Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Year Resolution


 This, of course, is the time for resolution-determination to do more and/or better, to improve. But this shouldn't happen at new year- or, at least, not only at new year. Such determination should be ingrained in you at all times - and across your organisation.

So, by all means make a resolution - but resolve to keep resolving... to keep challenging and improving, asking questions and seeking answers.

Above all, resolve not to be complacent. Make this a truly productive year ... and the basis of many more.

Monday, 17 December 2012

What about the workers?

Information from India, provided by the ILO, shows that economic growth from 2008 to 2011 was over 7%. However real wages rose by about 1.6%.

This suggests that the fruits of productivity growth are not being shared with the workers.

This is unfortunately too typical. Over the last decade, the only part of the world in which wage differentials between the lowest and highest paid have reduced is Latin America. Elsewhere, in West and East, those differentials have increased ... and this is in countries which are supposed to have left-wing governments just as much as those which have, allegedly, right wing governments.

This seems inherently unfair ... and is surely a recipe for social unrest.

This is something to ponder as you sit down to your Christmas lunch.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Stand Up for Productivity

Many workers sit - at desks, at PCs, at assembly stations at ...

It has been known for many years that it s beneficial to give people the choice as to whether to sit or stand ... and to give them furniture that accommodates either.

Yet, it is rare to see such provision.

Presumably the cost of the furniture is deemed to be expensive ... and the payback period too long.

Yet I doubt that anyone has done a study to identify the productivity gain that would accrue ... and then to work out a 'real' payback schedule.

We might all be surprised.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Building partnerships

Regular readers will know I have just been in Mauritius helping to promote their national productivity campaign.

I talked to lots of stakeholders - employers, trades unions, educators, government agencies and even senior figures in the government. Quite often I met good will ... and a realisation that productivity is important to the future prosperity of Mauritius.

However, there did not seem to be a 'collective will' ... there were not enough strong partnerships and networks of groups involved in promoting and developing productivity.  Of course, you say, that is why they have a productivity campaign.

You are right of course.  But they need to build on awareness raised by creating the structures and the partnerships that can start to discuss and debate the key issues ... and so they can build a consensus ... and a shared (vision for the) future.

At least Mauritius is trying ... many other nations have not yet even realised how important productivity development is to the future wealth and well-being of their citizens.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Will it work?

I am currently in Mauritius, helping launch their National Productivity Campaign. I am talking to government officials, trades unions, employers, educators ... and the public.

Such campaigns are relatively common.  Do they work?

Well, it is difficult to say ... because one can rarely measure the 'counterfactual' ... what would have happened if the campaign had not been run.

So, they are largely an act of faith.

However getting everyone informed about productivity ... and lining up to participate in a coordinated strategy to improve national productivity cannot be a bad thing, can it?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A Slap in the Face

Maneesh Sethi wrote on his blog that he hired a "slapper" to smack him in the face whenever he logged onto Facebook while working and boasted that it increased his productivity.

Of course, Sethi must have diagnosed the fact that accessing Facebook was causing him to lose productivity. His solution was drastic ... but imaginative.

Think what you might do to create a metaphorical slap in the face for yourself ... or your organisation. What is it that might currently be draining focus and efficiency? How can you draw attention to it? How can you stop it happening?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A formula for innovation

Thomas Friedman suggests that “big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.”

So, leaders of successful companies are those that recognise both sides of that formula - they know what is needed, and they identify when solutions become possible ... and they identify this before their competitors.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Different Strokes

I've been to several countries in the last few months.

All of them need higher productivity BUT ...

Each of them has to define just what higher productivity means in their particular context; each of them has to prioritise where they most need higher productivity; each of them has to decide how they might make the improvements they have prioritised.

So, a national productivity campaign would look quite different in each of these places. Of course there would be similarities ... and overlaps ... but any campaign must be 'flavoured' by the responses to the three points above and by the history and culture of the particular country.

This is also the reason that consultants with pre-packaged productivity solutions often offer sub-optimal advice!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Snake Oil

If you read lots of press releases ... as I do (yes, I know I should 'get a life'), you soon realise that just about everything is claimed to improve productivity.

Most often such 'stories' relate to what is termed 'personal productivity' ... the kind of 'productivity' that is aided by powernapping, reminder software, crystals, copper bracelets, iPads, honey ... you get the picture.

These claims are accompanied by details of a survey or study ... which almost always is based on a self-selecting constituency. Again, you know the kind of thing. "60% of people say eating chocolate mid-morning helps productivity" says the President of the Chocolate-Eating Guild after a survey of members.

