BOOK REVIEW & SUMMARY
First published in 1991, the book serves as a management manual for executives who wish to get the most out of their employees. The book is an amalgamation of years of research resulting from interviews with over 25000 business managers to understand the reason for low productivity in the workplace. The reasons in the book are the most common responses and essentially the reason for diminished returns in any business. Rather than propounding the prevalent notion that employee talent is the most essential part of any business, Ferdinand Fourniers expounds the greater role managers play in ensuring such talent is exploited optimally and to peak capacity. Managers must ensure they put their employees to task and ensure the level of productivity never drops on their watch.
Employees have trouble executing tasks or meeting set goals because of a plethora of reasons, but the most important reason according to this book is the failure of the manager to open an efficient channel of communication between management and workers. In a business where the employees and managers have a good rapport, there are fewer instances of tasks being left undone or executed wrongly because there are clear instructions.
The reasons highlighted in the book for the failure of employees in carrying out tasks include the following:
Why Employees Don’t Do What They Are Supposed To Do
- They Don’t Know They Should Do It
Certain employees may not realize that their job description includes such tasks and as such are ignorant of the expectations the manager has from them.
- They Don’t Know How To Do It
Some employees lack the technical know-how needed for solving a problem or doing a certain task. The problem deepens when they fail to speak up and ask for assistance in the workplace.
- They Don’t Know What They Are Supposed To Do
Rather than give clear instructions, some managers are in the habit of making ambiguous and obscure directives. Employees are confounded by this lack of clarity and don’t even attempt to carry out tasks.
- They Think Their Way Is Better
Some employees may have abundant confidence and belief in their abilities and rather than execute tasks as directed decide to take creative liberties. Managers must either insist on a certain method of execution or allow such creative input.
- They Think Something Else is Important
As a result of having different tasks on their desks, employees attach different priority levels to such tasks on their own initiative. Managers must be clear in their instructions as to the priority or importance of assigned projects.
- There is No Positive Consequence to Them For Doing It
A lack of feedback or praise makes employees unmotivated and lacking in passion to fully commit to their work. They know there won’t be any commendations when the task is completed, so they commit to it halfheartedly.
- They Think They Are Doing it
Another problem caused by poor communication. Employees sometimes embark on projects the wrong way without realizing they are so far away from the objectives. Demanding regular updates and supervision will reduce such misunderstandings.
- They Are Rewarded For Not Doing It
Managers who overlook failures and indulge certain employees regardless of their shortcomings build a culture where poor effort is rewarded and even encouraged. Managers must ensure constructive criticism and that erring employees are adequately reprimanded.
- They Are Punished For Doing What They Are Supposed to Do
When employees are punished for actually following protocol and carrying out tasks according to the book they begin to take liberties at work. Managers who also have no work experience and have no knowledge of the task may punish employees based on outcomes they have no training for.
- There is No Negative Consequence For Poor Performance
A failure on the manager’s part to give feedback and constructive criticism will only encourage poor and lazy work. Employees who fall behind on tasks and goals must be met with criticism.
- Obstacles Beyond Their Control
Sometimes external factors can affect an employee's performance. It is the manager’s job to find out how the effects of such factors do not continue to adversely affect productivity. Alternative methods should be considered.
- Their Personal Limits Prevent Them From Performing
Employees should only be given tasks that they can feasibly accomplish. Managers must realize the limits of their wards. Asking an employee with no knowledge of the task will lead to a poor outcome and a draining of such an employee’s morale.
- Personal Problems
The personal lives of employees will always affect their work, positively or negatively. The manager must try to develop an interpersonal relationship with all employees or at least an avenue for employees with personal problems to lay them bare and ask for special consideration at work.
- No One Could Do It
Some tasks are just impossible and should be recognized as such. Rather than blame employees for not accomplishing impossible tasks, collective brainstorming will help realize more feasible goals.
What You Can Do About It
- Communication Channels
Creating a bridge between the management and workers will create a more productive workplace. Many of the reasons for poor productivity listed above are as a result of managers failing to communicate clearly what the task is, the method, the expected outcomes and the priority of such a task. Give clear and concise instructions rather than vague ones and a noticeable change in attitude at the workplace will be noted.
Workers should be rewarded for successfully achieving goals set for them. A lack of praise will lead to a reduced drive and passion to give their highest level of effort. Rewards should be given out consistently to the highest performers in the company. This serves a dual purpose - it encourages them not to let go of their oars and serves to motivate lower performers to strive for the same rewards.
- Identify The Issue
Managers must help their employees identify the reason they are lagging behind in terms of productivity. It is the manager’s task to find out the reason for such a low output from a particular employee and work towards solving it. Employees may not realize there is a problem with their approach unless it is clearly pointed out and as such the manager must play this role diligently.
- Constructive Criticism
This is to go alongside praise in the workplace. While you praise the high performers you give feedback to low performers. Constructive criticism goes a long way towards boosting productivity. The manner of criticism must be concise. However, you must criticize specific actions and not just in broad terms. The criticism must be confined to the workplace and must not become a personal attack.
- Supervision and Reviews
Managers must keep an eye on the progress of employees in completing tasks and must demand regular updates on the same. Demanding project updates will enable the manager to detect possible problems beforehand and prevent a waste of resources and time.
- Alternative Methods
Managers must realize that their ways will not always be effective. Cooperation with employees towards finding a faster, more efficient method to solving problems will lead to a more productive business.
The problem with productivity is one that falls on the shoulders of the manager. The vast majority of reasons why employees don’t perform tasks to satisfaction is a result of managers failing in their duties. Talent is needed in an organization but managing such talent is arguably more important as a clear direction must be set for the employees to follow.