Saturday, 31 December 2016

Some of you will have made New year's resolutions.

Well, don't make specific resolutions relating to work and productivity - unless it is one to revert to 'first principles' and review:

your mission and vision
your critical success factors
your key performance indicators.

So, no quick fixes, magic bullets or panaceas.  Improving productivity takes thought and effort, not the application of some latest fad.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

What can you learn from the government's difficulties?

I make no apology for my continued focus on the UK.

Any government should be looking to increase national productivity - by identifying key areas and key levers they can 'pull'.

In the case of the UK, the National Health Service is such a large part of government spending, that driving efficiency here is essential.  Governments have tried but the NHS is such a behemoth, that it is a difficult exercise.  Changes to one part of the NHS cause difficulties (and unforeseen problems) elsewhere in 'the system'.

So, the secret is to go for a change in attitude and motivation - and let the NHS change itself.

Setting targets can help - but setting a lower budget is politically unacceptable ... the NHS is virtually untouchable - an icon of UK life.  However without some radical changes (such as small charges at the point of use), real change cannot happen,

If we 'grasp the nettle' and manage to make the NHS more productive, we can make a massive impact on GDP and on national productivity.

So, think how lucky you are to run a relatively small organisation where you can pull the right levers - and predict the effects securely.  You have no excuses for inefficiency.  Stay focused, stay motivated and you should be OK.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

THE UK invests

Further to last week's comments on the new UK Productivity Council, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond used the Autumn Statement to pledge new funding for fibre broadband and 5G technologies.

The £400 million investment in fibre, called the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, will be given to broadband providers to expand their networks,

What does this do for UK productivity?

Well, like most infrastructure investments, it creates potential.

Whether organisations like yours spot and build on on that potential is up to you - but you can't complain about lack of government support and then refuse to exploit support that is given.

So, in 5 year’s we’ll return to his subject and see if we can determine a return on this investment – at the national productivity level.

And we hope you will be able to  show how you have improved your business as a result of this expanded infrastructure.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Will this help you?

The Government is set to fund a business-led initiative designed to improve management skills and business productivity, after Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement within the Autumn Statement 2016.

The new UK Productivity Council will help narrow the “long-standing productivity gap” between the UK and Germany, the USA, France and Italy and encourage start-ups and small businesses to play a key role in improving the UK’s productivity rate.

It’s thought that, should the Council prove successful, the initiative could unlock up to £100bn of gross value added (GVA) each year.

Backed by £13m worth of Government seed funding, phased over three years, the new council was proposed following discussions among UK business leaders, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD).

The council will feature an advisory board, a chief executive and a five-strong leadership team, supported by up to 15 staff, drawing on the industry expertise of the business leaders that have contributed to date.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman, John Lewis Partnership, said: “For many ‘productivity’ is the language of economists, but it’s also critical to a healthy heartbeat for the economy, for wages and for competitiveness.

“While Government has a key role to play in creating the conditions for growth, businesses have to be the prime movers in boosting Britain’s productivity.

“I welcome the Government’s support for a UK Productivity Council which will encourage and support businesses.”

The plans discussed for the Council include:
  • Creating a single point of contact for businesses requiring productivity assistance
  • Building a range of benchmarking tools, in conjunction with the Council’s development partners, to improve productivity overview
  • Creating ‘productivity hubs’ to connect businesses with industry leaders in their area and see what measures work best for other firms
  • Regional employer-driven hubs to promote business productivity through professionals
  • Use of data and analytics to create evidence-based legislation
Greg Clark, Business Secretary, said: “Boosting productivity is a key part of this government’s industrial strategy, making sure the UK economy is fit for the future.

“That’s why last week we announced the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, including £13m for the new UK Productivity Council.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Productivity hacks are a waste of time

There are lots of blogs and magazine articles offering 'productivity hacks'.

What impact do these have on the productivity of an organisation?

Well, most of them are aimed at personal productivity.  They may help some people be marginally more efficient. But their impact on the organisation is almost non-existent since they don't address organisational systems, processes and procedures.

