Journalism in the service of society

Parable of productivity

‘In the name of being God fearing, employers, most of us will rather keep a non-performing staff member without a teachable spirit on our payroll “for all righteousness to be fulfilled”. When I do this and also refuse to give the worker adequate training I am setting him and my business processes up for failure.  It is better to release such a fellow to go and fulfill his destiny elsewhere. Pay him off and assure him that you will be available whenever he needs your counsel or patronage in his future endeavours’

HAVE you ever imagined how much the Nigerian economy loses due to the scant attention paid to productivity? Look at it this way. In almost all business organisations, workers go for their breakfasts as soon as they resume work. Yet every organisation makes provision for only lunch breaks. So you wonder how organisations account for the cumulative number of hours spent on taking breakfast. Before you think this is cheap talk, consider that twenty staffers spend thirty minutes daily on breakfast. That is a total of ten work hours or management time wasted daily. That amounts to two hundred work hours in a twenty day work. The real challenge is that most of us do not bother to track and trap the resources on an ongoing basis.

This explains why the nation and humanity lose out on the opportunity to maximise productivity and results. Consequently, there is sub-optimisation of our God-given potentials. The culture of waste has become so endemic that we do not pay attention to performance and results. It is easier for me to blame my failure on others because of my orientation that I am not accountable for my failure.

Jesus drew attention to this during his earthly ministry. In what I call the parable of productivity, the master storyteller presented a home video. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several abilities…”

An employer of labour assigned tasks to three of his staff for a period of time. At the point of delegation each of them ostensibly understood the assignment and agreed to deliver according to the expectation of the employer. “After a long time…” the employer returned to do an appraisal of the performance of his staff. The worker who had received five talents produced a hundred percent result just as the worker who had received two talents whereas the worker who received a talent had no result at all. In fact, he eroded the value of the talent he had received by keeping it, as it were, under his armpit.

There could have been a chance for some smart worker to have picked up the talent if he had kept it under his pillow! The first two conscientious workers were given a handsome reward of their efforts while the “wicked and slothful servant was cast out into the outer darkness of unemployment. Hmm…

There is a Jewish parable similar to this. A certain king gave a deposit to three of his servants: the first kept it; the second lost it; the third spoiled one part of it, and gave the rest to another to keep. After some time, the king came and demanded the deposit. The king praised the man who had preserved it and made him governor of his house. The man who had lost it was delivered into utter destruction. To the third, who had spoilt a part and given the rest to another to keep, the king said, “Keep him, and let him not go out of my house, till we see what the other shall do to whom he has entrusted a part: if he shall make a proper use of it, this man shall be restored to liberty; if not, he also shall be punished.”

In the parable of Jesus, it is easy to commend the employer and condemn the “unprofitable servant”. Yet a careful study of the parable reveals that we should be prepared to render excellent service with a view of giving acceptable account at all times in life and in business. It calls for uncommon diligence so that we can get the reward of the master.

The second thing that I believe that we should note in the parable is that everyone is responsible for the result he or she gets in life and the workplace to a large extent. Please keep an open mind here if you are a supervisor, manager or employer of labour.

The employer who travelled for “a long time” ought to be asked whether his business had a structure that could have ensured that the “unprofitable servant” delivered superior results. If I may ask, who was supervising the “unprofitable servant” while the boss was away? Ab initio, the hapless chap had been known to be a non-performer; otherwise his boss would have trusted him more by giving him two or five talents. In management the norm is that you inspect what you expect.

It is also apt to draw attention to the passion of employers of labour for countless overseas trips in a business year. Apart from the rather costly nature of international travels, the workers left in the office tend to believe that the trips are merely egocentric and a waste of the fruits of their labour. It is difficult to understand why a business owner needs to travel to “conclude shipping arrangements” for consignments with long standing overseas suppliers. It is even more serious when you realise that some business owners actually travel to “source badly needed spare parts” and airfreight them almost on a regular basis. These trips often last for two weeks. Unfortunately they have not trained or empowered anyone in their companies to effectively coordinate activities while they are away. Experience has often shown that the fortunes of such businesses often nose dive while their owners are busy junketing abroad. The issues are compounded when the big boss is also the sole signatory to the bank accounts of the company. Ironically, he returns to insult the intelligence of the staff for not being creative.

In the name of being God fearing employers, most of us will rather keep a non-performing staff member without a teachable spirit on our payroll “for all righteousness to be fulfilled”. When I do this and also refuse to give the worker adequate training I am setting him and my business processes up for failure.  It is better to release such a fellow to go and fulfil his destiny elsewhere. Pay him off and assure him that you will be available whenever he needs your counsel or patronage in his future endeavours.

Dr. Adeduro is a Productivity Coach and CEO of Thrones and Tones Consulting. He can be reached at @waleadeduro

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