Here’s a depressing fact – British workers are the least productive in Europe. Add to this that we also work the longest hours and the picture looks pretty bleak.

Article by Greig Walker:

Why is this?

The answer may surprise some of you – it’s because of their Boss. That’s right – you!

Still with me? OK, when we get promoted, often two things happen. Firstly, we feel recognised for the hard work that we’ve put in, which makes it highly likely that we will put even more hard work in – this is just human nature. Secondly, we get invited to a lot more meetings, which gives us less time to do the (additional) work we now have on our plate.

When these things collide, then we work longer and harder on our own work, to the detriment of the entire team that we’ve been promoted to lead/manage/oppress.


What can we do about it?

The good news is that we can shift this situation to a better place; creating more time for ourselves, making work a better place to be and getting more of the right things done into the bargain.

There are three key ingredients to increasing the productivity of any team, whether it be in an office or in a factory; Structure, Visibility and Culture.

  1. Structure

Regardless of how creative your industry or job is, providing a degree of structure for your team will help them get things done quicker in the right order.

The starting point for this is building your daily schedule. Get time blocked out for the things that really matter to you – seeing your family, doing exercise, date night – the really important stuff. Once these ‘rocks’ have been laid down in your schedule, be kind to yourself and do not allow them to move. Ever.

Next, set aside time blocks for checking (without responding), responding to and filing emails – this should never exceed 2 hours per day. Check your response to this point and let me ask one question – if your house was on fire and you needed the Fire Brigade, would you send them an email?

The next, most important thing to set aside time for, is spending time with the team – in time blocks to suit your energy levels, between 2 – 4 hours per day. Every day.

Amongst the first work appointments in your schedule should include a focused conversation with your team about the work from yesterday and the work tasks for today. This ensures everyone is on the same page about what is required and builds a clear picture of demand and capacity.

  1. Visibility

In a factory, it is easier to see the flow of work through the process than in an office, but it’s no less important. In an office the types of things that should be made visible are; backlog, priorities, workload, problems, attendance, performance against targets, where to find things and people, who knows what.

This always starts with clearing out what isn’t needed, setting things in order, cleaning up and keeping things ‘VIP visit ready’ every single day. The next step is the introduction of traffic light colours to indicate status in the workplace, where you then introduce guidelines and rules around these indicators so as to trigger responses and actions across the team.

  1. Culture

If I can define culture simply, I would say; it’s what we do when we think nobody is watching. In the workplace, this translates as how things are done around here. If you choose not to consciously design this, then it will emerge based on the dominant characters in the team, and you may not like it.

With the time created in your schedule, use this time with the team to observe behaviours and really focus on reinforcing the behaviours that we want to see more of to create a habit loop (Craving-Cue-Action-Reward). When doing this there are a few key ingredients; 1) be around to see and reinforce the behaviour when it occurs, and; 2) reinforce individuals in a way that’s wholly suited to them, so it has the desired effect. To make this work you need to be in the workplace a lot – 30-50% of your time to be really effective.


So, how do we make Britain more productive then?

Well, starting with the first-line Managers, we teach them (in the workplace, not a classroom) how things are done around here with their team. And, as with all change, it begins with a long hard look in the mirror and admitting that there is a problem with how things are done today.

Are you ready to admit there’s a problem? Do you need help to figure out what to do next?

Contact Greig Walker, Director at Unleash & Engage on 07811 255 055

Achieving Operational Excellence. What does this actually mean?

I guess that it means different things to different people. To me, it means ‘flow’.

There is no magic wand or quick fix for Operational Excellence, nor can somebody else put in the hard miles for you and hand you it on a plate. What we have managed to do at Unleash & Engage is distil the very essence of Operational Excellence, built a 12-week deployment model around this, followed by a three-month sustainment phase where the new habits are embedded as being ‘the way we do things around here’.

Guaranteeing 20% Capacity Improvement

Our Sustainable Operational Excellence model consists of 12 steps in 12 weeks and is guaranteed to deliver a 20% capacity improvement. What do we mean by ‘guaranteed’? We will help you to achieve at least the same amount of work in 20% less working hours, OR we will help you to achieve 20% more work in the same number of working hours, and if we can’t manage this in 12 weeks, we will keep working – at our cost, until we achieve it.

The main benefit we see when we work with teams is that the level of engagement goes through the roof when people unleashed from the box that the organisation has put them in (whether intentionally or not). This is the most satisfying part of our work and the reason why we do what we do.

Once we reach the targets that we agree at the outset, we don’t stop making progress. In our most recent engagement with a large multinational company, we achieved more than double our target levels of improvement – measured during weeks 8 – 12 of the engagement.

As a member of the team on the client side says “I’ve been involved in lean projects and other improvement stuff, but this is the first time I’ve seen something that’s truly transformational. What we’ve achieved in such a short amount of time is amazing”.

Our model contains a number of simple tools, which when combined together with leadership coaching, and deployed in just the right way, produces really amazing results.

We would be delighted to come and speak to you about how this could apply to your organisation. We have made it successful in project teams, transactional functions, finance teams, sales teams, white collar, blue collar, distributed teams, design teams, so please don’t hesitate because your team is ‘unique’ or ‘special’. Those are exactly the types of teams that really get our attention.

None of the steps are scary, and taken in isolated, they can appear trivial. However, when built together, with the involvement of the team, and the time and commitment from the front-line Manager, the results can be truly staggering.

Please contact us today if you want to know more.

The 12 Steps to Sustainable Operational Excellence

1, Launch Event – Establishing an understanding and expectation through experience

2, Team Vision – Bringing a sense of purpose to the everyday activities of the team

3, Daily Stand Up Meetings – Driving accountability and performance across the team

4, Visual Management – Making work clear, creating a high-performance environment

5, Standards – Setting a strong foundation on which to make improvements

6, Process Confirmation – Taking the opportunity to see and coach the team

7, The Standard Diary – Making time for the things that really matter, every day

8, Problem Solving – Increasing performance every day by making things better

9, Workload Levelling – Distributing work fairly and evenly across the available capacity

10,Skills & Versatility – Building a well-balanced suite of skills across the team

11, Coaching & Reinforcement – Tailoring the style of the Manager to each individual

12, Sustainment Planning – Transition of ownership, preparing for further improvement

The Sustainable Operational Excellence Model is a process that has been in the making for a number of years. We’re delighted to have formalised and refined it with the ability to now offer it as one of our core services. Thanks to our incredible delivery team, we are already seeing a huge impact from everywhere we’ve deployed the model.


Greig Walker, Director at Unleash & Engage.

Connect with Greig on LinkedIn

A third of the UK workforce is disengaged, costing organisations billions of pounds annually.

Most businesses want to increase productivity but they miss the key factor: employee engagement.

How can this be measured and how do you find out the impact on your business?

Unleash & Engage have created the Disengagement Calculator, designed to help you get real figures, straight to your inbox.