RAP for organisational productivity: relearning, allocation, parallel bets

Jason Yip
3 min readJan 4

Some individual and team productivity practices also translate to the organizational level

Organisational productivity has factors that overlap with both team productivity and individual productivity:

  • Increasing focus;
  • Frequent customer feedback;
  • Reducing friction;
  • Watching the work product, not the workers;
  • Frequent integration

However, organisational productivity goes beyond just a translation of individual and team productivity practices:

  • Reducing relearning;
  • Improving effort allocation;
  • Taking parallel bets

Learning is good; relearning is waste

Relearning refers to reinventing lessons whether about product, ways of working, or technology.

Two columns marked with a smiley face and a frowning face. Under smiley face: Learning new things; Building new, useful things. Under frowning face: Reinventing lessons because we don’t share knowledge; Rebuilding something because we don’t know that it already exists
Learning vs relearning

Addressing relearning is about knowledge management and platformisation.

Throughput doesn’t matter if it’s mostly on low-value things

Product capabilities exist within a life cycle.

Graph of product life cycle stages. X-axis time, y-axis revenue. Stage 1: market development with no or low revenue; Stage 2: Growth with rapidly increasing revenue; Stage 3: Maturity with still increasing revenue but slowing; Stage 4: Decline with decreasing revenue
Product life cycle stages

Let’s imagine two different organisations: A and B. A completes tasks more efficiently than B, but A’s efforts are mostly on commodity capabilities, while B’s efforts are mostly on differentiating capabilities.

Throughput of A is twice that of B. Differentiating features are worth 5 times commodity improvements. A mostly works on commodity; B mostly works on differentiating. A produces more stuff; B is actually more productive.
A has more throughput; B is more productive

A is more “productive” than B but most of their capacity is allocated to low-value capabilities… which means B might actually be more productive from an organisational perspective (value out divided by effort in).

Or course, ideally, we’d want an organisation C that is both higher throughput and better at allocating efforts to higher value activities, but the point is that improving effort…

Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl