By Davin Wilfrid, ERP Expert
The economy is getting more productivity out of US workers, says Tony Schwartz at Harvard Business Review, but at what cost? It's one thing to brag that US workers are producing the same volume of goods and services as we did in 2007 despite 10% fewer jobs -- it's another thing to lift the curtain and see what's driving the situation:
There's a simple, visceral reason for the gains, Mr. Chairman, and it's called fear. If colleagues around us are being laid off and cut back, we can't help worrying that our jobs may be next. Our survival instincts kick in, and we push ourselves harder, so we're not the next one to go.
Later, Schwartz analyzes why this isn't necessarily a positive development:
Getting more tasks accomplished — say writing and responding to scores of emails in between
other activities — may technically represent higher productivity, but it doesn't necessarily mean adding greater value. Instead, the ethic of more, bigger, faster ultimately generates value that is narrow, shallow and short-term.
There are lessons here for SAP project managers, who have increasingly been asked to do more with less since the economy began heading south in 2008. I've heard from dozens of SAP professionals in recent years who say they are among the last members of a once-thriving team -- or that their projects are stalled or behind schedule because they can't free up the resources to complete vital tasks.
Many of those resources will simply add project work on top of their day jobs. We all know what happens next: Corners are cut. Testing is sloppy. Documentation is incomplete or non-existent.
In times like these it is vital for project managers get out in front of the productivity myth. As Ian Wright of Deloitte told me last year, it is critical to use the planning period to prepare incentives, create a support structure for employees struggling outside the workplace, and establish a clear plan for transitioning employees back to their former roles once the project is complete. The economy may not be back to full strength for a while yet, so conserving the fuel of productivity is vital.