Saturday, 10 November 2018

Examine the results

I have recently been writing assessments for students on productivity-related courses.  This is one of the more difficult exercises in academic life - and, of course, exceedingly important ...both for the quality of the qualification involved  -  and  for the future life of the students.

One of the advantages is that it makes you think carefully about what you are testing - and therefore about the content and makeup of the course.  Assessment is in some ways a summary of the course - setting out its main purposes.  The big distinction between different types of course is whether, on successful completion, students should know stuff - or be able to do stuff.  This reflects massively in the forms of assessment you can use. Testing 'doing' is much harder than testing 'knowing'.

I am much more interested in the 'doing' - after all I want people to be able to improve productivity, not know about improving productivity in theory.  I think the assessments we use are getting better at testing the 'doing' but our situation, and our testing, is complicated because wev are creating online courses - with online assessments.

I will improve - I review student performance on assessments and try to work out where the flaws in the assessment itself have contributed to poor performance.

What I am trying to do, of course, is to improve my productivity - not in producing more assessments in the same timescale (though that would be nice) but by improving the quality of the assessments - and thus the value offered to customers(students).

Think about this when you train - and assess the effectiveness of your training by formal or informal assessment.

Productivity pops up everywhere, doesn't it!  If you can't improve your own productivity, how can you expect to encourage and urge others how to do it?

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Be unreasonable

I read a blog  the other day (yes, I do read other people’s blogs). It advised people to set reasonable goals. This is similar to most advice on goal setting - goals should be, according to received wisdom, realistic  and attainable.

However, when an organisation is under severe threat, realistic goals may not be enough. They might improve performance but they won’t transform it!Sometimes unrealistic goals are needed- goals which demand revolutionary, innovative thinking .. not more of the same but a little improved.


So, not all the time but occasionally, challenge your teams by setting unreasonable goals which force them to consider the ‘impossible’, the revolutionary. If they can make that attainable, they will be immensely proud and you should be much more productive.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The New Fluoride>


When I was growing up, there was a great controversy about whether fluoride should be added to drinking water to combat tooth decay in children.  In the end, science ’won’ and children’s teeth have been much healthier since.

Now we have a need to combat another problem. Politicians have become very adept at ignoring science and ‘going with their gut instinct’ or, far more likely, political expediency. The Donald is twitterific in his criticism of the press and others who hold opposing views. ‘Fake news’ he asserts, ignoring anything factual or scientifically proven if it conflicts with his personal view.

We desperately need a new fluoride -a magical potion that can combat this ‘truth decay’.

The lesson for your business is to look at the hard data, the facts to see what your performance is like. Don't ignore hard truths, they will only come back later to bite you. There is no fluoride, no magic potion.  its down to you!


Saturday, 6 October 2018

Too much, too late


If at the end of a typical working day (of, say, 8 hours) you had to go and start another job elsewhere, I would expect your performance on Job 2 to be limited and poor.

Yet, in many organisations, we see people working well into the evening or taking work home with them - in effect, starting Job 2.

We have to find ways of getting our work done in less than 8 hours per day - or we are creating conditions for tired people and poor performance.

Even worse, if we do this over a long time, we create the conditions for poor health, for mistakes, for poor judgement.

If you have employees working excessively long hours, don’t be proud of them. Be ashamed of yourself for not planning and organising the work more effectively, for creating improved risk of failure.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Stretching things too far


Parkinson’s Law famously stated that work expands to fill the time available. That is why we say “If you want something doing, give it to a busy person.”

Non-busy people make themselves look busy by expanding the work to fill their available time. Busy people fit the work into their available resources, condensing the time to what’s left in their busy schedule.

As a manager and leader, your role is to distinguish between the truly busy (and effective) and the work stretchers.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

robots good?


I was musing about robots recently - as one does ... and started thinking about the sociology of such devices. Humans in a work situation can be excellent performers as  individuals but the real performance gains come when humans are organised into cooperative and collaborative teams.

Will the same be true for robots?

The answer to this has  little to do with the possible  effects on your business.  This is a question for wider society - and for policy makers.

Are robot designers and manufacturers building ‘social skills’. Into their robots. Modern AI and machine learning approaches should make this possible. If robots could organise themselves into cooperative and collaborative groups, we may be astonished at the productivity gains we see.

 AI is quite a controversial area with many observers and commentators nervous about the potential threats in the future from sentient, intelligent (though artificial) beings.

With the potential for cooperative abilities built in, we might see highly efficient autonomous workgroups ... but sometime in the future could we see robot ‘trades unions’ and even robot armies. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

I read a piece the other day on the use of productivity measures for academic staff. The measures were all about output quantity (presumably with the proviso that papers wouldn’t be published if they didn’t meet quality criteria). However what matters is not quantity of output or quality of output but the impact of that output - how is thinking or practice changed as a result. 

This is difficult to measure as truly innovative and original ideas could take years to achieve their full impact. But attempting to judge it - even subjectively - might be a better measure than simply counting it. 

The same is true in your business. If you measure the wrong things, you get the wromg behsviours from your employees.

Productivity measures can be quite difficult to establish in certain contexts but we should be as creative with our measures as we are with our productivity improvements. 

EvanCarmichael.com