Pivotal Thought Leaders in the History of Productivity
Increasing productivity is essential for growing your business. The effectiveness of your workplace is not based on the number of hours people are working but on what they have accomplished at the end of the day. For over a century, inspired thought leadership around productivity has created innovative ways to increase efficiency.
Frederick Winslow Taylor
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor published his “Principles of Scientific Management.” In this book, he outlined what he had learned during a career that began as a machinist on a factory floor. Taylor noticed that no one in management was questioning the pace or procedures of workers. Instead, they assumed the current operating style was the best possible model.
Taylor developed a science of productivity, carefully examining daily tasks like coal shoveling and bricklaying for potential improvements. Some businesses credited his efforts with radically increasing productivity while lowering costs. Taylor’s thought leadership gave birth to the assembly line model of manufacturing.
Post-war Japan was struggling to become a serious power in the manufacturing industry. Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno looked at his company’s operating procedures and saw the wastefulness inherent in the process. To remedy this situation, he developed the concept of the Gemba walk.
In the Gemba process, managers walk through the entire assembly line regularly looking for friction points. They may interview workers at each station to learn their frustrations and gather their thoughts about improvements. Then, management uses this information to refine the process and eliminate waste.
While similar to Taylor’s work, Ohno lived in a time of faster technological advancement. He recognized that changes in technology at one station would require adjustments at every station. Increasing productivity would be a constant process, and he encouraged the Gemba walk as a frequent practice. His efforts became the start of the lean manufacturing movement.
Frederick Winslow Taylor lamented that his efforts to increase productivity had not transferred to the knowledge workers of his day. David Allen’s productivity thought leadership is a step toward this goal. His 2001 book, “Getting Things Done,” focuses on personal rather than corporate productivity. Instead of physical processes, Allen develops strategies to tackle one of the most complicated systems of all, the human mind.
The impetus for his writing came from his frustration in trying to turn his ideas into actions. He notes that the brain is excellent at thinking and creating ideas, but retention is challenging. Unless you develop a system to capture your best thoughts as they happen, they will disappear as new concerns and distractions emerge during the day.
In his system, you create an unedited list of thoughts that require follow-up action as they arise. At least once a week, you will examine the list and sort it by importance. The concrete nature of this process helps you understand your priorities and values, encouraging you to pay attention to the tasks that matter most.
Putting Productivity Insights to Work in the Real World
At the Productivity Intelligence Institute, we are fascinated by the insights of productivity thought leaders. It is amazing how a few intentional steps can transform a workplace. If you hope to improve the efficiency of your organization or need assistance increasing your productivity as an entrepreneur, we would be happy to help.