Saturday, 12 August 2017

Don't wait for technology

Over the last 50 years, there is no doubt that technology has made significant contributions to GDP and thus to national productivity. However most technology soon reduces in price and thus any contribution is soon lessened. Worse, we appear to be in a relative technology slump - there has been little true innovation in the last few years.

So, technology is not going to come to our rescue. We have to take the 'low road' and pick up all the small productivity gains we can. We need a systematic, national productivity drive with government addressing policy and infrastructure and companies like yours addessing skills and culture. We can create impact but it's not going to be easy.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Not in your organisation

If your employees were fighting in factions, arguing among themselves and failing to do what you expect them to do, would you continue to pay them?  You might - but presumably you would also initiate disciplinary procedures to try to correct such behaviours.

I suspect, though, that your answer to the question is that you would not tolerate it - or that it wouldn't happen in your well -run organisation.

This is, however, what happens regularly, in politics. Both the US and the UK have exhibited such behaviours recently - infighting and squabbling between Republicans and Democrats - or Conservatives and Labourites.  All we, as the voting public, can do is to sit and watch - and perhaps seethe with anger - and wit until the next election.  These infighters and squabblers would not behave like this in the other compartments of their  life, surely.  But they seem to think this is how they are expected to behave as 'politicians'.

There is an old adage - 'we get the politicians we deserve' - so it must be our fault.

If we want productive government, we must demonstrate productive behaviours in all we do - and set these 'children' some role models.  We should also write to them and remind them of the constructive and productive behaviours we expect from our elected representatives - and we should certainly use our vote to sanction these unruly and unproductive behaviours whenever we get the chance.

As a businessman, you should also lobby whoever you can to put pressure on the political parties to control the worst excesses of their members.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Lost Decade

UK productivity in the first quarter of 2017 was the same as it was in 2010.  This  after relentless if sometimes slow growth over many years.So, not only have we not had the bounce i refereed to last week; we seem to have had a capsize and a sinking.

Successive governments seem to be powerless to do anything about the problem but at leat this current government seem to have recognised the problem - and have set up a new UK Productivity Council to try to do something about it.

Making up for10 years lost growth is probably impossible - but at least we could get growth moving again.

If government can't get things moving, its up to you in the private sector to take charge and build momentum from lots of little improvemente.

Together, we owe it to the next generation to give them some momentum to build on.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

No Bounce!

The Office for National Statistics says that, had productivity in the UK returned to its pre-recession trend, it would be 20% higher than its current level. Britain would be one fifth better off.

The normal pattern is that after a recession, productivity bounces back and we recover (at least most of) what we lost.

However, we have had no bounce since the great financial crisis.

It ts not just the UK - the pattern is remarkably similar around the globe.

The time to wait for the bounce has gone - the UK needs action to recover.

Let's hope the new Productivity Council can pull the trigger.

And, for your business, its up to you.  You have to find and pull your own trigger.... find your own bounce.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Canada's labour productivity rose 1.4% in Q1 2017.

This is not a spectacular result but a solid performance.

Sometimes, slow and steady progress is preferable to high gain, fall-back performance.  (Think 'tortoise and hare'.)

This is exactly why continuous improvement programmes, resulting in a number of evolutionary performance gains, often beat the occasional revolutionary improvement brought about by say, a technology change.

Ideally, of course, you want both - but waiting for the revolution is a bad strategy.  You  need to keep the pressure on your organisation to make the many, small improvements.

Take Canada as your role model!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Should you think or work?

We have been told a few times that what creates success is sheer hard work... the perspiration not the inspiration, and the 10,000 hours.  But many great men (and women) have achieved their greatness by original thought  by avoiding the 10,000 (wasted)  hours.

it seems that both routes might take you to success - and it perhaps depends on the kind of person you are as to what is right for you.

But what about a company.  They can't 'plod on' for 10,000 hours and expect an insight - or the achievement of some kind of superskill.

So, whoever runs the company has to have the insight - about a new product, a changed process, a new way of doing business - to transform the business.

If you are not thinking about how to transform and revolutionise your business -  wha are you doing?  How are you earning your keep?

Friday, 23 June 2017

You, the evangelist.

I try to keep up to date with productivity trends and productivity news.

In scanning the airwaves and the twittersphere, I often see governments urging their citizens to be more productive.

At least in religions when people are urged to be more 'holy' there are priests and other religious leaders helping prepare them to be more holy - and explaining what being more holy means.

So, who are the productivity priests explaining to these probably confused citizens what they should do - and how they should behave - to be more productive.

In your company, it has to be you.  you must be the evangelist of productivity - and explain it to the laity in terms they undersrand ... and can act upon.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Election promises

In the UK, we have been through a rather exciting General Election - though as I write this, we have the same government and the same Prime Minister.

