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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

More Rules or More Freedom for Greater Employee Productivity?

Posted by Melissa Sweat on Mon, Apr 04, 2016 @ 09:57 AM

Heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

bigstock-Productivity-Doodles-25491734.jpgIn his recent post, “What really hurts productivity?,” on his Recognize This! blog, Derek Irvine makes a compelling case for how too many rules can lead to a decrease in employee productivity. His argument is geared toward employee recognition programs, which he says can have an inadvertently negative effect on productivity and engagement—particularly for programs that focus on creating strict eligibility criteria.

“It is not a stretch to assume that many employees—particularly those already showing up on time—would perceive these criteria as unnecessary rules placed on how and when work is accomplished,” he writes. “These employees most likely value their autonomy at work, and consequently, will be more reactive toward any perceived restriction in freedom.” So these types of program, in Derek’s view, can essentially backfire.

Commentary

While we agree that more freedom can be a positive, in our findings and work with organizations for over a decade, we’ve found that many employees struggle managing day-to-day tasks without stress and lower productivity. Combining structure and freedom for focused work, collaboration, and play can lead to much greater productivity overall. This is particularly so with structuring one’s workday, taking breaks, not requiring instant email responses, and using alternative tools like webinars and cloud-based documents, instead of just email.

Discussion

What do you think about the balance between freedom and structure at work when it comes to employee productivity? Do organizations need a combination of both? Do you yourself find that you’re more productive with either more or less structure? What about your department or team? Please share your thoughts below.

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Topics: human resources, summary-plus-commentary, time management tips, productivity, leadership

Brain, Interrupted by Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson (New York Times, 5/3/13); summary + commentary by Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 12:02 PM

Heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

describe the image“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work.” –C.S. Lewis. Today, we live in an era of constant distraction: a fast-paced digital age of multi-screens, electronic alerts, instant messages, and alarms, social media, and near-infinite web search & surf possibilities. At work the temptation toward distraction is a very persistent reality; and it’s making us not only less productive but less smart, too.

In a Carnegie Mellon experiment cited in the article (“Brain, Interrupted,” NYT), it turns out that an interruption made test takers “20 percent dumber” than the control group. In the second part of the experiment, a portion of the test takers were interrupted again, and yet improved to 14 percent (still lower though than the control group). Meanwhile, the other portion of test takers, who were told they’d be interrupted and were not, improved by 43 percent—even outperforming the control group.

Commentary

The authors conclude this last group may have focused to “steel themselves” against the interruption that never came, or that an awareness of imminent interruptions better prepared them. People-OnTheGo helps professionals develop this exact power of “micro-level focus,” and offers many strategies and webinars to this end. Here are 3 tips to help get you focused right now:

  1. Create a distraction-free work environment.

  2. Use a Micro-Plan™ and timer.

  3. Quickly “capture” any distracting thoughts in a paper journal so you can remain focused on the task at hand.

Discussion

How do you handle distractions at work? What strategies and techniques are you currently using? What are your greatest interruption challenges? Do you feel you’d be more productive if you learned to better manage interruptions?

Productivity Webinars You Might Enjoy

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, time management tips, interruptions, productivity, webinars, information overload

Disruptions: Life’s Too Short for So Much E-Mail by Nick Bilton (New York Times, 7/8/12); summary + commentary by Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 @ 09:17 PM

Haven't heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

summary commentary emaildistration 8.20.12

Corporate employees send and receive about 105 emails daily. Writer Nick Bilton thinks that’s a big problem as he tries to manage his more than 6,000 monthly emails, using everything from filters to away messages to no avail (see "Disruptions," NYT). He cites a 2012 UC Irvine report stating that those who didn’t check email regularly at work were less stressed and more productive than those who checked more often. Bilton considers other forms of messaging instead, like Google Chat or Twitter, or even not responding at all.

Commentary

We relate with Bilton about email frustration, but “avoidant inbox disorder” is not the solution. Our methodology at People-OnTheGo is that email is a task you schedule into your day. This enables you to focus your work effort, while saving time for collaboration (email, social media, etc.). We have a unique inbox strategy that helps you prioritize emails, daily and weekly; no more switching tasks to attend to every alert. We also agree with the UC Irvine study:  those who check email less regularly—though we would add “and more strategically”—are less stressed and more productive.

