Understanding organisational context for productivity improvement

07 March 2012

Newsletter: from answers to action

Improve organisational productivity

The demand for organisations to increase the pace of change is commonly accepted. What some of us may question is how organisations respond to these demands. Take the quest for increasing productivity and efficiency while simultaneously keeping headcounts low and operating lean budgets.

Here's a typical process:

  • choose a lens to assess the change through, such as McKinsey's 7S or Leavitt's diamond
  • job reviews
  • organisational re-design to make savings and boost productivity
  • implement new technology to streamline operations
  • wrap it up in a communications program

What we find at Insync Surveys is that more often than not, organisations tend to approach productivity initiatives in a vacuum, assuming that the relationship between problems and solutions is linear. What's often overlooked is the need for an analysis of the organisational context in which the business operates.

For organisations to succeed in today's economy they need employees who are aligned with their aspirations, enabled to do their jobs and who are committed to its success. In other words, business leaders need to create an environment where employees are not only enabled to perform their roles effectively but also aligned with its broader direction and engaged in its mission. We recommend that prior to undertaking any initiatives to increase productivity, organisations should first seek to understand their unique context. Getting a valid read on the extent to which the day-to-day operations of an organisation are aligned with its strategic direction and whether employees are engaged is critical to understanding how to better enable staff and/or engage them.

Insync Surveys' Alignment and Engagement Survey is designed to do just this. This employee survey provides business leaders with transparency into the effectiveness of:

  • systems and processes (e.g. IT, organisational policies)
  • communication
  • people practices
  • the quality of relationships between staff and management, and 
  • the levels of employee engagement.

This employee survey is designed to equip business leaders and change managers to ask the "right" questions that lead to more appropriate and targeted productivity improvement initiatives. For instance, it may be "obvious" to the management team that there are inefficiencies with IT. Only a thorough diagnosis however can reveal that not only are the IT equipment and systems inefficient, but that employees' relationships with IT are also inhibiting staff from doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. This is pertinent and powerful information that should serve as input into process and/or technology review and subsequent re-design.

Leadership is another topical issue. Organisations invest time and money into enhancing the capability of their leaders to improve their effectiveness and hence organisational performance. What we find however is that this investment is often misdirected. The Alignment and Engagement Survey is able to diagnose the relationship staff have with their immediate manager and the senior leaders of the organisation. It enables business leaders to identify whether any leadership improvement initiatives are enhancing the "right" skills; that is, skills that enable staff to do their work, create an environment which motivates employees to be aligned and engaged and increases employee engagement.

The focus on increasing profitability and efficiency is vital for organisations to succeed in this rapidly changing and ever turbulent global environment. To ensure the success of these initiatives it is recommended that organisations diagnose and work within their unique context. The information business leaders gain will probably not change what they do, but it is likely to change how they approach and implement productivity initiatives. The Alignment and Engagement Survey will serve to highlight critical inputs into the change process that may otherwise be overlooked. This is how it gives organisations an edge, increases their resilience and likelihood of strategic success.

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