In their campaigns, all parties made us promises - of what they would do and deliver - better health care, more jobs, lower taxes, etc.

How would they pay for those promises that cost money- by raising taxes or cutting costs elsewhere.  (Oh yeah, that's going to happen!)

But how many of the parties mentioned the only real way of paying for the promises - higher productivity.

You guessed it ... not one of them.

If politicians looking for solutions don't realise that productivity is the answer - what hope is there?

Luckily, you do understand - don't you.  You have to find ways of raising productivity -its the only solution that will create a win-win for you and your staff ... and form the basis of longer-term growth and success.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Exhortation is not enough

Many nations have realised that the only true long-term key to economic growth is productivity improvement.

The problem is that this realisation is often the end, rather than the start, of the matter.  Governments and their agencies exhort commerce - and perhaps even the population - to improve productivity and to compete - but without understanding their role in making this happen.

Exhortation and hectoring are not enough.  Governments need to provide infrastructure, skills, information and advice - in ways that are accessible - just in time, at just the right level - and at the right cost!

Similarly, there is no point you exhorting your workers to higher performance and productivity - without providing the advice, information, skills and tools needed.

Its not rocket science - but it isn't easy either!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Robots on the march?

I've referred to the subject (threat?) of robots several times in the last year.  Clearly they are going to have a big impact on many companies and on many people's jobs   - but exactly how, in what ways ,is not yet clear. For some time humans and robots are likely to be co-workers. Skilled workers will survive the longest.

Views on this subject vary - but sometimes writers seem to be scaremongering rather than making reasoned assumptions and predictions.

As ever, we will have to wait and see.

However, my reading in this area did throw up a word I wish I had coined robopocalypse.  

Choose wisely how you proceed with robots in your business.  Short-term gains are clear .. but longer-term. ... Who knows?

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Global rating agency Moody's Investors Service sees a persistent decline in labour productivity growth, stemming from an ageing population and slow investments, as posing a key threat to global economic recovery.
The agency's report, titled "Collapse of Global Productivity Growth Remains Sizable Risk to Credit Conditions," published last week said global labour productivity growth fell to an average 1.7% in the post global financial crisis years of 2011-2015, compared to an average 2.6% between 1995-2007, Moody's.com reported.
In 2016 alone, labour productivity growth slowed to just 1.2%. Moody's said if productivity growth remains unchanged, global economic growth next year might be as low as 2.5%, significantly lower than previous estimates of 3.5%.
all of this means you are likely to field requests for wage rises to compensate for inflation.  If you can't increase your productivity, this will cost you part of your current earnings.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

How are your robots doing?

The last 2 decades have sen the inexorable rise of the robot - especially in motor manufacture.  We have all sen the robotic arms lifting and fitting panels, spray painting, and so on.  Some workers have presumable been displaced  - but the economic gains have been substantial, surely.

Well ,thisc rise of †he robot has been matched with the lowest productivity growth in recorded times.

Coincidence or causal relationship?

Well, there is some evidence that those displaced workers have had to take low paid, possibly part-time work - not the high skill jobs that were predicted.  And, worse - some could find no alternative work at all - the jobs are in the wrong place!

So, the rise of the robot might be good only for those who make and sell robots.  Or perhaps it simply takes time  for society to adapt to such a massive change.

Think carefully before you make the switch on your factories.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Do you value skills?

In the developing world, education standards have been rising for decades.  More and more of the population go to university and the number of degrees, and even higher degrees, rises relentlessly.

Yet, still employers maintain - as they always have done - that they cannot get employees with the right skills.

Note the word 'skills'.  Employers don't want more knowledge - that is easy to provide via Google - but skills are both expensive to provide -and take a long time to develop.

This means that the 'education' system must become more of an 'education and skills' system and skills must receive parity of esteem with knowledge.

In the UK, the proposed 'T levels' might help - but past initiatives have failed to change the 'esteem' with which skills are held. Teachers are knowledge-based - the wrong people to guide kids through a skills-based curriculum.  Changing this will take perhaps a couple of generations, helped by kids' increasing reluctance to take on the massive loans to fund university attendance.

But, of course, employers like you must play their part - by reducing their reliance on the degree as a 'first sift' of job applicants -and recognising skills where they exist.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Automate bur don't forget the rest.

Japan has a highly automated industrial sector which has fuelled productivity growth over several years. However this efficient sector is only a part of the Japanese economy (though an important part) and the rest of the economy - and especially the services sector has a very poor track record - relying on long hours of hard work to get things done, rather than streamlined processes and procedures.

Noe I know that most readers are not representatives of countries but entrepreneurs and business men.  Well, the lesson for you is that you need to make improvements where they have maximum impact, not where they are easiest to make.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

How will Trump's Tax Turnoff Affect your Productivity?

