Makers vs. Managers: Blocking Out Productivity

timeTime management comes to the forefront of everyone’s mind during the holiday season. Failing to block out enough time for events with friends and family can spin fun time into bouts of shouting. The approaching New Year also gives rise to planners and dreamers that require effective time management to succeed.

I’ve learned, during my tenure in the world of Fortune 50 corporations, small mom and pop type businesses and retail, that there are two primary ways of managing time. The organic processes naturally developed from the functional needs of two types of workers.

Workers who create, build, or produce are “makers.” Those who manage others are “managers.” Both require good time management skills to accomplish their charter, but each requires a very different structure of blocking out time for effectiveness.

Professional makers need large blocks of time to create their product, content or intellectual property. Time is required to get in the zone, be productive, and document activities enough to pick up where they left off at a future time. Most industries require time blocks of 2 or 4 hours.

Makers tend to use the morning for creative blocks of time and the afternoons for logical endeavors. However, makers also break the rules and might find they are more productive during the wee hours of the night. Only 60% of the top 100 authors of the 20th century followed this pattern of creating in the morning and editing in the afternoon. Most wrote when they were inspired and fixed their writings at more logical times.

Professional managers typically oversee the tactical efforts of a team. They tend to block out their time in smaller half-hour increments, allowing some level of flexibility to put out the next “fire” that attempts to erode the team’s progress. The smaller segments allow for faster responses and adjustments to circumstantial changes in the tactical operations of the day.

Strong managers block out empty time slots to shift their mandatory work after a “fire” takes the team off task. In other words, they plan for the proverbial fires each day. Most managers primary goal is to support their team and make sure they continue functioning no matter what surprise issues arise.

Productivity crashes when a manager tries to block out 2-4 hour increments that keeps him or her away from supporting their team. Likewise, makers that try to touch numerous projects in a given day using half-hour increments soon finds their work less provocative, of a lower quality and far less entertaining.

Blocking out time based on function is the only method that supports the type of work the makers and managers face. Constant interruptions of a maker produce little results. Long durations of managers away from their team weaken their process and negatively impacts tactical results.

The right type of time and duration is critical to the success of both the makers and managers. Blocking out time based on function will always facilitate success. This will bring peace to the worker and confidence that his or her workload will be completed on time.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers

A Creative Approach to Productivity

Andrew CarnegieAndrew Carnegie never intended to use right-brain thinking to increase production volume between the night shift and the day shift, but he stumbled upon it the day he wrote the number of items produced by the night shift on the cement entryway floor with chalk. That morning the day crew surmised what the number represented and by the end of the shift, erased the old number and replaced it with a larger one.

The night shift didn’t want to be beaten, so they got creative in reducing the process steps and placed a larger number on the floor at the end of the shift. The day shift wasn’t about to be undone, so they came up with creative ways to increase volume and capacity. This continued for several weeks until the factory was consistently producing more items than before the chalk incident.

The funny thing was “when” Carnegie wrote the number on the floor that started it all. He had come from a meeting were he asked leaders to increase productivity by 10% and they fought him with a myriad of comments about how it was impossible to create double-digit growth. But thanks to right-brain thinking on the part of the workers, Carnegie saw triple-digit growth within several weeks.

While some might suggest that friendly competition was to be praised for the growth, it was actually the creative juices of brainstorming that looked at the processes differently. The idea of reworking what had always worked is a right-brain event. Dropping unnecessary steps is also a right-brain activity.

The left-brain was represented in the meeting that said no to a double-digit increase based on the way it had always been done. The left-brain also suggested that there is a ceiling for everything and therefore no reason to conclude that a ceiling can be broken.

When I managed the receiving department at a warehouse retail store, I timed my team’s ability to breakdown pallets and move the merchandise to the sales floor. When the store manager required us to do it his way, the team broke down 4-6 pallets during the four-hour window. This was due mostly to his required set up that was easily interrupted by unscheduled truck deliveries and the top-priority customer service team accessing stored items for customers.

When I asked the team to come up with a creative solution that avoided the customer service pathway, they were able to breakdown 12-14 pallets. Then I asked how we could better facilitate the process to avoid truck deliveries and customer service people. One person came up with a circular approach requiring less physical steps that allowed the team to breakdown 18-20 pallets.

Then it happened. I stumbled upon a guy over one weekend that lined everything up the length of receiving using half of the pathway, so anyone could get in and out without any interruptions. I also noticed that every time he broke down a pallet, he immediately packed it out in the store, dramatically reducing the workload of the night crew.

This creative approach solved the problem of having congested aisles during sales hours. It also reduced the number of non-packed out items returning to the back room at the end of a shift, again reducing the workload of the night shift.

Unfortunately, no one in upper management noticed the increase in productivity, so everything eventually went back to business as usual. The reason was simple, it takes right-brain creativity to find a new way of increasing productivity, but it takes left-brain logic to manage and sustain it as the new process going forward.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers