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Looks like I’m on a productivity kick at the moment. 

Last week, I wrote about the difference between busy work and real work in your customer experience transformation.

Today, I’m inspired by this TED@BCG London Talk by Yves Morieux. If it seems like I’ve mentioned him before, I have. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Six Rules for Smart Simplicity and Employee Engagement, another post inspired by one of his TED Talks.

In this latest TED Talk, he introduces the holy trinity of efficiency – clarity, accountability, and measurement – and makes you think twice about whether: (1) these three really make you more efficient – or less efficient – and (2) you’re focusing on the right things to do your job and to be productive.

I like things that make us think differently and question or challenge “conventional wisdom.”

Yves uses the example of a relay race and how cooperation is key; in his words…

Miracle of cooperation: it multiplies energy, intelligence in human efforts. It is the essence of human efforts: how we work together, how each effort contributes to the efforts of others. With cooperation, we can do more with less.

 … and talks about how that holy trinity can really muck things up for the runners in the race – and for you.

We’re so driven by clarity and clarifying everything that we, instead, put up these boundaries that require people to work within them, within this box. And if they step outside, they either don’t know what to do or fear doing something they shouldn’t.

With regards to accountability, he believes what we’re really looking for is someone to blame when the thing we’re trying to do fails. We spend more time making sure we know who to blame than making sure everyone is set up for success.

And, finally, when it comes to measurement, we’ve been taught to follow the mantra, what gets measured gets done. But are we measuring the right things and, hence, doing the right things? Are we focusing on the right metric to get the job done in the best way?

He sums it all up nicely here:

You know, this drive for clarity and accountability triggers a counterproductive multiplication of interfaces, middle offices, coordinators that do not only mobilize people and resources, but that also add obstacles. And the more complicated the organization, the more difficult it is to understand what is really happening. So we need summaries, proxies, reports, key performance indicators, metrics. So people put their energy in what can get measured, at the expense of cooperation. And as performance deteriorates, we add even more structure, process, systems. People spend their time in meetings, writing reports they have to do, undo and redo. Based on our analysis, teams in these organizations spend between 40 and 80 percent of their time wasting their time, but working harder and harder, longer and longer, on less and less value-adding activities. This is what is killing productivity, what makes people suffer at work.

He believes that too many rules, processes, and metrics are keeping us from doing our best work and that the one thing to save us is cooperation, i.e., how we get things done, together. Critical to this, though, is a culture of cooperation, a culture that supports us doing our best work together by simplifying and by focusing on the parts that really matter – and by remembering that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Without a doubt, executives need to be on board with this shift in thinking (and doing).

What do you think? Does that holy trinity get in the way of your employees doing their best work? Are those three items obstacles to being efficient and productive?

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. -Peter Drucker