So, ignore them - unless you find them interesting on a personal level.

instead, take a systematic look t your organisation, what it does and how it does it.  In there lies the 'secret' of improved productivity.  Look for waste, opportunities for change, things that should be measured †o show what is happening.

Create your own, organisational 'hacks' - more effective and much more rewarding.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

productivity post-Bexit

How will Brexit affect UK productivity?

Well, it looks as though tax revenues will be lower.  But employment looks to be holding steady.

The uncertainty will lead to slower investment by some firms.

But the real answer is ... no-one knows.  The UK has been struggling to reach pre-financial crisis levels of productivity.  Post- Brexit, there may be a fresh confidence that moves things forward.   Bu† there mat not be.

So, don't ask me.

It all depends on you - and what you, and others like you, do in your businesses.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bad tech?

Just last week there was a near collision between a passenger jet and a drone. Drones have, in fact, had quite a bad press.  Yet their potential is immense. There are all sorts of ways in which drones can b used †o improve productivity.

Just think of farmers keeping an eye on stock or on weather conditions, on soil condition on water sources, on predators.

And that is just agricultural productivity.  There are similar opportunities in other sectors.

So, don't blame the technology when you see 'bad drone' stories.  Drones need regulating and controlling but they will prove to be helpful in many areas.

What you need to do is to think about how such new technologies might help your business.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Who Cares?

I'm in hospital recovering from a heart bypass operation.  Ive been in for 3 weeks observing (when conscious) and noting inefficiencies and improvement opportunities.

Of course, I don't really care - I'm much more interested in quality of care than cost of care.

Its just that professionally, even under these circumstances, I find it hard  to switch off completely.

Now, when its your own business, you can't afford to switch off  ... but you can use periods of illness as reflection and review periods.  As long, as course, as you rest nought to recover.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Measure the impact of talent.

Talented individuals often  need reassurance and explicit motivation - if we are to retain them over time.  Many of them know they are talented - and therefore know their own market value.

Many of them, however, do not need high salaries to motivate them - what they often want is a need to feel they are contributing and making a difference to the organisation they work for.

That is why they often like to work for start-ups ... their impact is both more direct and more visible.

But, assuming you are not a start-up, what can you do.

Well, you should let them know they are being monitored - this - as the Hawthorne effect reminds us - is itself a motivating factor.  and you should measure their impact - and let them know it is being measured.

Your key performance indicators should include measures that are people/talent related.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Are you a frontier company?

Frontier companies are those who operate at the technology frontier - early and effective adopters.  Unfortunately in the UK, there are few such companies and far too many laggards who adopt technology late and often reluctantly.

If you consider yourself a laggard, you need to start looking at  technology as an opportunity, not perceive it as a threat.

Industry leaders and advisers have a responsibility to lead their sector down the technology road.

You need to walk that road, keep an open mind and look for all the benefits - in terms of improved customer response as well as in terms of cost.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Get the message across

Sometimes it seems  difficult to get the productivity message over to people - the young aren't interested and it seem to be way down the priority list of many business people and politicians.

So, perhaps we have to try communicating in different ways - ways that 'chime' with intended audiences, using language thy relate to - and even using language that grabs their attention.

I saw an example of this recently with an agricultural productivity event being advertised under the banner of 'plows and cows' (US spelling, of course).

I noticed this event immediately - it had my attention.  Of course, the event still has to be effective - but getting people's attention is the first stage in giving them useful information.

There might be a danger in being seen to 'dumb down' but I think getting people focused on productivity should be our key aim.

The same is true in your business. You need to get key messages across to your workforce in ways that they can relate to.  Using 'advertising' -type language might be helpful if not overused.

Saturday, 8 October 2016


I apologise for the absence of any meaningful blog this week.  I'm in the USA on a road trip with my son and we are having too much fun to think serious thoughts.When I get back -and back up to speed (which may take some time) - normal service will be restored.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Don't Worry - Manage!

