“More is better.”  So goes most advertising:  measure something and increase the number.  It works pretty well for gasoline mileage and typing speed.

Someday someone will ask whether you are measuring the right thing.  If you are not, why increase the number?  In ten consecutive years I completed the neighborhood 10K run, until the organizers wanted a “better” qualifying time that was faster than mine.  Eventually I learned to run for individual happiness and leave the timer at home.  That ended my pains and left me revived instead of depleted.  It improved my health to measure my alertness instead of my speed.

Production teams are subject to a similar dynamic.  When team members are stressed keeping up, production goes down–and usually health with it.  When they lighten up, they resume having fresh ideas and being contributing team members.  Mutually happy workers contribute more to a company than they would by competing against each other for production records. 

Satisfaction comes by increasing performance or by adopting more realistic expectations.  Expanding capacity helps, but when speeding up is not feasible, satisfaction is deciding to work with what is available.  If it causes unhealthy stress to produce 100 widgets per hour, a worker is more productive and more reliable on a team producing 80 widgets per hour.  The long-term result is greater satisfaction to the people and less turnover in the company. 

Success lies in learning to measure the right thing. The key is how we perceive ourselves relative to well-founded expectations.