Productivity is a lot like pornography. To paraphrase U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, you may not know exactly how to define it, but you know it when you see it.
In almost every business there are a few highly productive "go to" employees, and almost everyone knows exactly who they are. If you ask their peers what it is that makes these individuals so productive, you'll get a variety of answers:
"She holds herself accountable, and never makes excuses..."
"I can always count on him to return my calls..."
"She is the person who has the answers, or she knows how to get the answers..."
"He always delivers, on time, on budget, with exceptional quality..."
"She works harder than anyone around her..."
"He works hard, gets it done, and seems to enjoy every minute..."
So what is the source of their exceptional productivity? Of course there isn't a single answer to that question. In every work group it is some unique combination of harder work, deeper thought, stronger commitment and greater personal accountability, along with specific skills, habits and attitudes that drive performance.
And for every work environment the optimal combination of these elements is somewhat unique. But while difficult to define, exceptional productivity isn't an accident, and there are certain capabilities that universally drive greater effectiveness in the modern workplace.