One of my great 'life lessons' came about from reading a quotation which I think is attributed to the Dalai Lama.

"If you are in control of a situation, there is no need to worry.  If you are not in control, there is no point worrying.  So, why worry?"

Similarly in business, there are things you can control (or manage) and things outside of your control (external factors).  You need to be aware of the external factors (how the environment is changing, what your competitors are doing, and so on) but you should concentrate your activity on those things you can manage.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Send them home

Do your employees turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, having completed their day's work.  Was it satisfying for you to watch them beavering away?  Were they productive?  How much more productive might they have ben working from home or from their local coffee shop?

Employees often find certain tasks difficult to complete in the office - report writing, coding and anything else that demands a high level of concentration and a low level of distraction.

Yet, few employees take the logical step of closing or shrinking their office space and allowing employees to work where they feel most comfortable.  Few even experiment - and measure performance/productivity differences.

Why don't you give it a try - perhaps on a small scale at first.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Key to induction

When you hire new people how do you induct them into the organisation?  Too often this consists of introductions, 'policy sessions', issuing of email ids and passwords .... and little else.  Your new people are informed - but bored.

Yet, in many organisations there is one activity in which you could engage new staff that would tell them more about the business - and its success factors - than all your hectoring and rehetoric.  This might be customer service, handing customer complaints, picking and packing orders  ... or something else.  You want your new staff to understand what it is that your customers value above all - and how that can be delivered.  So find the activity - or set of activities - that does this  and make all your new employees work on this activity, reflect on it and synthesise for themselves a list of customer success factors. 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Can you find the middle ground?

Great for the companies -and their shareholders: not so good for those now unemployed workers whose jobs have gone to the robots.

Of course in some industries and sectors , using robots is not quite so easy - automation requires highly repetitive, highly standardised, highly consistent work.  Robots are fast, regular and relentless - but nowhere near as flexible and adaptable as humans.

However, we are now seeing the rise of a new generation of 'co-bots', machines that work with humans to take out some of the effort and drudgery of tasks while allowing humans to exercise their flexibility and control.

And one section of the workforce is gaining more than the rest - women.  Where work requires precision and strength, women can provide the precision while the cobot provides the strength.  Productivity rises, work improves.

Can your company find ways to use 'assistive technology' - to improve work and productivity?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Using incentives

Japan is offering employment subsidies to organisations that improve their productivity.  So 'winning' companies get a double boost.

Is this a sensible role for government - to reward the successful?

One reason for their action is to prevent companies from using job cuts to fuel growth.

What does matter is that the aims of any government intervention are clear - and seen to be fair.
And, as a general rule, government should not 'shore up' the unsuccessful and uncompetitive.

so, perhaps this is a valuable experiment.  Certainly I will be interested to see the results.

Japan currently ranks 22nd out of 34 OECD countries for its productivity.  Perhaps this initiative can move it up the list.

Back at company level, what incentives can you offer to boost your winners and get that 'double whammy'?

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Is it worth higher productivity?

The relentless rise of technology and the willingness of men to experiment means we are likely to see a merging of mankind and technology over the next couple of hundred years - producing real cyborgs.  These will be highly efficient and productive workers.

You might think this is good for your business.

However,  the human race as we know it will eventually disappear - unless we stop this trend.

We have the technology to create the future.  Do we have an appropriate ideology to match?  Are enough people (other than science fiction writers) thinking about the issues, the dilemmas, the controversies, the principles that will help us govern and mange this change.

I don't think so.  It will probably just happen - in ways we don't want. And it will be our fault!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Dressing properly

More firms are allowing workers to come to the office in less formal attire.  does this have an impact on productivity?

There is little research on the issue.  The arguments seem to boil down to:

allowing people to dress casually makes them more comfortable, more relaxed and more content - and this has a positive effect on their performance.

encouraging people to dress formally means they wear a 'business uniform' which puts them in the right frame of mind - and this has a positive effect on their performance.