So, if you do see a claim about productivity, check out the credentials of any study ... and, even then, keep you tongue in your cheek and your money in your pocket.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

What did you achieve?

Too often, managers assess worker performance - especially in knowledge jobs - on how long they work ... not on what they achieve.

Of course workers react to such measurement schemes and will extend their hours ... taking longer than necessary to complete work if that is what it takes to fill the hours expected of them.

So make sure you measure what your staff do - and achieve - rather than how long they are 'present'.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Think things through

I went to a presentation recently on Israel's approach to innovation ... and to Research and Development in particular.

What struck me was the 'joining of the dots' ... the fact that Israel seems to have broken down the silo mentality of government to coordinate activity across a range of departments.  They have done this by appointing a 'Chief Scientist' who has authority and responsibility .. and who can work across these departments.

Other countries have campaigns, policies and strategies ... but few of them seem to have thought the issues through to the point where they can deliver on the vision.

This is not a plea to copy israel's approach to R&D ... but - whatever the issue - to think through issues, the structures needed for implementation and the need for a 'leader' to give focus and to drive through the good intentions.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Manufacturing is better?

Most countries go through a development cycle from Agriculture to Manufacturing and then on to Services.

However many services are labour intensive ... and therefore dramatic productivity gains are difficult

Productivity in manufacturing industry can be transformed using technology and automation.

Does,this mean that those countries that have moved through manufacturing to services (UK?) are at a disadvantage in the productivity race?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Productivity Conundrum

The Guardian (UK) this week raised the question of how the UK has managed to create jobs whilst GDP is falling.

It suggests that the answer must be that the productivity of the workforce is falling ... so we need more of them.

However, employment figures often lead or lag on economic performance.

An equally valid reason is that firms have confidence in the future and are hiring now to create future output.

Only time will tell which explanation is right.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Its a Learning Problem

Behind many productivity problems is a learning problem. It is astonishing how often employees are poorly trained ... and in many cases, completely untrained, to do the job they are supposed to do.

We then blame 'poor performance' ... and of course it is poor performance ... on behalf of the management team who should have provided the training ... and refreshed the skills when necessary.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

What a State

In 2007, the state of Iowa in the USA hired Mike Rohlf, a black belt in Six Sigma, to apply 'Lean' to the various processes and procedures of state government.

Mike is still there ... appropriately as a 'one man band' (very lean). For each project, Mike works with volunteers from different areas within the agency in question, as well as 'correctives' - non-biased independents from an unrelated department.

They map what goes on ... and set about trying to improve on it. The state has carried out 180 such projects and is convinced of its success ... though this is difficult to measure because of the 'softer', qualitative improvements (like better service) that come alongside any cost savings.

One example - last year’s overhaul of the vocational rehabilitation office that assists with Social Security reimbursements is on pace to net about 20 percent more federal reimbursement money, or roughly $100,000 annually.

As ever, changes are often very simple ... in this case, moving from a paper to an electronic claims process.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Spend wisely

A recent report from IDC Manufacturing Insights suggests that the IT spend in Indian manufacturing organisations will double by 2016.

Will this give them a rise in productivity?

Almost certainly.  Not necessarily as a direct result .... but anyone making big investments in IT is likely to be looking at other aspects of the business.  Focusing on a business - for any reason - tends to show up what is wrong.

Of course Indian manufacturers could just expect IT to do their job for them. If they do, they will be very disappointed with the results.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Its the system, stupid!

I'm writing this in Pakistan ... whilst taking a look at some aspects of Pakistan's horticultural sector.

If you take a look at 'the figures' they suggest that this sector is quite 'inefficient', yet when I walk round  farms, farmers and their labourers are working very hard.

Of course - I hear you shout - these observations are not incompatible.  We should not confuse hard work with effectiveness. Often people have to work (over) hard because what they do is badly organised.  But don't blame the people .. blame 'the system' (and, especially, the lack of training).

Saturday, 1 September 2012

... and Jerk

Possibly too clever for my own good but I carried on the title of this post from the title of my last one.

How often have you felt like a jerk ... in your professional life I mean.

If you reply 'never', then firstly I probably wouldn't believe you ... and secondly I would probably ask you why not ... because it might mean you are not taking enough risks.

So, you are allowed to look like a jerk occasionally ... but never twice on the same issue or with the same customer!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Anyone who has practiced 5S will know the value of tidiness and cleanliness. Yet, all too often we see dirty, untidy workplaces ... creating inefficiency.

