Posted by: kerrywills | February 4, 2011

Maximize productivity

These days it seems like there is way too much work to do (see 40 hour week blog post). Therefore as professionals and leaders, it is our job to look for ways to maximize the team’s productivity.  Here are a few examples of techniques that I have used to organize my teams and improve their productivity.

  • Set the context – When there are nebulous discussions or decisions that need to get made I find that oftentimes there are countless meetings where a lot of dialogue is made, but not much progress. Therefore I find that setting the context for the decision is really helpful. This includes using decision tools such as a QFD where criteria are documented and then each option is weighed against that. Other techniques can include facilitating the team to focus on relevant facts and not discussing other things.
  • Clear accountabilities – Identifying who owns pieces of work can avoid duplicate work where many people ‘own’ something and perform similar tasks. The irony is the more people who own something the less that gets done (“if everyone owns it then no one owns it”)
  • Clean meetings – Keeping meetings clean means uninviting people from the meetings who don’t need to be there. Often times we want to invite everyone just in case but usually ancillary people only get a few minutes of value from the meeting vs doing work back at their desks. It also means keeping meetings focused so you don’t need more follow up meetings.
  • Take laptop – I find that bringing my laptop to meetings helps for me to document decisions and templates as we speak. It is inefficient to (1) write it down and then (2) document it.
  • Non-value time – Find those activities which your team are doing that are not directly helping the team to progress and get rid of them. This can include not doing them, moving them to less critical resources or finding easier ways to meet the goals.


Don’t waste time

As project managers our primary goal is to make sure that we maximize the effectiveness of every team member to meet our shared commitments. We need to remember this as we focus on our daily project administration.  It is amazing how being organized and thoughtful as a leader can result in hundreds of project team members being more productive. We need to recognize that we have this impact and influence.


  1. Hi Kerry,
    As always, enjoying following your blog and reading about your thoughts on project management. Hope you’re doing well with your new gig!

    On this topic of productivity, I have a follow up question for you. First, do you believe that multi-tasking contributes to or detracts from productivity? I am especially focused on people’s behaviors at meetings where the laptop and smartphone culture creates significant distractions from the tasks/topics at hand.

    Although I agree with your opinion that the person taking notes should use their laptop to avoid redundancy, I think everyone else at the meeting needs a laptop closed policy to focus on the discussion. That’s not always possible since there are references often needed on one’s laptop. However, I find that 10-20% of a meeting is consistently wasted by people having to repeat themselves because someone wasn’t paying attention.

    Your thoughts?

  2. I think it depends on the person. I am a big fan of brining laptops and multitasking and believe the ability to do many things offsets focusing on just one. But I don’t believe that a lot of people have the capacity to do this. I guess it depends on the topic, need for focus, and capacity of people to do many things.

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