Saturday, 16 December 2017

I'll grant you ...

When nations establish productivity campaigns and initiatives, one feature is often financial support for companies (snd perhaps  universities and support agencies).

Firms are encouraged to apply for grant funding for additional resources or for specific support (for advice and consultancy, for example).

Some firms are obviously successful - and some are not.

The problem with such an approach is twofold.

Firstly, it encourages firms to become good at applying for grants - rather than being good at their core competencies.  Firms learn how to play this new game.

Secondly, it can help 'shore up' poorly performing firms - which does little for longer-term national productivity.

So, my recommendation is - don't do it .By all means (I would encourage you to) have a productivity campaign - but don't make grant funding central to it.



Saturday, 9 December 2017

I'd never thought about that.

Sometimes you hear or see something which really surprises you - and makes you think hard about your existing frame of reference.  Take this which I heard on the radio the other day...

A scientist who takes his inspiration for new inventions/innovations from the animal world (sorry, I can't recall his name) suggested that the received wisdom about the wheel being the greatest ever invention was fundamentally flawed.  The result he suggested of this flaw is that we have spent fortunes paving the world.  If we hadn't invented the wheel but had spent our time developing transport that could cope with uneven ground (as animals can), we would have saved all that investment - and had much more flexible transport systems.

What other received wisdom has similar 'flaws?  How can we unlearn and undevelop in ways that will create higher productivity?

Saturday, 2 December 2017

No choice

I saw a piece recently suggesting that India has to choose between its traditional focus on spirituality and morality - and on modern profit-focused business methods.

What say I? I say 'Rubbish!"

There is no dichotomy here.  The two are perfectly in harmony.  Indeed I would argue that morality (but perhaps less so, spirituality) is essential.  Building a mission and vision on a core set of values with a strong moral focus is a good way to engage employees - and have them make a strong, positive contribution.

So there is no choice.  We can - and indeed should -  have both!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Knowing makes the difference>

We expect our staff to work hard and to do their best.  But what is 'best'. I would contend it is something to do with always being aware of the company's mission, vision and values ands always acting in furtherance of the mission and vision whilst acting in accordance with company values ... and wherever and whenever possible doing so pro-actively off their own initiative.

This, of course, begs the question - do our employees know, and understand the company's mission and vision - and are they aware of the core values we expect?  If my 'definition, is right, and they do not know these things, they cannot be expected to do their best.  If they don't, it is our fault, not theirs.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Skill up!

The UK's productivity performance - as reported by the Office for National Statistics and used in international performance tables- has been woeful recently.  I know I have argued in the past that the measurement scheme seems inherently flawed but that is irrelevant to today's argument.

There seems a consensus emerging that the figures are so bad - and have been for so long - that the problem is insoluble.  Certainly no-one seems  to have come up with a plan to address the situation.

I know there is no magic bullet - no quick and easy fix .... but we can tackle the issue by making sure we take a holistic approach in which government does what it can (with infrastructure and skills), organisations do what they can (with long-term investment, improvement programmes and skills), unions do what they can (with constructive partnerships and skills) and education/training does what it can (with targeted knowledge and skills).

You can probably see a theme emerging here.  We need a high skill, multi-skill workforce.  We don't currently have one.  We perhaps need a lesser focus on knowledge (more easily provided in a high-tech, AI world) and a greater one on competence and flexibility.  If we invest in a high skill workforce, everyone benefits - the individuals with the skills, companies who need the skilled workforce - and the nation with higher productivity.

Perhaps after all, there is a magic bullet!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Higher Education productivity - a useful metric?

Some universities and colleges in the US are now being funded according to a productivity-based formula. Does this make sense?

What is the productivity of a university? how is it measured?  Number of degrees per $1,000 of investment?

Get it wrong - and universities will play the measurement game - making the figures move in the direction which benefits them financially even if this is not the most appropriate measure.

This is not to suggests that productivity is not important - after all universities are spending public money - and should be held accountable for it.

But if we get the measure wrong - we get the wrong result. Universities might benefit - but society won't.  So we need a good, healthy debate on what the measure - or measures - should be.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Is Africa ready?

A recent discussion paper from the African Union suggests that the fact that Asia has achieved the highest economic growth rates in the world in the last half century may not be unrelated to the existence of many vibrant National Productivity Organizations (NPOs) in the Asia-Pacific region and the activities of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), the only intergovernmental regional organization that is actively promoting the cause of productivity.

Can the AU (and PAPA - the PanAfrican Productivity Association)  match the impact of APO?

Well, they are going to try. Let's wish them well. The world needs a productive Africa!
BUT are the existing NPOs in Africa 'vibrant'?  Sadly, I fear not.  But a new, collective initiative might re-energise them - especially if they have government and AU support.