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A Time for the Two-Percenters

Appeared in Portland Press Herald, December 16, 2008


A timeless skill set has suddenly become extra timely. It’s called “personal productivity.”
Think of the people among your work associates who seem to get a lot done – and it’s all really good.

Now think of those among them who don’t get flustered by problems and unexpected roadblocks.These are the ones who keep thinking and looking until they work out a good solution.

Finally, think of a third characteristic, one that may narrow the sample significantly: Strong relationships. This subset of your colleagues is composed of those who do what they say they will do. They keep their promises, and they don’t make promises they can’t keep. You know that, when you really need help, they’ll be there for you. For these and other reasons, they work very well with others.
What percentage of your employees or co-workers meet all three criteria: Personal productivity, problem-solving excellence and proactive teamwork?
Among my clients, the answer to that question is all over the map – from the occasional people who say 90 percent of their workplace associates measure up . . . to others sprinkled all along the spectrum. How about you?

I’m a two-percenter myself. It’s my job to help individuals and organizations find ways to get maximum value from the investments they make in materials, facilities and – especially – personnel. In fact, the human resourced is the catalytic resource. Nothing happens unless people do something, and nothing productive happens if people aren’t effective in getting things done.

To improve return on investment, the quickest and least expensive move is to reduce waste, before moving on to create better returns on the input of materials, money and effort. You determine the optimum methods and practices for getting your desired results, and examine what’s actually going on to find places you can tune up the process.
When you do that, and are rigorous about it, you’ll find that most of your people most of the time could be getting more done, and done better, in less time at lower cost. Much of the shortfall is in weak personal organization, uneven communication and outdated procedures.

At the same time, the same skills of productivity, problem solving and collaboration are, when consistently in place, nearly a guarantee of creative innovation. Any organization that is not moving ahead with new/improved products/services is going to suffer erosion of its customer base. Clients’ needs and interests change, and competitors offer new stuff. Processes and approaches that were great a few years ago don’t work any more.

My two-percent assessment could be overly stiff in the view of many, but most organizations get stuck in backward-looking routine to some extent, perhaps taking pride in continuous improvement of factors that are slipping into obsolescence. An objective application of practical measurements can produce startling insights.

In the current era of belt-tightening and economic uncertainty, smart organizations are tuning up their way of doing business, not just to ensure survival, but to be among the first to profit when the upturn arrives, which it surely will. This certainly is no time to borrow and spend freely, but hunkering down alone is a chancy strategy.

What should you be doing, as a manager and as an individual, to strengthen your organization for continuity and prepare it for growth?

Organizations need frequent tune-ups to maintain effective workflow amid change. Jim has long experience – plus creative tools -- to help executives analyze their organizations, then design and implement better ways.
Project Management is the 21st-century model for managing complex, risky innovations to on-time outcomes within budget. Jim Milliken offers workplace-tested designs in customized formats for onsite implementation and classroom training.
Communication is the lifeblood of human organization, in small partnerships and large corporations – and the pipeline to their markets. Jim provides practical approaches to all the oral and written forms.
Personal Productivity is fundamental, and it consists of skills that can be examined, practiced and perfected. Likewise Leadership and Supervision. Jim has common-sense training designs for dozens of these essentials.



There is no obligation, financial or otherwise, arising from a preliminary discussion of consultation or training solutions.

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