Discussion

Are you frustrated and overwhelmed by email? Do you try to avoid it? Are newer forms of communication like chat and social media messaging more preferable to you? What are some email solutions that you use in the workplace?

Additional Resources

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, Gmail, Technology, time management tips, getting organized, interruptions, productivity, information overload, time on social media, managing stress, email management

I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. by Kyle Wiens (Harvard Business Review, 7/20/12); summary + commentary by Lynda McDaniel

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Jul 29, 2012 @ 04:23 PM

Haven't heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Guest blog article by Lynda McDaniel

Summary

SpellingGrammar Summary and Commentary People OnTheGo

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Kyle Wiens calls himself a “grammar stickler.” He explains that everyone applying for a position at either of his companies, iFixit or Dozuki, is required to take a grammar test. With the exception of a couple of extenuating circumstances—dyslexia and English-language learners—he has a “‘zero tolerance approach’ to grammar mistakes.”

The difference between “too/to,” “its/it’s” and “their/they’re/there” is important, especially at his companies where the main products are user manuals and technical documentation. But grammar matters at every company, he explains. Whether in blogs and articles, e-mails or company websites, Wiens believes “your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence.”

Commentary

Wiens comments echo my own efforts to elevate the quality of writing in the workplace. I appreciate his insights about people judging us with the clues they have—which today are often only our words. Fortunately, people seem to be increasingly interested in refreshing their grammar and punctuation skills. So I question Wien’s rigidity about a single mistake. Excellence is an honorable goal, but not perfectionism. I find perfectionism makes my clients quiver and quake when facing a writing project. It shuts down their creativity and actually causes errors.

Discussion

How are your  grammar and punctuation skills? What is the quality of writing in your workplace? Do you ascribe to a “zero tolerance approach”? Where do you stand on the difference between perfectionism and excellence?

Additional Resources

Topics: business writing, email etiquette, guest bloggers, summary-plus-commentary

Your Bad Grammar at Work: What's the Problem? by Alison Griswold (Forbes, 6/22/12); summary + commentary by Lynda McDaniel

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sat, Jun 30, 2012 @ 05:02 PM

Haven't heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Guest blog article by Lynda McDaniel

Summary

NoTecknolegy By Sammy0716Flickr c2008

Alison draws from a Wall Street Journal article about grammar gaffes invading the workplace. She offers some legitimate reasons for this, such as words and usage have always changed over time. (After all, we don’t sound like Shakespeare!) She takes a close look at more common gaffes in today’s business writing, such as its/it’s, who/whom, less/fewer, their/they’re/there.

The article also explores her concern that the subjective tense is missing from most business writing today. As she explains, subjunctive tense is used when posing a hypothetical. We should say, “If I were the manager,” instead of, “If I was the manager.” The articles closes with six tips from author George Orwell, including 1) Never use a long word where a short one will do and 2) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Read the full article.

Commentary

I agree with Alison that good grammar is vital. But what concerns me more than the missing subjunctive is our growing struggle to craft cohesive thoughts. Texts and tweets have taken their toll. We need to write longer and more thoughtfully in order to engage our readers and tap into insights and creative ideas. We can learn to write faster and more effectively, and when we do, we enjoy increased results, respect, and revenues.

Discussion

How is your writing changing? When are texts or short e-mails the perfect response? When do you need to spend more time developing your thoughts? Neuroscientists have proven that we have all kinds of great ideas just waiting for us to tap into them, and writing can help us discover them. Do you spend time exploring your thoughts and creativity?

Additional Resources

Topics: business writing, email etiquette, summary-plus-commentary

Time for a workflow audit by Seth Godin, summary+commentary by Pierre Khawand

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Sep 07, 2011 @ 08:27 AM

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Summary

seth godin productivitySeth Godin suggests: "Go find a geek. Someone who understands gmail, Outlook, Excel and other basic tools. Pay her to sit next to you for an hour and watch you work. Then say, 'tell me five ways I can save an hour a day.' Whatever you need to pay for this service, it will pay for itself in a week."

Commentary

We hired geeks and business people and watched them work, and packaged the results in dozens of technology workshops. But the biggest finding was that time saving is not about technology and tools, but about thoughts and behaviors. We studied these! Hence the Accomplishing More With Less Methodology. Here are 3 of the behaviors: a) Stop constantly interrupting yourself and others b) Stop checking e-mail compulsively c) Stop getting busy with the small stuff!