Wherever you see untidiness, think "This is costing me money" and you might start to think differently.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Are you listening, government?

The Australian Productivity commission has made some recommendations for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The government is (probably) going to partially meet the funding requirements.

This process is fairly typical. A government funded body makes recommendations to government who accept the recommendations in principle but fail to implement or fund them completely.

I understand that governments have many calls on their funds and have to make difficult discussions on priorities ... but this does seem at best an imperfect process.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Where are you?

Imagine for a moment that you are in charge of the country.

Your country needs you to increase its competitiveness… you know the best way to do this is to improve its productivity.

Of course, what you might do will depend very much on the country you are in charge of … its current economy, its current industrial strengths, the skill levels of the workforce, the nature of the infrastructure, etc.

So what you do depends on where you are.

The same is obviously true when improving organisational productivity. You need to know where the organisation is in terms of its development, in terms of its aspirations and aims, in terms of its progress towards meeting those aims, etc.

So, whenever you need to move forward, you first need to know where you are.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

When less is more

Sometimes we want output to go down .. sometimes we even want people doing as little work as possible. 

Think of maintenance engineers ... we want them efficiently and effectively involved in preventative maintenance. We want them sat down the rest of the time (if there is any 'rest of the time') .. we don't want them fixing breakdowns ... because we don't want breakdowns.

Governments too sometimes work too hard. Many of them seem to think their role is to pass legislation ... so they are relentless in passing legislation. But we want fewer laws, not more.

So, let's start a campaign ... to identify those jobs and roles where the preferred slogan is "Be more productive - do less work!".

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Italy Flags

Italy's productivity is on the decline. This is bad news for Italy and for the EU (and especially the Eurozone countries).

Italy seems to have a whole bureaucracy of regulation that keeps Italian companies small ..... making it difficult to secure economies of scale ... and stops them doing lots of things that would improve their productivity.

Of course this is unsustainable in the longer-term ... but Italy is a conservative country ... not really open to change.

I fear things have to get worse before they get better.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sort out the Euro, please

It is almost important to run a high productivity company at the moment. The shadow hanging over Europe from the Euro crisis is sucking all the energy out of the European market ... and pulling other markets down with it.

We know that we are already in a long-term difficult period ... if 'they' cannot sort out the Euro soon, this period will just keep on getting longer.

Current 'strategies' seem ostrich-like ... trying to mask the symptoms whilst failing to address underlying problems.

What we need is decisive action ... soon!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Standing in the shoes of others

Business seems to have lost its ethical context. Business decisions are taken according to whether they are within or outside of legal and regulatory frameworks ... not whether they are within or outside of prevailing value sets or ethical frameworks.
If we cannot put ourselves in the shoes of others (and empathise) how can we expect to understand our customers, our suppliers, our stakeholders ... and if we can ... surely we must have a framework that says we will do nothing that might hurt or offend these groups.

That is what ethics is ... an understating of the needs of others and how our actions might impact on those needs.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Efficiency, Effectiveness and Productivity

You will recognise the 3 word in the title to this post as being .... well, what, exactly? related terms? or synonyms?

If you do a search for these terms online, you can find lots of definitions and lots of ratios ... many go which are just plain wrong!

In descriptive terms, efficiency is doing things right ... and effectiveness is doing the right things.

In simple ratios ... Efficiency = Actual Output / Standard Output (i.e. it measures how good performance is compared to some measure of what the machine or the person or the team should do ... in the case of a machine this might be the manufacturer's specified optimal performance).

Effectiveness = Standard Output / Resources Required (i.e. it measures how well we turn resources into - quality sets of - our planned output)

Then productivity becomes Efficiency x Effectiveness

= (Actual Output / Standard Output) x (Standard Output / Resources Used)

= Actual Output / Resources Used

Simple, really!

(This has been a public service refresher announcement!)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Convergent Thinking

At the recent Rio summit (the less than spectacular one) there was some discussion about whether GDP is the best measure of a nation's well-being ... in an age where we are increasingly looking at the negative impact (on the environment) of increased industrial activity.

The World Confederation of Productivity Science has been looking at the same issues for some time and has proposed the establishment of a SEE (social, environmental and economic) productivity index which tempers GDP with social and environmental factors.

It is good to see the rest of the world catching up with our thinking!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

8,000 years

I've talked in the past about the need to improve agricultural productivity to keep the world fed.

This was brought home to me this week when I read an astonishing fact.  (Assuming, of course, that this is true  ... and I have no reason to doubt it.)

