THE BLOG

Business or Busyness

07/23/2013 03:53 pm ET | Updated Sep 22, 2013

When it comes to productivity, output and efficiency, people can be classified into four categories. Each of these types of people use the same 24 hours each day and each may keep very busy, but busyness is not synonymous with business.

2013-07-22-Capture.JPG Low efficiency and low output These are the people who think just put in the minimum they can in their required 8 hours in the work day; and that's what they think everyone does. They punch in at 9 am and punch out at 5 pm. As long as they remember to punch in, they get paid, have health benefits and get a nice 401k plan. These people get tasks and projects every now and then, but sometimes there is "nothing to do" and they find themselves shuffling papers and cleaning up their desk on some days and frantically trying to finish a report by 5 pm other days. They may even have a daily ritual of spending 30 minutes at a water cooler talking to another employee about their cats. As long as they bring home the bacon, everything is handy dandy. The name of the game is doing what they are told and filling the rest of the time with whatever they think is "productive" or keeps them out of trouble. This type of employees can distract others who have had to put extra effort into trying to concentrate on their own work while this type of employee spends long time spans talking about things that should be reserved for the lunch break. They are not only marginally productive if at all, but they tend to lessen the productivity of others. When efficiency and output are monitored, these are the people who are probably first in line for layoffs and the first to wonder why them?

Low efficiency high output
These are the people who also do what they are told, but they tend to also go the "extra mile." They take their projects seriously, and typically take on other projects as well when others need help. Sometimes the quality of their work is subpar, but they chug along and pump out a lot of work. On some occasions, they add tons of bells and whistles to the work they are doing. They are your standard workaholics. The bragging rights are on the base of how much time they spend working. They probably come in early and many times leave late or take work with them. When I say high output, I mean more than what is expected of them. Their efficiency is low because they could have done more with less time if they had worked a little smarter. They will finish their projects with whatever you give them. If they were told to cut a log with a pocket knife, they wouldn't second guess what they were told and would work until the task is done. At times they pick up the slack of the low output and low efficiency employees. These are the people who can clean things up for the company. The problem for them can be work-life balance and sometime burn-out.

High efficiency and low output
These people focus on responsibility. They understand that work is about more than a time card. They typically finish their work on time and deliver what they are asked to deliver. They live by the book in every aspect and do what "should be done" in every given situation. This employee has received the employee of the month more than once. When the corporate shoulder-angel appears, it is most likely this guy who you see telling you to follow the corporate standard. When I say low output, I don't mean less than standard. Efficiency is defined by the standards of efficiency set by the company. These are the letter of the law type workers. They are the people who know the employee handbook and follow its guidelines. They can be great to have in the company, if the company also has a lot of low efficiency but high output employees.

High efficiency and high output
These people are the innovators. They don't see efficiency like the others in the company. They think efficiency is directly linked to output and not to corporate standards. These people believe that new standards can be made every day when people find better ways of doing things. They realize that you can do all the steps and still get worse results than are possible. These people look at the desired output and break down the steps to reach that output. They are not afraid to recognize that some things can be cut out or the focus on some things can be altered to be less than they currently are. These people "trim the fat" from processes and use the extra time created by the new efficiency to find other efficiencies or to increase production even more. These people look at the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. They can change the way things are done in the company for the better and are sometimes a good fit for higher leadership roles in order to replicate the improved processes.

What does this all mean?
In my experience you can often find each of these types in every company. You may notice that the output and efficiency changes with each type of person, as a matter of perception. Typically all contribute something to the company. Some of these attitudes are definitely harder to find then others. The high efficiency and high output people are the hardest people to find, to attract and to retain and are significantly more valuable. In higher performing companies, you will generally find more high efficiency, high output people. But a company with all high efficiency, high output employees may be a terrible place to work. Finding the right mix of employees is the best way to create a great company, but this can actually be very difficult and the mix tends to change as the company evolves. Creating a great company with the right employees is much more complicated than just looking at these two factors.

There are limitations
These personality categories clearly don't explain the whole picture when it comes to output and efficiency, but they are a piece of the overall puzzle. Busyness does not create good business. We cannot explain all the complicated details of human motivation based solely on the visible implications of these outputs and efficiencies; however, we must be careful to never confuse how busy an employee is with how productive, efficient and effective they may be.

Let me know your thoughts?

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