The Number 1 Productivity Rule : Understand the difference between inputs and outputs

Lots of Musical Inputs - less sure about the Outputs

Lots of Musical Inputs – less sure about the Outputs

The first time I ever came across a BYO (bring your own) restaurant was in Sydney Australia.  People bought along the wine that they really liked and it was cheaper from an off-license. The trend never really caught on in Ireland (albeit a couple of BYO restaurants have popped up in Dublin since the start of the recession). Perhaps we are culturally averse to anything that smacks of ‘tightness’ or maybe just too lazy to go to a ‘take away’ for booze and then onto a restaurant, preferring a 1 stop shop night out. On that same night in Sydney I was attending a divorce event. A couple who were breaking up had invited all of their friends to a celebratory party. Their marriage was over, but they were celebrating becoming friends again, after a lot of aggro around “who owns the spoons?”.  Can’t see it catching on in Leitrim!

BYO Laptop: The BYO trend is now taking off in another direction. Many people are now ‘bringing their own’ laptop, IPad or mobile phone to work.  A couple of reasons underpin this. Firstly, it can reflect a lack of customer focus with internal IT departments (“The answers NO. Remind me, what’s the question?”). Paranoid about security concerns, IT departments often ranked these head and shoulders above usability. Secondly, corporate spend on IT often lags personal spend – so staff have to downgrade when they hit the workplace. Thirdly, there is a small but growing movement towards working from home, using that great liberator, the Internet.

Company Implications: Since the invention of the steam engine, most of us have become used to clocking into a central location where managers could ‘see’ the workers. Many years ago I worked in the Ashtown Tin Box Company. The Supervisors’ office had full glass windows and this was elevated above the factory floor. This allowed the super-visor (literally, a man in a white coat) to visually assess that everyone was busy and not on the doss.  With ‘remote workers’ it’s much more difficult to exercise this level of control. When you can’t physically see the workers, you have to have some other way to figure out if they are productive. Karl O’ Connor in Ulster Bank sent me a newspaper article about an office worker in Asia who was dead for some days (at his desk) before anyone noticed it. I’m guessing that his employer was not BIG on output measurements!

Outputs Focused: So, the emerging managerial challenge is to understand outputs, what is actually being produced. Not time at the desk. Not complying with the dress code. Not ‘making electrifying presentations’.  It’s about measurable outcomes. An old joke captures this.  Two sales representatives, working in Cork, are talking and one says: “I made a lot of strategic contacts today” and the other one says: “Yes, I didn’t get any sales either”. The lesson is simple. Managers have to become focused on ends rather than means. We want you to win the game. You can score with your left foot, right foot, your head or any other appendage. Just win the game. Moving to this way of managing will challenge those of us who are sporting a bit of grey hair, because knowledge workers play an invisible productivity game. The Lesson: Develop a new scorecard based on outputs. It’s the end of ABC (attendance-based compensation) as we know it. It’s not an effort contest, it’s an outputs contest. And you’d better get used to it; this is not going away any time soon.

Paul Mooney





PS Lighter Note: Some golf related quotes by the non PC US commentator David Feherty, a former professional golfer…

On a poor shot: “That ball is so far left, Lassie couldn’t find it if it was wrapped in bacon.”

On Nick Faldo: “I am sorry Nick couldn’t be here this week. He’s attending the birth of his next wife.”


Know someone who’d benefit from this blog? Ask them to email and we’ll add them to the list. Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
This entry was posted in Management Practices. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s