your area of excellence?

It’s been a common topic among everyone at AccelaWork. In fact there are posts about the dangers of measurement and the ways economists view productivity.

There are also quotes from people such as software expert Martin Fowler, who complains about foolish attempts to measure creative efforts:

Productivity, of course, is something you determine by looking at the input of an activity and its output. So to measure software productivity you have to measure the output of software development – the reason we can’t measure productivity is because we can’t measure output.

This doesn’t mean people don’t try. One of my biggest irritations are studies of productivity based on lines of code…[But] any good developer knows that they can code the same stuff with huge variations in lines of code, furthermore code that’s well designed and factored will be shorter because it eliminates the duplication.

Some people say “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. That’s a cop out. Businesses manage things they can’t really measure the value of all the time. How do you measure the productivity of a company’s lawyers, it’s marketing department, an educational institution? You can’t – but you still need to manage them.

Looks like the experts tend to agree: measuring productivity is important, but not everything that matters can be measured. That’s why you should establish programs that keep tabs on performance, but understand that some of the greatest contributions people can make are not those that stand up to analysis by the numbers.

How do you tell the difference? A key secret is this: Listen to your employees. And another is to ask for outside help. Consider reaching out to our business consultants to get advice. We’d love to be of service.

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Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown is an executive coach who is passionate about personal development. He works to make a difference in people's lives by empowering them with skills and knowledge that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. Mark has been coached, mentored, and certified by John Maxwell and his team. This coaching certification allows Mark to successfully coach and train individuals, groups, organizations, and companies.
Mark S. Brown


Executive and Business Coach at New Roads Leadership. A founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. We coach for your personal success!
Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown

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