Saturday, 26 December 2015

Do you speak English?

We, in the UK and US, are lucky to have English as our mother tongue.  It has become the de facto language of trade and commerce.

So, we have a 'head start' in trade negotiations.

However it also means that people inn the UK and US are not motivated to learn other languages.  We simply assume that everyone else will learn English.

This means that we also do not pick up on cultural differences that language learning helps to educate about.  This can make English speakers culturally insensitive - not recognising the nuances of culture, language - and body language - that people convey in trade (and other) discussions.

So our great asset is something of a liability - cutting us off from the learning that others get as a bonus with their language learning.

If you operate internationally - or plan to do so - you need to work hard to make up this deficit.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Introducing technology - stay in control

Does technology help or hinder productivity & performance? 

There are two basic schools of thought on this issues – though, as ever, these are not straightforward.

The first is that the introduction of technology can transform processes for the better, improving both quality and productivity.  Of course, this school of thought is largely promulgated by suppliers of the technology, keen to sell a positive message about their products.  The evidence is not so clear. We all know organisations that have ‘automated’ their processes using technology – but then found that they have automated their inefficient or unreliable processes, so that their key outcome is that they can now make mistakes and errors faster.

The second major school of thought, however, is that the introduction of many modern technologies – such as email and other forms of messaging – simply results in high levels of distraction for employees.

The truth is, of course, either somewhere in the middle – or, more likely, a combination of the two schools – some technology-based projects result in positive productivity gains; some do not.  It depends on how such projects are implemented – and whether the introduction of the technology is a part of an overall strategy, clearly linked to the overall vision of the organisation and its strategic objectives.

So, your job is to make sure you are not seduced by the promises of sales people and tech-evangelists ... but that you introduce technology when it falls into place naturally as part of a project or initiative that is part of your overall strategic planning.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Countryside, countrywide.

All developing countries go through a stage of urbanisation - as people leave the countryside and flock to the cities in pursuit of a share of the wealth that cities create.

This generally results in higher national productivity.

However, those same countries need to address productivity in, and of, the countryside.

In a typical agriculture supply chain, there is plenty of scope for value to be lost - right from planting through to cropping, processing and distribution.  The best producing countries maximise value at all stages in the process.

This has the advantage of retaining labour in the countryside, hopefully creating more (successful) small businesses - and helping balance the economy,

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Safety or Productivity

There seems to be, in some people's eyes, a dichotomy between safety and productivity.

The former is regarded as a compliance issue - a chore, a headache, an imposition - a drain on productivity.

Of course it partly depends on how safety is treated as an issue. Those who have used poka-yoke as an error-reducing technique will realise that it can also be used as an accident-reducing technique ... so that it makes a process both safer and more productive at the same time.  In fact this is the best way to address safety - every time we reduce the chance of an accident or other safety incident, we reduce value losses.

So it is definitely not a case of 'either/or' but a vase of 'both together' - making what we do both safer and more productive.  I hope you agree that any other approach is unthinkable.