Increasing Productivity: A Winnable Challenge

Wes Friesen  is the manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric.
To boost the productivity of your in-plant team, consider these seven factors.

Continually increasing productivity is always important—even more so in the tough economic times we continue to live in. The good news is that almost every team has the potential to do this. Before sharing ideas on how to improve productivity, let’s first define it.

Productivity is a measure of how efficiently resources are being used. Productivity is simply a measure of outputs (goods/services produced) divided by inputs (resources used):

P = O (goods/services) ÷ I (resources)

For example:

Assume last month that it took 1,000 labor hours to produce 200,000 pages of specialized documents. What is the productivity measurement?

P = 200,000 mail pieces ÷ 1,000 labor hours
or 200 pages per labor hour

How to Improve Productivity

There are two basic approaches to improving a productivity measurement:

  1. Increase the volume of goods/services without increasing the amount of resources used.
  2. Produce the same volume of good/services, but accomplish it with fewer resources.

Some of the factors that have a bearing on productivity include:

1. Technology. The wise use of automation and more sophisticated software can help us complete our work with fewer labor hours. Just this month I have been able to reduce (redeploy to another department) an FTE on one of my teams due to new software that is more efficient than the existing software.

2. Capital (tools, equipment, etc). Having state-of-the-art equipment that fits your operations can open the door to significant reductions in manual effort and resources.

3. Methods. Learning and applying best practices, and pursuing process improvements can drive improved efficiency and productivity. You can learn better methods by attending conferences like MailCom and National Postal Forum, getting involved with professional organizations like the Mail Systems Management Association and Postal Customer Councils, and regularly reading trade journals like this one.

Related story: Justifying Resources: 10 Tips to Get What You Need

Wes Friesen manages multiple departments for an electrical utility based in the Northwest. His teams have earned numerous awards including NAPL Gold awards. Wes also teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at a variety of national conferences. Wes has just written a book called Your Team Can Soar! which contains 42 valuable lessons to help you lead and develop high performing teams. Books can be ordered from his personal website ( or via the following link: Contact Wes at

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