How to Improve Team Productivity: The Best Tips

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "High Output Management" by Andrew S. Grove. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to improve team productivity? What steps can you take as a manager to make your team more productive?

Many managers want to know how to improve team productivity. There are certain steps you can take that will improve productivity and make your team work more efficiently.

Read more about how to improve team productivity.

How to Improve Team Productivity

To improve the output of your team, choose the management style that will best foster their high performance. The deciding factor in this decision is task-relevant maturity (TRM)—how educated, experienced, and mentally ready an employee is to do a particular task in particular circumstances.

  • For example, one Intel sales manager was very successful in the field environment—he had high TRM—and Intel promoted him to a plant environment. However, his TRM in this new environment was low—he didn’t know how to do any of the plant-related tasks.

Here’s how you should manage employees with the following TRM levels for how to improve team productivity:

Low: Provide structure and strong guidance on operational values. Give your team detailed directions about exactly what needs to be done, how, and when. 

Medium: Provide some structure and guidance but expect the team to provide some of it themselves. Instead of managing prescriptively, exchange ideas and communicate. (Note: This mode is the most difficult for most managers because hitting a balance is more challenging than meeting an extreme.)

High: Provide minimal structure—the team will provide the bulk of it themselves. Don’t involve yourself with the team’s work; just make sure objectives are clear. High TRM is advantageous because:

  • The managing style is less time-consuming.
  • The manager can be confident about delegating because she knows her subordinates can handle the task.
  • When teams are managing themselves, motivation usually comes from self-actualization, which is the only need in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that can never be satisfied and thus provides a permanent source of motivation. (We’ll discuss Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and motivation further in Chapter 2.)

Always monitor your team, no matter what the TRM level is. If the TRM changes, adjust your management style, up or down.

None of these management styles are better or worse than others. Many managers feel the prescriptiveness of low-TRM management isn’t nice or sophisticated, but your goal isn’t to be these things—it’s to be effective and learn how to improve team productivity.

Friendships With Subordinates

Whether you foster friendships with subordinates is up to you. It’s easier to care about and communicate with someone you’re friends with but harder to revert to a formal relationship if necessary because ordering a friend around can be awkward. Additionally, close personal relationships don’t necessarily result in communicating management relationships. 

Grove has seen friendship with subordinates work and he’s also seen discipline end friendships. To figure out if you can handle it, imagine that you’re giving a critical performance review to an existing friend. If the thought makes you uncomfortable, don’t become friends with your subordinates.

How to Improve Team Productivity: The Best Tips

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  • How to increase your managerial output and productivity
  • The 11 activities that offer a higher impact on output
  • How meetings can be used as a time management tool

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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