How do you measure productivity at your place? Most jobs filled, most calls made, shortest time-to-fill, cost-per-hire? According to Harvard Lecturer Robert Pozen, you might be getting productivity all wrong. He says we put too much emphasis on "dashboard metrics" and not enough on quality.

Pozen knows a little about the subject. Over the last five years, he taught a full course load at Harvard Business School while serving as the full-time chairman of a global financial-services firm. He wrote three books and published roughly 100 articles in that period, served on the boards of large companies such as Medtronic and maintained a strong relationship with his wife and kids.

And before that, while teaching at Harvard Law School, Pozen was asked in 2003 by Governor Mitt Romney to serve as secretary of economic affairs, to oversee economic-related state agencies. Pozen said they took a $3 billion deficit, and in one year eliminated it by reducing spending, and raising revenue (without raising tax rates) through an increase in user fees and the closing of tax loopholes. Sound familiar?

Anyway, Pozen is a productive person without a doubt, and now, in his new book, "Extreme Productivity," he gives some excellent tips on how we can maximize productivity every day.

For example, he recommends using the 80/20 rule with email (only open 20 percent, and respond immediately), and says we should devote most of our time to other, high-priority tasks.

Use the 80/20 rule with email (only open 20 percent, and respond immediately), and devote most of your time to other, high-priority tasks.

Pozen tells us that many company owners and managers will say something like 'Here are the top five priorities for this firm,' and then propose they carry out each one. He says while that may be the right answer, it's the wrong question, because it focuses on what that person does best, rather than what the firm most needs from them. So Pozen posits that the correct question instead for the owner or manager is, 'Which function can only I perform?'

[caption id="attachment_16697" align="alignright" width="140" caption="Robert Pozen"][/caption]

The book is broken down into five main parts, each with two or three chapters. Part I is about setting goals with explicit priorities. Part II is organizing your daily routine. Part III is working on personal skills. Part IV is organizational challenges and Part V is long-term career and business decisions.

  • Articulate your goals and rank then in order of priority
  • Focus on the final product
  • Don't sweat the small stuff and spend as little time on low-priority items as possible
  • Figure out how you really spend your time
  • Understand and address the misalignment between goals and time allocations

Modern applicant tracking systems make it easy to run reports and generate lots of data. With things such as time-to-fill reports you can easily calculate short-term productivity and measure the effectiveness of particular initiatives such as targeted advertising campaigns, or a social media push. These metrics for the most part are easy to understand and they can also help you identify trends.

Metrics can also be distracting though. Like the CEO of a publicly traded company who could drive themselves crazy looking at the stock price all day long, in your never-ending race to “fill orders,” long-term investments in process improvements and true productivity can seem less important.

What do you think? Do you race from meeting to meeting, call to call, without giving much thought to the rationale or the reason? Are you comfortable reflecting on your priorities? Would you rather simply constantly respond to urgent requests from co-workers and clients? Do you feel like there is alignment between your highest ranking goals and priorities and how you actually spend your time?

Tags: Productivity, Applicant Tracking Systems, Harvard, Staffing Companies, Reviews, Goals, Harvard Business School, Extreme Productivity, Ranking priorities, Robert Pozen, Setting goals