"The world will need as much food in the next 40 years as it has consumed in the past 8,000 years."

I have nothing to add.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Unintended Consequences

Governments (bless them!) often do things with good intentions.. but often fail to think through the unintended consequences of their actions.

Take energy subsidies as an example. Quite a few governments subsidise energy prices ... to help businesses be more competitive, perhaps.

However, business will only take a cold, hard look at energy usage when prices are high ... so keeping prices artificially low means more energy is used than should be - with consequences for both energy stocks and for the environment.

Good intention. Bad result.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

More food, please

In advance of the recent G8 summit, Elanco (a company that develops and markets products to improve animal health and food animal production) president Jeff Simmons warned global leaders that food productivity is not keeping pace with food demand now and in the immediate future.

Food inflation combined with inadequate gains in productivity are clear indicators that our ability to feed a rapidly growing population is at serious risk without swift action.

Example 1
Eggs are one of the most basic, affordable protein sources that people around the world depend upon. But, in recent years, production has been declining by one egg per chicken per year.

Example 2
Global milk production has almost doubled in the past 50 years. Yet, fewer people have access to milk today because populations are growing faster than production gains,

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Are we looking in the right place?

I read a report from Australia that hospital productivity has increased over the last 5 years- in terms of the numbers of in- and out-patients treated per unit of resource.


Except, of course, what really matters is the health of the nation ... and this can be declining steadily while hospital productivity goes up.

This is where policy-makers earn their keep ... by keeping their eye on the 'big picture'.

This is not to suggest that improved hospital productivity is not a good thing.  Just that it is part of the overall solution and should be treated as such.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Careful what you plan

The government in Thailand recently raised the minimum wage - considerably. This was obviously popular with the voting public ... but is it 'sensible'?

Those who invest capital in new and existing ventures to create new work and new jobs are now much more reluctant to do so ... their competitiveness in international markets has been (artificially) lessened.

This means fewer jobs will be created, fewer taxes will be paid and almost everybody loses in the longer-term.

Unfortunately governments (of all persuasions) too rarely think through the issues concerned with what at first seem like fairly simple policy decisions ... or if they do, they let 'political' judgement cloud economic sense.

Wage rises not brought about or supported by productivity gains are always inflationary and damaging.

Saturday, 26 May 2012


Some of the jobs we do don't show results for a long time - especially things like strategic planning. But we all like a bit of gratification, something that tells us we've done well.

So try to build rewards into your own work processes , 'ticking off' small (but important) jobs in the gaps in your working day to give you that sense of instant achievement.

And remember, your staff feel the same. Make sure you reward them regularly with a (metaphorical) pat on the back or a smile.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Looking is more than observing

I've just returned from a trip to Pakistan looking at their fan manufacturing sector.  In many of the factories, conditions were poor and productivity was low. However, the owners of these factories were keen to listen and keen to try out low cost suggestions for improvement.

Whilst going round 'looking' at what was going one, I was reminded of the need to talk to the operators (difficult when they only speak Urdu) and to see 'beyond the obvious'.  However, it is what we put together from our vision and hearing that allows us to 'see' what is really going on.

It was also important to remember that things might not work across a cultural divide ... and that local conditions might mitigate against some improvements ... the unstable power supply in Pakistan means that buffer stocks might be necessary to allow for manual work to take place when machines cannot be powered.

So look, listen and thin ... then you can see solutions!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Not another survey

Not a week goes by without some survey or another showing a link between X and Y ... between healthy workplaces and productivity, for example.

However, in almost all cases, there are just surveys ... usually of people with a vested interest (workplace health practitioners in the above example) and undertaken by a company with another vested interest (providers of workplace health-related products or services).

This doesn't mean that there is not a relationship between X and Y ... simply that a small survey of vested interests is not the way to establish such a relationship.

Be careful what you read!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Make it harder, please

The state of Alaska has a relatively new law that requires a quarter of public buildings to be 15 percent more efficient by 2020.

Good?  Well, no actually.  This is low hanging fruit, easily achievable and no real challenge.

It certainly isn't going to help the global problem.

So, come on, Alaska ... and others. We need more from you.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Energy Independence

The Western World is, rightly, worried about it dependence on others for energy - often others in seemingly unstable states. Thus, they are concentrating on energy independence.

Unfortunately this often just means finding new sources of fossil fuels or new ways of extracting more fuel from established sources. The moves towards alternative forms of energy have been sidelined - these moves take too long to reach acceptable levels of energy production.

