Ten ways to kill productivity and passion: 3) Exploit efforts to the extreme

Oct 2, 2010 by

This is the third in a series of ten posts about common problems that can lead teams to fail or otherwise limit their success. The previous post in this series was 2) Inhibit individuality.

There are many ways to extract a greater level of performance from a team. The most obvious method, and the one that is all too often employed, is to ask everyone to work harder. More often than not this means that people must work more hours. People who are passionate about their job do not usually mind putting in extra effort. They’ll go the extra mile on their own initiative. They enjoy what they do and derive personal satisfaction from delivering great results. Similarly, they are unhappy if their team doesn’t meet or exceeds its goals. Yet these high performers can become understandably frustrated when they must put in extra effort simply because their team or organization is unable to fix problems that are compromising the team’s ability to operate effectively. In many organizations, these problems are deeply rooted into corporate culture and changing them can be difficult or perhaps even impossible. This inevitably means that organizations with these afflictions will need to call upon people to work beyond their limits time and time again while the problems continue to fester. That’s a sure way to kill productivity and passion and ultimately it’s a great way to lose your best people.

What are these problems? We can easily derive one set of examples by translating the fourteen principles of the Jazz Process into related problems that limit team performance:

Jazz Process Principle Problem Limiting Team Performance
1. Use Just Enough Rules Excessive bureaucracy or conversely, a lack of order leading to chaos
2. Employ Top Talent People who lack the necessary skills or experience to deliver at a level matching that of other team members
3. Put the Team First Individuals who put their own desires and achievements ahead of their team’s goals or simply don’t care about those goals
4. Commit with Passion Team members who lack dedication to the team and its goals and/or lack the desire to achieve success when faced with challenges
5. Build Trust and Respect People who are unwilling to trust and respect others or are unable to demonstrate their effectiveness in order to elicit trust and respect from others
6. Listen for Change Blindness to, fear of, or the inability to detect changing conditions both inside and outside a team or organization, especially the kind of change that can cripple or kill an organization
7. Lead on Demand Rigid command and control structures that place all decision-making in the hands of a small number of individuals
8. Act Transparently Unwillingness to act authentically and share important information in a timely and clear manner
9. Make Contributions Count Individuals who act without considering the effort, value and impact of actions
10. Reduce Friction Problems that slow down or complicate execution or conversely, loss of control over execution
11. Maintain Momentum Inability to establish critical mass and maintain a steady pace of execution
12. Stay Healthy Allowing problems to fester that affect performance and require constant attention
13. Exchange Ideas Failure to consider new ideas or critique from new or external sources
14. Take Measured Risks Setting unrealistic goals or conversely, failing to set goals that will enable an organization to remain competitive

When a team is affected by these kinds of problems, it’s like a race car with broken or worn out parts that is unable to operate at its peak performance level. To compete with the other cars you have to push your vehicle beyond its limits. If you keep doing that, sooner or later something bad will happen and you’ll end up on the side of the road, assuming you’re fortunate enough to avoid crashing and burning. If you lead a team suffering from these or other serious problems, fix them first before constantly demanding that your people compensate with extra effort. You may not be able fix such problems overnight but if you can at least acknowledge and understand the problems and make progress towards fixing them, people will be more inclined to give you their all with the knowledge that the team is on the road to recovery.


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