Perhaps we should just offer people the right to choose.... within certain limits of course.

It seems to be an irreversible trend, anyway - perhaps we are better just accepting the fact - until and unless we get some evidence to make us think again.

Think about your current policy - and whether it is counter trend and counter-productive.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Breaking out of the Vicious Circle

Nations are (quite rightly) urged to improve educational standards and attainments to help boost national productivity.  An educated - and skilled - workforce is a key underpinning of higher productivity.

This is actually a vicious circle (or cycle).  Low education standards results in lower productivity - and lower productivity results in less money to invest in education. And the cycle continues.

Nations have to find some way to break out of the cycle. And wealthier countries who provide aid to developing countries should focus a great deal of their efforts on education and skills.

Its the 'teach a man to fish' paradigm.

At the level of the firm, organisations must concentrate on upskilling and empowering their workers - to realise their maximum potential.  This is your responsibility.  if enough firms do this, the national problem is solved.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Creative Sparks

We know that teams that share values tend to knit together better.  A culture in which people 'get on' and work for each other is considered to be productive.

Yet, tension can provide creative sparks; competition raises effort; oysters need an irritant to produce pearls.

So, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Allow team members a degree of freedom in which to be 'sparky, create and encourage (friendly) competition and rivalry.

You will end up with a more creative workforce. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Leaning from the best?

Some countries are much more productive than others.

One would assume that this gives the less productive countries lots of scope to learn what works and what doesn't - and boost their own productivity ... but this doesn't seem to be the case.

This suggests that either those countries are not trying to learn the lessons ... or that the lessons and good practice are not easily transferrable from one country to another.

I find either of those difficult to accept.

(This is one reason that I regularly help organise the World Productivity Congress - the next one is in Bahrain in November, see  

Of course different climates, traditions, cultures and so on make a difference - but there are enough similarities between the ways in which the leading nations organise themselves to suggest there are generic lessons to be learned.

Perhaps politicians are the wrong people to learn them!

On the other hand when you benchmark your performance against similar organisations, you do learn, don't you?

After all, if others can do it, why can't you?

Saturday, 23 July 2016


As i write this, Donald Trump has just accepted the nomination as Republican candidate for the US presidency.
Now Trump is certainly a controversial figure and i am not going to give my  view on his suitability to be president - if for no other reason that, here from the U K, making any judgement is difficult
I am though interested in whether he will have any effect on US productivity - positive or negative.
He seems to appeal to a disaffected and disillusioned working class.
If they feel they are are at last being listened to, will they respond with greater engagement, greater enthusiasm for their work roles - ands greater productivity. Or will they soon find they have been sold a false promise and be 'turned off''.
Of course all of this assumes he is elected - and that is far from certain.
I will be watching with interest - as will most of the world!
So, remember to be careful what you promise - to your employees, your customers and other stakeholders.  Promises can come back and bite you.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Scale up and win

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)together with Lloyds Banking Group, the ScaleUp Institute & Aston Business School, has launched a new report, Lifting the Trophy, profiling scale-up insights into raising productivity within firms.
  • In 2013, 4% of firms contributed 17% to total UK productivity
  • Between 2012 – 2015, over 18,500 businesses rapidly scaled-up their turnover – 650 of these were mid-market firms
  • Within the scale-up community, highly productive firms are twice as common
  • 8 out of 10 of the UK’s most productive businesses are located outside London
For more details, see

So, firms that grow quickly also tend to grow their productivity - a double-whammy.  

What are you waiting for?

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Friday Freedom

Many people are not at their most productive on Friday afternoons. They procrastinate, prolong and prevaricate - picking issues up on Monday when they are (hopefully) refreshed and revitalised.

So, why not use this fact to your advantage.

Give your staff Friday freedom. Not the freedom to take time off - but the freedom to be non-productive: the freedom to 'play', explore, investigate. 

Get them to investigate:
  • What is happening to the market, to technology, to competitors, to suppliers, to society or subsets of it? 
  • How can your company exploit any of these changes?

