What is Productivity – Part 2?

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  • August 20, 2012


From the previous episode, I brought to your notice a more expanded perspective to productivity. Productivity starts with a knowing – that it is brought about by conscious focus and deliberate effort. Also, it is not enough to know, you must use what you have, when you should, and where it should be used. If you have not read it, read it now


There is a right way to achieving anything. Your job is to figure out how. A few months ago a friend and I were discussing the fact that there is money in every form of business. Think about it; there is no business venture you can mention now that there is no millionaire in that business. Is it selling pepper – what of De Rica? Is it packing shit – think DMT Toilets and Otunba Gaddafi! Is it removing refuse – ask the LAWMA agents? Is it fixing shoes or what we call ‘shoemaker’ – ask Bata? Is it mama-put* – ask Mama Cass? The difference between the big players and others in any business or enterprise is in the HOW. There is a proper way to do anything.

Let’s take planting for example. Have you ever planted cassava (Manihot species) stems? The stem has some eyes called bud through which the leaves grow out and it also develops into branches. The bud is meant to be facing north so that it can trap enough sunlight for the process of photosynthesis to be effective. If the stem is turned upside-down, it would not grow or the growth may be stunted. Now, there may be nothing wrong with the cassava stem itself, but the planter must have the know-how.

There are how-to’s of productive work. And this covers the entire gamut of human affairs – communication, dressing, thinking, cooking, sporting, living, family, what have you. This is because productivity is meant to be in all areas of life. Some may be productive at work and unproductive at home. Some may know how to dress well but may lack the skills for communicating well. The bottom line is to achieve desired results in all aspects of life.


These two words define the end product of any activity. We do things for quite a number of reasons –conscious or unconscious. And whatever we do, we’d always have results commensurate with our efforts. Our actions can be likened to picking up a stick – you can’t pick up one end without also picking up the other. But why does it seem that some people get more results than others seeing that they do the same things? And some may even be the same way. Yet the differences in the results may be as wide apart as the east is from the west. From my opinion – based on careful observations and study – the difference in results is a function of the level of desire. Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic Think and Grow Rich “a burning desire to be and to do is the starting point from which the dreamer takes off.” And James Allen also wrote in As a Man Thinketh, “Achievement, of whatever kind, is the crown of effort, the diadem of thought. By the aid of self-control, resolution, purity, righteousness and well-directed thought we ascend; by the aid of bestiality, indolence, impurity, corruption, and confusion of thought, we descend.”

Three (3) Types of results

Based on the level of desire, I have observed three (3) types of results. They are:

  1. Disinclined Results

This is the kind of result we experience when we pursue an activity we do not have the motivation for, or for which we are not trained. Here, commitment is half-hearted and people groan, grunt and grumble all day. This reflects in their dealings with clients, and on the long run, the organization suffers for it. I had a friend who was employed by an IT Training firm to teach Oracle Database since that was her area of specialization. After two months, she was done with her Oracle classes. Then the academic head told her that she must also start taking programming classes so that she won’t be redundant. And not just one, three languages at that! How good could she possibly get, and how best could she possibly deliver? Dissatisfied staffs would do dissatisfactory jobs; and dissatisfactory jobs would breed dissatisfied clients. And dissatisfied clients would beat their paths to the doorsteps of competent and contented staffs.

At this level, desire is unfixed or undefined.

2. Demanded Results

This is the result we produce when we do a job just to survive. “My boss demands this and I must deliver”. Then we go crazy! For example, in March of this year, I was working with a firm in providing trainings for some staff of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Due to the level of rapport we had cultivated, one of the staff walked up to me and sought my advice on what he should do. He read Civil Engineering in the university, and he had been involved in financial management six months after graduation. His heart is in construction. When he got the job with FIRS, he’d thought he’d be in the Works and Infrastructure department, alas! This is not so. So, he works and produces results just to survive – since he has no other means of making ends meet. His creativity has been kind of stunted, and all the dreams he had in the university now seems to be eluding him. More than eighty-four percent (84%) of the workforce are in this condition (Reuters 2007). This means that the productivity of an average organization is only sixteen percent (16%). Oh! What huge profits we often forfeit all because we do not take the matter of our corporate and individual productivity serious.

The implication of this is that we have a workforce that is out of balance in life. For most people, their happiest moments are out of the work environment. I was at a training sometimes in June where one of the facilitators shared an experience of what he suffered before he discovered the third type of result – Determined Results. His boss would shout orders at him, push him around and even call him names just for him to produce results. Once it’s 4 o’ clock, he picks his bag and drives straight home. Then when his children jump at him and call him ‘daddy!’ and his wife says ‘honey!’, it begins to dawn on him that he is actually this valuable. Then he drives himself again to work 5:30 am the following morning – to begin the cycle again.

At this level, the desire is survival-oriented.

3. Determined Results

This is the result we produce when with a fixed purpose and a firm resolution we pursue our activities with the sense of ‘I win or I perish!’ Here, you are doing what you love to do and choose to do because of the rewards you have set for yourself. If this coincides with your boss’, pronto! People like this need little or no motivation to get the job done. Purpose is clear, energy is high and passion is red-hot. I have a friend who while in the university had always wanted to be a manager of Human Resources. On graduation, he got a job with a business development firm that focuses on trainings and human capital development. He is relevant on the job though he read Computer Science in school. He is happy and highly productive because each day he goes to work, he is not there to make money for his boss; rather, his boss is paying and training him to become the person he had always wanted to be. Oh! How I long to see more people in their dream job – and not their frustrating job! (Watch out on this page for more on different job types!)

At this level, the desire is defined and definite.

To understand these concepts better, read also The Different Types of Jobs


Productivity is not a passive concept. To be productive, you must have a sense of accountability and responsibility. These two terms, accountability and responsibility, are not the same, though they are often speciously used interchangeably.  Let me attempt to draw the lines here as far as possible with an illustration. If, for example, you are confronted with a task, it is your responsibility to do what is necessary to make that task successful – whether or not you are being supervised. But when you do it because someone will ask you about it, you are doing it with a sense of accountability. Responsible people are goal and result-oriented. They act for the good of the organization whether or not the task at hand is directly a part of their job description. They go above and beyond the normal course of duty to get results. They are proactive, and as it were, accountable to themselves. Employees that work with a sense of accountability have mastered their job description, and would do anything to satisfy their boss – so long as it is within their job description.

To be a highly productive person on your job, you must work bearing both in mind. Exhaust all your possibilities in getting the job done – as ethically as possible! Do your best even when it doesn’t seem good enough. Convince yourself that if your boss were in your shoes he could have done nothing else better than you did. Stretch yourself! I bet you’d never come back to your former size. Read more on this concept in How Imagination affects Productivity.

In summary, we have defined productivity as KNOWING WHAT you have and USING what you have in DOING what you have to do, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW you have to do it, in order to get the RESULTS that you truly DESIRE. Also, we have considered the different terms used in this definition and their meanings as they relate to productivity. Next week, I’d be bringing to you another bright concept to help you realize, maximize and optimize your productivity.

Till we meet again, do have a productive week.

To your productivity,

d. a. b



*For non-Nigerians, mama-put is an informal or local way of referring to local canteens or restaurants. Mama Cass is a brand name in local fast food delivery in Nigeria

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