Career Woman

How to move from disruptive to superproductive


There has been a massive shift in how we manage our work over the last 30 years. Where we used paper in the past to organise our activities, we now use digital. Where we once had an office or cubicle, we now work in open plan or activity-based workplaces. Where we used to have a moment to think or plan through the day, we now don’t stop – driven on by meetings and our overflowing inbox.

Traditional personal effectiveness training alone cannot address these issues anymore.

For an organisation to truly leverage productivity within its workforce, it needs to go beyond
simply training individuals. I believe that leaders at every level in the organisation need to see productivity as a leadership issue, and work to create a culture that allows productivity to flourish.

Three things often get in the way of leaders creating productive cultures:

  1. We think we don’t have time

As ironic as this seems, this is a real issue. We think we are too busy! Our most limited resource is already stretched to breaking point, and now you want us to work on creating a productive culture! It feels like there are too many more pressing issues bearing down on us to make time for such a proactive endeavour, however valuable it might be. But while it feels like we don’t have time, the truth is, we will waste far more time if we do not make this a priority.

  1. Urgency trumps importance

Related to the first issue is the fact that urgency always seems to trump importance. Most organisations are primarily driven by urgency and reactivity. But organisations are not reactive by nature. It is people and their workstyles that cause reactivity most of the time, and it often starts at the top. Many senior leaders pride themselves on being effective at ‘getting things done’. Unfortunately, their demanding workstyles can often play havoc on everyone else. This can create ‘senseless urgency’ rather than ‘a sense of urgency’.

  1. Training seen as the only option

When organisations begin to acknowledge productivity as an issue (or an opportunity), they will often turn to training or coaching as a solution. They are on the right track, but it is also important to think about what else needs to be in place to support productivity back in the workplace. They need to create a culture that supports productivity.

Cultures are formed through a set of values and a set of behaviours that are modelled by everyone, starting with the leadership team. If your workstyle is reactive, disorganised and chaotic, the culture of the organisation will mirror this. But if you lead productivity from the front, you can take your organisations culture from Disruptive to Superproductive.


While many leadership teams talk about the importance of productivity in the organisation, the truth is they are sometimes a part of the problem. While they may have the best interests of staff at heart, sometimes the ever-changing environment and the constant pressure to achieve results leads to behaviours that have a negative effect on productivity. If this is the case, we need to raise awareness and set some new expectations.


In some organisations a passive culture exists. The leadership team may not cause the productivity issues, but they may not protect the organisation from them either. The key to reaching the next level is to make productivity a priority, and to develop the personal productivity skills across the team. This is where personal productivity training or coaching comes in.


So, the organisation has developed skills and achieved increased productivity. This is good, but if we stop here, as I believe most organisations do, the productivity gain may be short lived as it is difficult to sustain productivity if the culture does not support it. The next focus should be on championing a set of agreements or protocols that enhance team productivity. Meeting and email protocols are good examples of how an organisation can improve the effectiveness of shared work.


Once an organisation has put a set of agreements in place to boost team productivity, collaboration should flow. But protocols can suffer from an initial flurry of excitement and action, and then fade into the background as we fall back into our old habits. The final focus on the productive culture ladder is for leadership to build productivity into the culture. This requires them to champion productivity, and to lead by example. Only then will their organisation become superproductive.


A Superproductive culture experiences a sustained increase in productivity across the organisation. Everyone works in a way that is personally productive, as well as productive for those around them. And the culture ensures that these mindsets become a part of the fabric of the organisation.

– Imagine a culture where everyone was highly skilled at managing their time and priorities.

– Imagine a culture where people actively worked to enhance their own productivity as well as the productivity of others.

– Imagine a culture where productivity was embedded in the values of the organisation.

About Dermot Crowley'

Dermot Crowley is a productivity thought leader, author, speaker and trainer. Dermot works with leaders, executives and professionals in many of Australia’s leading organisations, helping to boost the productivity of their people and teams. He is the author of Smart Work, published by Wiley. For more information, visit or email [email protected]

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