They will learn stuff to your advantage - and to theirs.  They will become better informed, better skilled employees - and almost certainly more engaged, more loyal, more satisfied employees.

You might lose a little in the short term but gain a lot in the longer term.

Of course this doesn't work for all types of employee/role so you have to choose who you give such freedom to.  And to be 'fair' (ands be seen to be fair), you may have to select other freedoms to give to other employees.

But freedom is a valuable commodity - use it to create value for your organisation.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Not Goodbye

The UK public has voted to leave the EU.  There are numerous reasons given - but they don't matter anymore ... except inso far as the EU learns what the public don't like about the EU and attempts to reform itself.

What matters for the UK is what happens now to the EU economy - and to UK productivity.

The answer, of course, is that no-one knows.

Generally speaking, lowering trade barriers helps improve an economy - so any move to create barriers between the EU and the UK could harm the UK economy - but would possibly have more impact on the EU economy.

Surely sense will prevail - and a new trade deal will be negotiated quickly.  Any attempt by the UE to 'punish' the UK would be disastrous for both sides.

And remember, we haven't left Europe ... just the EU.  I am proud to be European ... but i had my misgivings about an unaccountable organisation whose accounts have not been signed off for many years.

So, this is not goodbye.  Our relationship has changed - but we're still here, just over the Channel, ready to trade.

If you are a UK entrepreneur or business person, as part of that potential trade, your job is to make sure your  business remains competitive - and helps the UK through what might be a 'sticky patch'. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Are your investors the problem?

Over the last 5 years - in fact since the great recession hit - many companies seem to have concentrated on short term gains - and have rewarded their CEOs with generous bonuses  for producing them.   This is in response to a real or imagined investor need for quick results and dividends - to offset money they might previously have received in interest payments on part of their capital.

So, the CEO gets his/her bonus; the company makes profits; the investor receives dividends.  What's not to like?

Well, this is a recipe for declining productivity - or at least non-rising productivity.  Money is going out in these term payments instead of being invested in infrastructure, new capital equipment and new technologies.  It is those kinds of investment that replace labour with capital and drive up labour productivity.  It is those kinds of investment that have not been made in recent years.

Now, does this apply to your company.  Are you under pressure for short-term results?  Is that pressure real or imagined?

Perhaps you should find out.  If your investors would accept a longer-term view, you could start to make those transformational investments and all would gain in that longer term.  

Saturday, 18 June 2016

What kind of boss are you?

Do you - as a boss - enhance, or detract from, your employees' productivity?

If you ask this question of your employees, you might expect them to answer 'enhance' - but they probably won't.

Too many of them will see you as 'interfering' or 'meddling', confusing rather than directing them.

Does this say something about thosee employees - and their perceptions versus expectations - or about you?

This is not clear.  Probably a bit of both.  It certainly means that you need to think about how you relate to, and engage with, your employees.  If employees feel their productivity is lowered, it probably is .. indirectly rather than directly, perhaps, but lowered nevertheless.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

New normal(s)?

I 've written quite a few times in the last year about low productivity figures - across all developed nations.  I've even offered advice on occasions about what might be done to improve the figures - as have better men - and certainly better thinkers - than me.

But the figures stubbornly refuse to rise.

I've also tried to explain this - by suggesting amongst other things that we fail to capture the economic benefit of much i-activity.  If someone writes an app and gives it away for free , does it contribute to economic activity - directly or indirectly?

Perhaps we have to get used to lower productivity growth - and accept it as the new normal. Perhaps we can then start to havre intelligent conversations about employment, about wages, about interest rates and so forth.  Or do we just keep on hoping and praying for a recovery - retaining our old thinking in the face of the overwhelming evidence that things have changed?

Similarly, in your business, what has changed - and changed for ever?  Your competition? External scrutiny? Labour supply? Skills needed?

You need to identify - and work within - your own set of 'new normal' factors, instead of waiting for the world to get back to where it was when you understood it.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Just Cause?

