TED speaker Yves Morieux knows a thing or two about how to run an organization. He’s a senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group, and an expert in how changes in company structure can make people more motivated and, crucially, more productive.

In a recent TED Talk, Morieux makes a surprising claim: We suffer from a chronic lack of productivity, and it’s because there are too many rules in our workplaces that are stopping us from getting things done.

Does that sound like the company you work for? Or worse, does that sound like the company you run? Well, Morieux has ideas for how to fix things.

The problem: We are in a productivity crisis.

Morieux notes that until the 1970s, most European economies experienced a 5 percent growth in productivity each year. Since then, that number has only declined. Today, economies are lucky to see a 1 percent increase in productivity. And Morieux blames the way our organizations run. "The basic tenets about efficiency--effectiveness in organizations, in management--have become counterproductive for human efforts," he says. "Take the holy trinity of efficiency: clarity, measurement, accountability. They make human efforts derail."

Clarity, measurement, accountability: Derailing productivity.

Many businesses and organizations strive for clarity, measurement, and accountability to the point that all other goals suffer. Morieux argues that we put too much pressure on striving for clarity in defining what roles people are responsible for and how processes should work.

We waste time and money by ensuring that someone is accountable and supervises every step of a process. And we spend too much time measuring and accounting for every little thing that gets done.

In short, there are too many rules, too many steps, too many processes that distract from our overall goals. Morieux refers to "a counterproductive multiplication of interfaces, middle offices, coordinators that do not only mobilize people and resources, but that also add obstacles."

And, in the end, each individual is so worried about his or her own measurable performance that they don’t cooperate with one another.

The way we work now, Morieux says, means that to cooperate "is to take a risk." Workers are so focused on measurable individual performance, because it offers them protection and advancement. Working with others towards collective goals? That’s risky.

But in a relay race, Morieux notes, the team that wins isn’t necessarily the team with the fastest individual runners--it's the team that cooperates and works towards a goal together.

Cooperation: The key to productivity.

Cooperation is the key to productivity. By working together, and clearing other obstacles out of the way, people can bring their knowledge and abilities to the table and get things done quickly and efficiently. Anything else is a waste of human intelligence and ability.

To encourage productivity, we need to encourage cooperation. To encourage cooperation, we need to stop emphasizing clarity, measurement, and accountability, and we need to stop making people afraid to cooperate. As Morieux puts it: "Remove most of the quantitative metrics to assess performance. Speed the 'what.' Look at cooperation, the 'how.'”

So stop striving for individual, measurable results from your employees and empower them to cooperate and collaborate--you may well be amazed at the results.

Published on: Sep 17, 2015
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