Donald Trump is hailing his tax cutting plans as 'radical' and likely to stimulate US growth.How will they affect US productivity?

Well, the way in which productivity responds to trade measures is not clear ... but if you and other entrepreneurs are paying less tax, you may spend more on capital infrastructure or on R&D - and both of those are generally beneficial to productivity.  However, they take time to show up in the figures - so don't expect short term productivity gains.  And with long-term investments, often something else (some short term effect or expediency) often intervenes.

So, as ever, we wait and see.  We hope.  And if it all works our, we might have to hail Trump as a visionary.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Encourage your staff to be lazy

Is laziness helpful in making people more productive? does it encourage them to seek less arduous ways of achieving the same output?

Well, certainly the opposite is not true  Busyness is not a sign of high productivity. Too many people are busy but essentially unproductive - because they are either doing the wrong things or doing them in the wrong way.

Think about people like maintenance engineers - ideally we want them either doing nothing or carrying out planned maintenance - we do not want them working on breakdowns and emergencies.

So, perhaps we should encourage people to create more 'idle time' as a reward for improving how they carry out their own tasks.n

Perhaps having your staff sitting around talking is the best sign that they are thinking about their work and the contribution they are making.


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Does the IMF matter to you?

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has issued a stark warning that living standards will fall around the world unless governments take urgent action to increase productivity by investing in education, cutting red tape and incentivising research and development.
 Whether or not, you agree that her prescription is what is needed to improve productivity - or is complete, it is good that someone so influential is spreading the message about the need for productivity development. 
I actually think she has got it mostly right - I would add infrastructure development, and would add training to education ... but her summary is pretty effective.
Now, how does this apply to you and your business. Well, of course, you need your government to create favourable business conditions - to create the potential for high productivity which you can exploit. 
And, i hope, as a concerned, informed citizen, you want other governments to do the same and help create a better, more productive world. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Key points

I have just returned from the World Productivity Congress in Bahrain -an interesting and useful even†. The programme was too rich and varied to be easily summarised but key points were:


  1. productivity is fostered and supported in healthy communities of informed, engaged citizens and workers
  2. innovation, if it is to be comprehensive and effective, needs a supporting innovation ecosystem.
  3. a key determinant of organisational productivity is ensuring that employees have the appropriate skillset.
  4. solutions have to be informed by local history and culture -beware of consultants selling pre-packaged and pre-determined solutions.


These statements sound 'bald' - but to hear the thinking - and the evidence  - behind them made the Congress worthwhile.





Saturday, 25 March 2017

Tke help

Most of us will admit that we are not experts in all areas. (Some of us will even admit to not being an expert in any area.)

So, we take advice, help and support from those who know more than we do - or at least we do if we are sensible.

Of course we have to find knowledgeable people who know about our field of operation, or our type of problem.

Some of us use conferences to help us find experts.  We can use sector-based events that offer information and presentations form experts in our sector. Or we can use generic events, recognising that many lessons are transferrable across sectors  and it is the tools, techniques, approaches and methodologies we should be looking at.

I shall be at the World Productivity Congress shortly (April 2-4) to learn, share, discuss, reflect on issues around productivity - at the global,  regional, national and organisational level.  I don't necessarily expect to learn the 'great secret to productivity improvement' - but I do hope to hear about developments that will help me refine my own approach to supporting productivity development.

What have I got to lose.  Very little.
What have I got to gain. Possibly a great deal.

There is (just about) time to join me - what have you got to lose/gain?  You and your business wil e better for it. l
Check out www.wpc-bh.com for information.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Do you micromanage>

If so, stop.

Lots of management texts and courses tell us about the details of planning, organising and managing.  One problem is that you can tend to think that you yourself have to immerse themselves in the detail.  You  become a micromanager, obsessed about small steps and detail - instead of concentrating on the big picture and trusting others 'down the chain' to worry about detail. 
Employees see this as a lack of trust - and can often even see you doing parts of their job for them.  Naturally, they turn off and disengage


Nobody likes to be micromanaged. So, don’t do it. You have more important things to concentrate on - vision and strategy.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Do you want to be efficient - or productive?

These two terms are often used interchangeably - but they are different.  Here I am not concerned with technical differences - but with philosophical or attitudinal differences.

Organisations that pride themselves on being efficient usually strive to achieve the same performance with fewer resources - doing the same with less.

Conversely, organisations that aim to be highly productive usually strive to do more with the same resources -doing more with the same.  They concentrate on the 'top line' (of the productivity ratio) - and the 'bottom line' takes care of itself.

So to transform your organisation, look at the top line - how can I improve performance without increasing resources.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Is this why you voted for Brexit?

No-one is quite sure why the UK voted to leave the EU - but a recent study into the habits of 500 SMEs (small and medium enterprises), commissioned by online printing company instantprint, revealed that dealing with HR compliance forms, pension paperwork and health and safety regulations eats up an average of ten hours of the working week.