2 recent sets of figures from the USA raise a question of 'connectivity'/  Labour productivity refuses to rise - and investment in plant and equipment has declined over the last 10 years.  These can probably be correlated but is there a causal relationship?

Well, I can't prove anything but let's just say that labour productivity rises most quickly when capital is substituted for labour.

How do you compare to the US?  Still investing?  Productivity rising?  

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Comparisons matter

Most developed countries have experienced lower rates of productivity development since the great recession - and nobody seems to know why.

It does seem as though these low growth rates might be with us for some time.

For any one country, this means that the key is to simply have a higher growth rate than your near competitors - and stop worrying about the absolute figure.

Low productivity growth can still create a successful economy - and actually helps employment levels.

This is just as true for businesses. What matters is not your absolute performance - but your performance relative to your main competitors.  Keep your eye on them,  anticipate their moves - and keep one step ahead.

Accept reality and the art of the possible- and work within it.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The long view!

Most of us want to help our organisations be productive - but we also want to be kind to the environment .  Can these aims be reconciled?

Well, yes! - but sometimes it depends on the timeframe you are looking at.

Take agriculture as an example.

Using pesticides and fertilisers can increase yield (increasing productivity) - but over a long period may have a detrimental effect on the soil leading to lower yields in that longer-term.

Business decisions - especially related to investment can have similar short and longer-term perspectives.

So, if you have a problem about conflicting aims, try to look at the big picture and look at it over an extended period before tasking your decision as to what to prioritise.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Work-life balance is important.  If 'work' takes over, you end up stressed and ineffective.  If 'life' rakes over, you fail to achieve, and many small business owners and entrepreneurs focus too much on the business.

Understandable, but not helpful.

So, how do we achieve 'balance'?

Well, here's a simple tip.

When you create your ToDo list and prioritise tasks, make sure you create entries for both sides - the work and the life - and treat them with equal seriousness.  Assess importance and urgency of both - and think carefully about success criteria.   If you don't achieve the 'life' goals, consider yourself to have failed.

In effect, you are creating a work-life balanced scorecard. And, as you improve your balance, you will find your work achievements rise.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Minimum Wage - how far above are you?

In the UK, as in quite a few other countries, there is a minimum wage set by government.  In  the UK, this has recently risen fuelled by the introduction of what is called the National Living Wage.

(We will ignore, for now, any discussion on whether this means it was impossible to live on the previous minimum wage.)

 The use of these legal impositions on wage rates suggests a low wage economy - and in many sectors - social care, retail, as two examples, this is true.

The problem with low wage economies is that they mitigate against increased productivuty.

Real productivity gains often arise from the substitution of labour by capital - taking away inefficient manual work or assisting it with technology.  In a low wage economy, there is little incentive for firms to make such investments. Why take the risk?

This os one reason why countries like the UK are finding it so hard to climb out of the great economic depression.

Does this apply to your organisation? Are you holding back on potential investments because they wont save you enough money? You might be taking the right decision - for you.  But collective;y, you - and others like you - are creating a national problem.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Physical work is the future

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making good progress and we have seen computers doing very well at strategy games like Chess and Go. 
AI is ideal for situations where a large quantity of data has to be processed as the basis of a 'logical' decision.  This applies in strategy games, and in commercial activities such as stock and commodity trading.  
So computers can play chess.  But they can't easily pick up the chess pieces.  They are much less adept physically than 'mentally'.
This means that as the next generation of schoolkids start to look for jobs, a number of what are currently high paid jobs might be being performed by computers. 
Those kids should look to become plumbers, gardeners or carpenters - working physically and flexibly.
Will this result in a redistribution of wealth from knowledge workers to manual workers? That remains to be seen. But the manual workers might have work - and feel engaged and rewarded by that work.
In the meantime, what are the consequences of AI for your own work - and your business.  Its not too early to start thinking if where AI might save you time and cost - or improve what you do.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The UK Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) suggests the productivity picture might finally be starting to change.
The EEF recently unveiled some mixed findings. On the positive front, its report – Productivity: the state of the manufacturing nation – revealed that over six in ten UK manufacturers (64%) achieved productivity growth in the past two years, while 57% expect to make further gains in the next two. It also points out that manufacturing’s productivity growth outpaced the service sector and the UK economy as a whole in the two decades to 2014, suggesting that, while the manufacturing sector might not have the size and critical mass it once had, it is an altogether leaner animal than in days gone by.
However, the key message from the EEF would appear to be that manufacturers cannot rest on their laurels – indeed, almost half of manufacturers (49%) questioned by said the UK manufacturing’s productivity lags behind competitor nations.
So, reasonable progress but the report card suggests "Could do better".
What about your organisation? Where do you lie? If you're lagging, you need to do something or you are becoming less competitive.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Time to Think

