Britain’s productivity crisis has been a hot topic in the news as figures by the Office for National Statistics show that the U.K.’s productivity is decreasing and not performing well, especially against the other G7 countries.

What’s happening? Are Brits not working hard enough? Not according to the stats in an article from on-line magazine The Expert Market of the most productive countries in the world:

“The majority of nations outranking Britain have significantly shorter working weeks than our 32-hour average, including France, the Netherlands, and Germany – who has the shortest week at a mere 26 hours. This pattern adds fuel to the fire of countless studies that condemn long hours, for health reasons.”

Jennifer Pinches’ analysis goes on to reflect upon Luxembourg who top the chart:
“An average Luxembourgish citizen earns more than double that of the average UK worker, by working 3 hours less each week. Luxembourg’s productivity is still rising too, showing a 4% increase even on last year’s winning total.”

So what’s the real problem?

Companies and leadership teams’ first major challenge isn’t increasing productivity, addressing employee engagement, maximising profit or exceeding at customer satisfaction surveys; it’s recognising dysfunction within the organisation and how that impacts on business.

At Parrhesian, when interviewing leadership teams, we often find that some managers and execs accept certain behaviours as normal, when in fact they are chronically dysfunctional behaviours. This is a real problem because it’s not even recognised, so no one is trying to address it.  What may be recognised are the ‘symptoms’ of the ‘illness’ within the culture, but with no association to the root causes.

For this reason and for simplicity I’ll use a metaphor of looking at the organisation as the human body, with the employees as ‘cells’, departments as ‘organs’ and the culture as the state of health/wellbeing (homeostasis)

How can we detect when an organisation is dysfunctional?

High temperature – This is a climate check for what is going on in the body. It doesn’t pinpoint the precise problem, but it lets you know something is wrong. This climate check is often felt as the palpable mood of the employees within the organisation and is captured on employee surveys by the HR department.

Pain – The experience of missing targets, high churn customers (revenue), losing good quality staff, receiving fines or loss of accreditations because of compliance/governance issues.

Lethargy – Knowing that you are not performing anywhere near your potential.

Aching joints – Usually stemming from system and process issues that should be helping bring structure and efficiency, but are now hampering the organisation’s progress and productivity.

Loss of appetite – Your teams are just not hungry and motivated enough to achieve targets or innovate to address and solve problems. This is often translated into “it’s not my problem or responsibility.”

Brain fog – No clear strategy and confusion within the Leadership team – Who’s responsible and accountable for what? And do the employees, partners, customers, market etc. know what your organisation stands for and where it’s going?

Autoimmunity – This shows up as the body attacking itself though working in silos, office politics, blaming each other, cannibalising profit, margin stacking, etc.

Do you recognise any or all of these symptoms in your organisation? Then you’re able to recognise organisational dysfunction.

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.
Paulo Coelho

So the organisation now recognises the dysfunction. So how to go about changing things?

Health check – Organisations only act on what can be quantified, so get a good sense of what is happening within the culture, not just a climate check). At Parrhesian we capture and measure this level of productivity loss in the form of “Entropy”: ineffectiveness and inefficiency within the culture.

Reduce the most severe symptoms – Take quick and effective action to address fires within the organisation. You don’t want to lose any more revenues, sales or people. Get a steering committee to start addressing these burning issues.

Get professional help – Just because you know what’s wrong with you it doesn’t mean you know how to resolve the issues. If you’re sick for a few days then you’ll probably get over it but when it goes into weeks, months or years, it’s time to seek professional advice and if necessary a second opinion. Use consultants that can address the long-term objectives and can deal with the acute issues

Recovery time – Take some time to reassess where you are and where you want to be and start laying the foundations for recovery. It is essential that this time is taken to ensure the vision and objective are clear and any tensions that have been causing the dysfunction released. Otherwise you run the risk of bringing back the old behaviours and symbols and re-infecting the organisation.

Detox – Purge the practices and processes that are known to negatively impact the organisation and then you can start to improve the health of the organisation.

The ideal result for this process is to achieve homeostasis within the organisation and regain health and balance at a cellular level. With clarity and direction from the leadership team, the employees will become increasingly engaged. Productivity will be boosted and business objectives achieved.

What’s the state of health of your organisation?

If your organisation is displaying signs of dysfunction and you’d like to talk to us about a diagnosis, then take two minutes to contact us and start the journey towards your next financial year in better health. Parrhesian can help.