Discussion

How do you waste or loose time? Is it technology and tools? Which ones? Is it in your thoughts and behaviors and which ones? Do you consider yourself efficient? Do you consider yourself effective? How much do you reflect on these topics? What feedback do you get from others? Are you getting the results you want?

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, time management tips

Study: Will You Abandon Facebook in Favor of Google+? by Brian Solis; summary+commentary by Pierre Khawand

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

Haven't heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

abandon facebook brian solisBrian Solis poses the above question to get us to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each social media platform, and on how we would allocate our time on these platforms--hoping that this exercise will lead to finding the optimum balance. About 2000 participants voted and the results are shown in the graph on the left.

Brian points out that Google+ reached 25M users in less then a month (took 3 years for Twitter and Facebook), and he shows very informative graphs segmenting these users by country, by age, and by gender. US is leading the pack and so are males ages 25 to 34. Brian concludes though that Just like the traditional TV networks co-existed and continued to attract people through different content, this will be true for social networks.  Read Brian's article in full!

Commentary

I was delighted to learn that Brian's intent was to get us to reflect on how we use social media. This is something that we don't do often enough. In terms of the platforms, I believe that Google+ has addressed many of the shortcomings of the earlier platforms and is going to reap the benefits. However, it won't be too long before Facebook and others respond. This means improved privacy and features to all!

Discussion

Where are you on this issue? Will the circles of Google+ lure you away from Facebook or not? Or maybe you haven't even ventured into Google+ or not even into social media? And why or why not?

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, Google+, social media

Are Scorecards and Metrics Killing Employee Engagement? By Adrian Ott; summary+commentary by Pierre Khawand

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 @ 08:41 PM

Haven't heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

Adrian OttAdrian starts with a shocking story in which Delta personnel told U.S. Army soldiers who returning home from Afghanistan that they needed to pay $200 per person for each extra bag--not allowing them to proceed--a story that generated considerable buzz. So why didn't Delta employees apply better judgment and resolved this issue more elegantly?

Adrian uses this story to highlight an unfortunate trend in management: Rules and metrics becoming the driving factor in business, and limiting the ability of front-end customer-facing employees to use their judgment and make good decisions. Adrian highlights that while rules and metrics are important, rigid rules, which seem to be overly dominant, can backfire. The article concludes that instead of hiding behind rules, managers need to teach values and judgment, and give employees more leeway to make better decisions. Read Adrian's article in full!

Commentary

I found Adrian's analysis fascinating and insightful. The article made me question that value of leadership training which seems to be missing the issues highlighted above. I believe that organizations need to extend leadership training to all employees or maybe develop "followship" training that emphasizes good judgment and strategic thinking!

Discussion

What do you think? Are rules and metrics paralyzing employees and limiting their ability to make sound, customer-centered decisions? Do you agree that leadership training needs to be more inclusive? How would you address the issues highlighted by Adrian?

Topics: summary-plus-commentary, management, leadership

Introducing summary+commentary articles--making the Web a little easier to absorb!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 @ 08:40 PM

summary commentary articleThe summary+commentary (s+c*d) is an article that summarizes a longer article and provides a brief commentary about the longer article followed by discussion questions to the reader. The s+c*d is intended to help the reader understand the key issues that are covered in the original article, as well as the s+c writer's commentary, and then get engaged in the conversation.

Summary

The format is really simple but very specific. The first section (titled Summary) includes two paragraphs. The first paragraph (420 characters or so, i.e., 3 tweets long) provides an introduction or context setting.

The second paragraph (also 3 tweets long) provides the key points and conclusion.

Commentary

The second section (titled Commentary) includes one paragraph (3 tweets long) and provides the s+c*d writer's commentary. By the way, s+c*d articles have one visual and two links. One link to the original author and one link to the original article.

Discussion

Then comes the last section (titled Discussion and limited to 3 tweets) which is intended to engage the reader and entice them to comment and become part of the conversation. So what do you think about the s+c*d format? Do you have time to read full articles? Are you tired or seeing tweets and catchy subject lines and looking for more meaningful summaries and commentaries? 

In total, the s+c*d article is therefore 1680 characters or less (i.e. 300 words or less) with only one visual and only two links. See an example of the s+c format and please don't hesitate to write to me if you wish to contribute s+c articles to the less-is-more blog!

Topics: summary-plus-commentary

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