Leadership Principle #3: Productivity increases when organizations celebrate core strengths, reduce non-core operations, and eliminate distractions.
"'These are ... the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.'" – Lev 23:2 (NIV)
In Leviticus, Moses unified the new nation of Israel by instituting holidays that recalled their history and required abstinence from work.
One of these holidays, the Feast of Tabernacles, kicked off with a full day of rest. On the second day they ate "choice fruit" and continued the revelry for seven more days. They filled the eighth and final day with more rest.
What kind of effect do you think this celebration had on the people? Imagine the anticipation and frenzied preparations for the festival. And after all the revelry, the readiness to get back to work.
Many companies understand one of the main reasons people like to celebrate: they get a break from work to do it. These organizations take the human desire for respite to the next level. For example:
- Alcan, a 55,000-employee aluminum manufacturer, encourages employees to resist unreasonable workloads
- The CEO of auto retailer CarMax begins some meetings with a jolting question: "What are we doing that is stupid, unnecessary or doesn't make sense?"
- In 2004, IBM surveyed 42,000 employees and found that four in 10 believed 15% of their job duties were unnecessary, so the company developed a Web-based tool enabling managers to halt low-value work
Another way to reduce unnecessary workload is noise reduction. Does your organization have any of the following noise producers?
Social noise – Interruptions or idle conversations increase when people have more time and less stress. It's great when they connect with each other, but continual pauses for breeze-shooting can derail otherwise smooth-flowing work.
Ambient noise – According to a study by Cornell University, the noise in open-style offices actually results in higher levels of stress and lower task motivation.
External noise – Non-work noisemakers – the stresses people come to work with – blast the loudest. Some larger companies hire corporate connoisseurs to run errands for stressed-out employees who feel squeezed by their home to-do lists.