How will the Internet of Things (IoT) impact on productivity - of different sectors?

We know that lots of (mainly technology) companies are betting big on IoT  - but is this investment wise?

For consumers, developments like smart thermostats, smart lighting and so on are interesting - but how compulsive a purchase are they?  The ability to control my lights from my hone is pointless if I am not at home and unnecessary if I am/

Of course, I'm probably missing the point, failing to see the 'vision'  Perhaps IoT is not a consumer-led change ... perhaps it is industry that will reap the benefits.

I need to go now - and think about the brave new world. You do too. All of the investment going on will drive change - but not necessarily in planned directions.  The winners will be those that first spot the twists, turns and diversions on the road ahead. So, what are the implications for the sector in which you operate? - and for your company?  Don't expect someone else to tell you.

Start thinking!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Failure is not an option.

The USA recently held National Agriculture Day.

A key concern expressed by many of those participating this year was the need for greater investments in the very foundation of American agriculture: the research, development and extension services required to maintain the high productivity and environmental sustainability of American farmers and ranchers and to provide sufficient nutritious food, fibre and biofuel for a growing world.

Challenges include the multiyear drought in California and many Western states; threats from disease affecting livestock, poultry and citrus crops; nutrition and obesity-related health issues; and a troubling shortage of young farmers and veterinarians choosing agriculture as a profession.

 But we cannot afford to fail - the global population will rise by 2.3 billion by 2050.  We have to feed all those people!

What is iy that your company can not afford to fail at.  Make sure you know what these critical success factors are - and then make sure you address them - make sure you don't fail!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Productivity secrets?

What are the secrets to productivity development at the national level?

Well, after many years experience in a range of countries, I would have to say "Don't ask me".

Thee is no panacea, no golden bullet.

If I had to offer any advice, it would be to ;

Get the macroeconomy right - reduce regulation, open up markets

Invest in infrastructure (especially communications - roads, ports, airports - and telecommunications)

Invest in skills  (basic, vocational and technical).

Be lucky!

What about at the level of the firm? - What should you be doing?

Well, 3 and 4 above are most important.  invest in the skills of your workforce - and be lucky!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Happy workers?

A number of agencies, and even countries, have attempted to create measures of 'happiness' - as an alternative to using GDP to value the work undertaken by people.

This needs further work - but shows some promise. Lots of activity is currently not 'caught' in official GDP figures.  The work of volunteers, for example ... or the work of people that goes into 'free' services.  When you use 'free' apps on your smartphone of tablet, your work might be ,more productive - and this might contribute to a 'better' GDP figure .... but often it won't.

The whole point of productivity is to make people more 'wealthy' - but we need to measure wealth in ways that reflects the priorities of citizens and workers.  If people value leisure time over consumer goods, we might prioritise reduced working hours over increased GDP - and we might prefer to measure something like 'well-being' (or even 'happiness') over simple economic activity.

At the level of your own company, you can determine - to a large degree- how you prioritise 'outputs' and 'value creation' - depending on your own set of values and aspirations. But what do your workforce value? To what do they aspire?  Perhaps you need to consult with them before setting all of tour business priorities.  Perhaps real 'growth' is not just about more output.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Measurement level

The UK Office for National Statistics has just issued time series data for labour productivity across a number of years and for a number of sectors.  Quite interesting (for productivity nerds like me) but ultimately unhelpful in so far as the level of aggregation is so high that it has no effect on behaviour or future performance.

