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Why is your team not more productive?

Smarter Not Harder (SNH) have been working with clients to improve productivity and well-being for more than 15 years. They have overwhelming evidence suggesting there are 11 barriers to achieving this. 11 things that might be holding you back. How many of these apply to YOUR employees?

Solitaire Consulting has partnered with SNH, introducing their Working Smarter programme to clients wanting to improve productivity. With recruitment being so difficult at the moment there is even more to be gained by helping your workforce to improve productivity. It will give them more time in their day, improve their work/life balance and help you with staff retention.

Everyone wants more time on their hands. More time within the working day to relieve pressure and improve employee wellbeing. More time at home to spend on the other important things in your life.

The thought of being more productive is appealing on so many levels, yet it continues to be elusive for so many.

What is it that gets in the way?

It’s not that there isn’t a simple solution. It’s that the solution isn’t always obvious from where you are standing. If you are too close, you can’t see the whole picture, so you need to go and take a different perspective.

Albert Einstein famously said:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

For businesses it is about applying ‘systems thinking’ to your productivity challenges. Look holistically at the processes, the technology, the working environment and the people in your organisation. Then look at the relationships between those things to gain deeper understanding of how they are structured and the tensions that hold everything together.

Identifying the barriers

Sometimes, identifying the barriers to greater productivity can be hard because they are not always obvious to the untrained eye. Unconscious and emotional barriers, in particular, lurk beneath the surface hidden from view – and that can make them difficult to overcome.

SNH are specialists in helping companies identify exactly what is preventing them from being more productive.

They have found there are 11 barriers in total. These are the things that crop up time and time again, standing in the way of success. If you can reduce or remove most or all of them, you will be well on the way to enabling smarter ways of working.

Why not ask your team the question: What is stopping you from being more productive?

See how many barriers they come back with. Remember – the target is 11!

Here are the first eight:

  • Knowledge
  • Skill
  • Other people
  • Belief 
  • Wellbeing
  • Motivation
  • Resources (lack of people, equipment, money)
  • Identity

The remaining three are the most common – and potentially the most challenging to overcome:


How about this for irony: A big barrier to improved productivity is that some people think it’s too… well… time-consuming! They simply aren’t willing to dedicate sufficient time and attention to solving their productivity problems. Instead they live with them. It’s a bit like the most disorganised, unproductive person in the company saying: “Sorry, I’m too busy to develop my time-management skills…” It sounds far-fetched, but this is often the reality!


How much structure is there in your workplace? Too much? Not enough? Or (more likely) too much in some places and not enough in others. Companies tend to lurch between polar extremes when it comes to structure: Too much is stifling, while too little can cause chaos. But structure doesn’t have to equal complexity and stagnation. The key is to strike a balance and empower people by offering them “freedom within a framework”.


We all fear different things, but broadly those fears fall into four main categories:

  1. Fear of change
  2. Fear of failure
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Fear of embarrassment

Making changes to locations, routines and processes in the workplace can trigger tribal and seemingly irrational feelings. Sometimes people can be reluctant to try new things because they are afraid of failure, embarrassment or rejection by their peers. Put simply, for many:


Fear can often be the most significant of all 11 barriers. It is triggered by emotion, and in a workplace, emotions tend to remain unspoken. They linger under the surface and make change harder to come by.

This is why companies who invest a lot of money in new workspaces and the latest technology frequently don’t see the improvements in productivity and well-being they are hoping for.

The invisible forces within an organisation often lead to an irrational compulsion to maintain the status quo – even if that means lower levels of productivity and higher levels of waste.

Part of what SNH do is identify and challenge these forces. They make informed, holistic changes within a company to build a clearer path to a more productive future.

So, how can you use the 11 barriers to help your team?  

  • Invite them to “step back” and consider what stops them from being more productive
  • Take time to examine the bigger picture
  • Identify your individual, team and companywide barriers to increased productivity
  • Work together to implement a solution

What next if you want to improve productivity?

If you’d like to learn more about how the partnership between Solitaire Consulting and Smarter Not Harder can improve your productivity then contact us today.

The content of this article first appeared on Smarter Not Harder’s website, here.

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