Counting on Collaboration to Boost Productivity? Could Lightning Strike Your Cloud? Will Your People Cooperate?

As the global economy again threatens to fall off the proverbial cliff on the cusp of the fourth quarter in a deflationary environment, cost cuts are a given.  You also need productivity firing away.  Therefore, as we all re-evaluate at mid-year, re-examine your productivity tools and performance metrics. When did you last consider the performance of your metrics ? Are they more hindrance than help? These are cheap fixes: Take a deeper look at your productivity. The cloud and that other latest management fad, collaboration, are the ultimate embodiment of the McLuhan truth, “the medium is the message.”  Do they work for you?

The cloud has become the most pervasive IT productivity tool since ASP’s;  CIO’s are demanding implementation of the cloud ever faster; but what if, after all the expense, you discover that the cloud only ramps your vulnerabilities?  What then? If you’ve been around long enough, you will remember that ASP’s were quickly found sadly lacking: they were sloooww. &The cloud may seem faster, faster, fast, but if you implement it, you may face Alice’s dilemma: in the end the cloud may get you nowhere fast. 

What is the reality of the cloud? 

The truth is all too often disdained in the financial and tech press.  Would it worry you that cloud providers roll out facilities but never plan for real world well known contingencies like lightning strikes and power backup? As the cloud becomes pervasive, we all continue to shred paper madly, and yet we’re encouraged to entrust data blindly to the cloud.

Would it interest you to know that not only do the providers not secure your data, they don’t think they have to?  Studies from the Poneman and Fraunhofer Istitutes and other sources have repeatedly demonstrated the critical insecurity of the cloud.  Outages and breaches all remind us, we can make our productivity sublime,…and then watch a third party pull the plug at a critical time. You need metrics for judging the quality of the cloud providers, cloud services, and cloud ethics.

Collaboration, meanwhile, has become the new “it” for productivity. The cloud is supposed to enable it globally, enterprise-wide. How you measure real performance will be increasingly critical if your productivity becomes predicated on collaboration in the cloud. Across time and geographic distance, how will you keep track of what people are really producing and how well they are doing it?

Misdesigned metrics devalue genuine work ethic, demoralize smarter staff, and drive off innovation, creativity, and careful work. How many performance metrics are tools left over from the Industrial Age? The metrics barely worked for assembly lines, as the auto industry found even in Ford’s own day. These old metrics are almost irrelevant in the Information Age.  Raw production numbers simply aren’t adequate for knowledge, technical, and creative workers. You need objective quality metrics to build anything of value and certainly to produce quality knowledge and operate technology well. Who said “Think differently”?  Do we?  We do.

Finally, there’s that personal personnel issue we have all dealt with, seemingly wherever, and too often with whomever, we have worked.  Abuse. Do your performance metrics really drive work ethic and productivity?  Or do your metrics actually set up the tools that workplace bullies use to generate abuse? Do bullies in your enterprise use conflict and turnover to cover up their laziness and inadequacy?

Bullies manipulate in many guises.  While being bullied will indeed make one a loser unless one fights back, companies, like schools, forbid fighting back. Recently, management consultant fashion has gone contrarian with experts declaiming workplace bullies’ victims to be mere whiners and losers. Some commentators seem one step away from advising whips and Dickens. Lawyers would have you refer maltreatment to ADR, in what is no more than giving the abuser the validation of an equal ear. Talk about cutting costs. Can you spell “l-i-t-i-g-a-t-i-o-n”? 

You find yourself needing total cooperation in an individualistic age which prizes self and opposition and defiance as much as it does the “new new thing”.  Competition is healthy, but unhealthy competition will destroy your productivity and your business.   You’re running a business in a world where one often asks whether there are no more grown ups.  As Noel Coward wrote half a century ago, what indeed will happen to the children?  Lord of the Flies?

You do need internal discipline, but it needs to include the right incentives and the right ethics.  You need structural rules which create incentives but delimit discipline and abuse.  You need to look at your culture and reform.  You need a structure to incentivize self-discipline and real work ethic.

Yes, we know:  “Ah, there’s the rub…”   It is tough to devise and calibrate. But properly conceived cloud, company culture, employee performance, and quality metrics can reduce vulnerabilities and be tools for real productivity and success.  Sword and shield, they can divert “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” —or litigation.

Typical managers pursue productivity goals while fretting budget and cost cuts but then punt to HR and IT when it comes to the very people and technology factors which drive productivity, budget, and costs.   And then everyone wastes a lot of time and hiring costs complaining about misery, productivity, and, by Jove, litigation.  This is self-defeating.

The fixes are cheap; all you need is minimal re-allocation of capital; in return, the fixes increase capital. They free up other capital and raise both your gross and net earnings.

If you like our ideas, let us help you think through your physical and functional operations, projects, metrics, and people.  We will reinforce your operational reliability and devise new ways to incentivize quality productivity and work ethic.

© 2012 Sigrid Caroline Schroder. All Rights Reserved.