These companies took so long complying with regulation that they had  little or no time to focus on business growth.

This is not a recipe for success - and may be a small contributing factor to the Brexit vote - but a major factor for business owners and entrepreneurs.

Certainly we have to hope that Mrs May and her government will be looking to reduce the burden of bureaucracy as the UK leaves the EU.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Show your softer side

India is held up as the latest 'economic miracle' - transforming its economy over the last 20 years.  It is often suggested that success is down to 'hard' factors - such as technical ability, capital investment - and, of course, cheap labour.

But India has recognised the importance of 'softer' skills ands factors - such as teamwork, problem-solving and communication.  Young Indians are receptive to modern approaches to organising and managing a workforce and respond positively.

In fact, a study by the University of Michigan, on female garment workers (in Bangalore)  showed that providing training in soft skills raised productivity by 12%.

Sometimes, simple approaches are the best.

So, where can you use a soft skills approach to transform the productivity of your workforce?


Sunday, 19 February 2017

AI revisited

I talked last week about AI - posing the question whether this is the next big technological driver of productivity improvement.

Some people are really worried about AI - and its effects on jobs, suggesting that most jobs in time can and will be replaced by some form of automation.

However, before that happens we are likely to hit a 'sweet spot' where automation/robots/AI assist human work  his will allow work which is not possible now.  the winners will be those that can spot the opportunities and create products and services that rely on these new forms of thinking and movement for their execution.

So the future is not bleak - as with most technology, it is full of exciting opportunities ... and the real forward-thinking entrepreneurs will win out.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Is AI the future of productivity?

Technological innovation can drive massive productivity gains - but it is some time since we have had innovations of the size of those in the 1970s and 1980s - when the PC first hit desktops - and 'productivity software' followed.

Now industry waits for the next major impetus  - and governments hope we might get something of such magnitude that it helps solve the great 'productivity puzzle' (whereby productivity growth stubbornly refuses to match pre-economic crisis levels.

Is Artificial Intelligence the answer?  AI is being trumpeted as the next big thing - and †he big tech players are investing millions.

Yet, so far, we see better ways to play our music or switch between apps - but nothing significant in the apps themselves ... or - even more important - new forms of app.

These might come, of course.  Technological revolutions do not happen overnight.

Certainly, at the moment, AI seems to be the only contender for 'the next big, technological productivity driver'.

Of course, as an entrepreneur, you might see this as an opportunity.  How can you exploit new developments? After all, someone has to come up with the next big, 'must-have' app.  Why not you?  There are plenty of organisations that can take your idea to reality - especially in Indi.

All you need is that idea.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Your role

The world needs to improve productivity - if we are to raise living standards, feed the world and avoid water and fuel shortages. Yet, governments seem unable to do this - productivity has been at best sluggish over the last 10 years.

Some governments - rightly - see a link between innovation and productivity - but then they go too far in thinking that increased R&D spending will improve innovation.

innovation is not invention - innovation is more concerned with identifying new uses for today's (and even yesterday's) technologies.

So ,yes, we need to improve innovation .
But no, R&D spending is not the way to do it.

I am not advocating spending less on R&D - invention is also important - but we need to look more at how we create the conditions in which people think differently - education, training, induction, empowerment - some of these are government responsibilities, others are for you in the private sector to work on.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Future success?

How well is your business doing?

How do you know?

What do you measure?

Turnover? Profit?

Important, yes ... but they tell you nothing about the future.  They might summarise good performance now - but fail to identify future threats.

Think again about what you use to judge success.  Otherwise you re gambling on the future. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Has the UK (and you) got it wrong?

The productivity of Germany and France (GDP per hour worked) is strong - and almost identical ... even though Germany is normally regarded as a strong economy and France as a weak one.

Perhaps the 'social models' that exist in mush of European industry have some merit - and the UK might be better to embrace such models as a part of the EU rather than rush for the exit doors.

You, too, might reflect on the power of 'social thinking', of encouraging participation and engagement from the workforce.

There is strength in 'togerherness'.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Disruption

We've all seen technology completely disrupt certain industries - photographic film, film cameras, music recording, etc.

Sometimes what emerges from this process of disruption is a changed but equally strong industry; but sometimes the disruption is so great and over such a long period that the former industry dies but the new one takes a long time to get established. How many of you have got an electric car?

Internal disruption can be quite unsettling too.  If mis-managed, new initiatives and new ideas can cause disruption to current ways of working but the new form of working takes too long to establish - and customers are disappointed.  The drop in performance might be so huge that it takes months or even years to make up.

So, when making major change - plan, plan and plan - and then make sure you have the skills to execute.
EvanCarmichael.com