The seemingly productive practice that actually kills productivity

written by  Ryan Seamons

Building products and being a parent are both tough jobs that require immense amounts of influencing skill. Each week I share what I learn to help leaders at work and at home go from unsure to unstoppable through influence.

What I’ve been learning

100% Utilization is a sure way to tank productivity. Even computers slow down at 100% utilization. It’s far worse for people as we approach 100%.

We had our annual team offsite this week and planned it with a fairly open schedule. It’s typical to fill every minute with activities that seem critical. But those proposing the agenda polled to identify the most important topics to cover and left the schedule pretty unstructured. We were clear about our purpose and took the needed time to fulfill that purpose. It went so well. I’m sure if we had tried to pack more in, it would not have had the same results.

To maximize real productivity (productivity of outcomes, not just outputs) I’ve found you should be around 50%-70% utilization of your time. That gives enough time to go deep into work, enough time to figure out what the right thing to do is, and enough slack to have a resilient work pattern.

Most product teams I see struggling have a utilization issue among others. Give yourself some slack.

What I published

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@johncutlefish Yep.

Why don’t bands just start with their greatest hits album?

That would be much easier. 😂😂

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@PavelASamsonov Wow. Lots of people paying quite a steep premium of time and money on learning.

The point of a prototype is to learn.

Obviously huge lack of concensus around that.

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@allenholub Displacement > speed.

You have to have speed + direction. That’s what real velocity is (makes me so sad agile took it over and turned it into a vanity metric).

You can go really fast on a treadmill or around a track, but you don’t actually get anywhere.

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@orangebook_ You have to be unconscious about something … the trick is choosing what to be uncounscious about.

I’d rather ignore:

– messes my kids make
– what others who don’t matter to me think
– fancy stuff to impress others
– weight, salary, or any other superficial indicator
– fads

ryanseamons-1922613Ryan Seamons @ryanseamons

@jpdefrance @CGLambdin Start with some smaller team experiments. Then figure out how to systematize. Then scale.

When you skip step 1 it almost guarantees failure.

What have you been learning about lately?


Check out past editions

About the Author

Ryan Seamons
writes about more human approaches to modern management.

Join Patterns for weekly ideas about making work better.

Also check out Manager School to become a better manager.