What the government needs to know is ... What do we need to do to make the data move in the right direction?

Interpreting this data - to result in strategy - is difficult.

The old adage - You get what you measure - fails at this level of aggregation.

This is a lesson for your business.  You should measure at a level at which those being measured can influence what iss being done in ways, and to a schedule, which can move the measure,

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Aim to be first.

Some of you will now that I have been in Bahrain for the last week helping prepare for the World Productivity Congress which will be held here in November. (see for details.)

Conversations obviously covered the productivity of Bahrain and its move towards becoming a post-oil economy.  Lots of Bahrainis look at Dubai as a possible model - creating an exciting, vibrant economy without oil revenue.  But Bahrain should not be looking to be a second Dubai - but a first Bahrain.  It has lots of advantages: it is a relatively open, diverse society with a rich history and culture; it has a good technology infrastructure; it has an open economy with no taxes on the movement of capital; most Bahrainis speak English- the international language of business.

What Bahrain has to do now is to find a 'usp' - an area of economic activity that it can make its own.

The same should apply to your organisation.

Don't hope to copy or emulate a competitor. Strike forward with your own vision and strategy for a position  of strength based on a specialism - of product, service, quality, aesthetic, reliability or whatever ... but something that singles you out as being foremost in your field.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Outsource wisely

In my eLearning development role, I have recently been producing a series of video lessons - using a professional voiceover artist.  This is quite an expense - but a necessary one.  When I compare the results with some I made a few years ago using myself or other amateurs, there is no comparison.

'You get what you pay for' applies here.

What is more important is that my client gets what he is paying for - clear commentary to the videos, easily understood with strong, clear messages from my text and a professional voiceover.

Know what you are good at - and know where you need help.

Outsourcing is a key way of adding expertise you and your organisation do not have.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Are you like the UK?

The UK languishes at the bottom of most productivity league tables.  We seem to be a low skill, low performing country.  Lots of 'good' jobs have been taken out of the economy and replaced with part-time, low skill employment.

The UK must start to invest in skills - and skill-based employment sectors.  Otherwise it will continue its 'race to the bottom' - lots of jobs but no satisfying employment or careers.

How does the relate to yo ur business?  Are you upskilling your workforce? Does the work they do demand it?

If not, think about how you have organised the work.  H ow will you engage and motivate your workforce if they are in undemanding, low skill jobs?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Think WHY, then HOW

India has the highest population of livestock in the world and produces a whopping 147 million metric tonnes of milk, a number also  unsurpassed by any other country. However,  when it comes to productivity, it is way behind most other nations -  Israel’s productivity is 10 times greater.

India is starting to realise what it needs to do - but is not yet sure how to go about it.

This is really important.  Knowing WHY one needs to improve is the key catalyst in determining HOW to improve.  

Unless the will is there, the tools and techniques have no power.

So, expect to see improvements in India's agri-productivity in the next decade.  They are on the starting blocks.

The same is true of your business - you must understand Why you need to change and improve; the impact it will have on your operations and competitiveness.  This will force you to search for improvements methods and opportunities.

Think about your VISION - not how you get there (well, at least not yet).

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Do you know WHY?

I saw a piece on the web the other day that suggested that sensible, progressive governments should offer incentives to organisations to improve their productivity.

But surely you - like those running other businesses -  want to improve your productivity because it reduces your costs, improves your performance and competitiveness and improves your profits.

If this is not enough of an incentive, I worry about the kinds of people running modern businesses.

You may not know HOW to improve your productivity but you should know WHY you need to.

So government support should be in that 'HOW' domain - offering guidance and support ... but more importantly, improving the infrastructure that supports higher productivity and creates potential for performance growth.

If you have any voice, that's what you should be asking for.