We know, from the banking crisis, that short-term thinking is counter-productive in the longer-term. Now, we seem as though we will repeat the error in the field of energy.

Sometimes I worry about our leaders!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Collapse of the world

Take a look at the Youtube video of 'Collapse of the world' (just search for it). It explains the recent world financial collapse.

Its funny and scary in equal measure. How did we let it happen?

Will we do so again?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The New Capitalism

On the LinkedIn group "Productivity Futures" (join us and join in!), we have been having an interesting discussion about the state of 'capitalism' and the changes needed to reflect the disquiet (and even disgust) that some feel about the way it dragged us into the recent recession.

If things are to change, who is to make them?

Capitalism works because it is (largely) outside of 'politics'. That is its strength and its weakness.

Do you think politicians are capable of addressing our concerns - and acting to make the changes necessary? Or do we have to accept that the current imperfect, flaky version of capitalism is the least of the evils we might face.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Lloyd's Bank in the UK recently banned all business travel on the 3rd week in any month.

Strange! Unworkable! It will just move travel to other weeks. These were the comments from the commentators.

However, early results suggest it is working. ... and in fact travel in the other weeks of the month is also down.

It might be too early to analyse this ... even to claim success (we need to see results over a longer timescale) but it does show that sometimes 'off the wall' ideas (thinking outside the box) have consequences that are difficult to predict.

And it also suggests that sometimes doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Pragmatic, not dogmatic

I saw a recent press report on one of China's new eco-cities.

There are quite a few eco-cities around the world - trying out technologies and techniques to improve sustainability.

What was so good about this one is that it was rather low-tech .... it didn't rely on slavish adherence to rules and regimens by the people ... but it was making a difference.

It was pragmatic, rather than dogmatic ... realising that people are flawed and inherently selfish ... they want to 'do their bit' but they want to enjoy life too.

So, one up for the Chinese! Moving in the right direction ... but moving at a sensible pace.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Who does it?

I'm an old school productivity guy (though I hope I've kept up to date).

I grew up with techniques like Method Study and its critical examination where you ask a range questions such as "What is achieved?", "Why?" ... then go on to ask "When it is done?", "Where is to done?". "Who does it?" and "How is it done" so that you understand what is happening before you jump in and look for improvements.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read a report that the Phoenix (Arizona) fire service could save £1.4m annually by outsourcing a range of activities to civilian personnel.

This is what is meant by the Method Study  questions "Who does it?" "Why that person/group?"  "Who else could do it?" "Who should do it?"

These are always good questions to ask.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Does the UK have the right jobs?

The UK - like most Western countries - is desperate to create more jobs. However, many of the jobs that are created are low value, part-time, service jobs. What the UK needs is more manufacturing.

Does it matter?

Yes, it does. The multiplier effect of manufacturing jobs - creating more jobs throughout the supply chain - is far greater. The recent announcement of a new Nissan model for their Sunderland factory is excellent news .. this will ripple through and create many more jobs.

So, the government should be doing all it can to encourage manufacturers - existing ones and new ones.

(And I,haven't even mentioned that the once 'darling' financial services sector is the one that got us into this mess in the first place.)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Bill foots the bill

Bill Gates is continuing his commitment to improving the productivity of smallholder farmers by making available nearly $200m in grants for projects aimed at helping the farmers. He called on the big UN food agencies to work together to create a global productivity target for small farmers. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has committed more than $2bn to smallholder farmers since 2006, and this latest amount will be reinvested in projects covering new varieties of drought-tolerant maize, vaccines for livestock and training for agro-dealers to equip and train farmers. "If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture," Gates told the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) in Rome recently. "Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, co-ordinated, and focused to help poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering and build self-sufficiency." Gates urged Ifad, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to commit to a concrete, measurable target for increasing agricultural productivity. He also called on them to support a system of public score cards in the interests of transparency for themselves, donors, and the countries they support. "The goal is to move from examples of success to sustainable productivity increases to hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty," said Gates.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A few simple rules

Most workplaces have rules ... but often these are 'conventions, unwritten but largely abided by.

This is OK until someone decides to break those conventions.

Unless the rules are codified, it becomes very difficult to enforce them. (Think about public establishments that have a dress code of 'smart casual' ... who defines smart ... or casual for that matter.)

So it is worth writing down the rules - what do employees do with their coats when they arrive, can they eat and/or drink at their workstation, what should happen at break times, when can those breaks be taken .. and so on.

It will make the organisation more productive if people know how they should behave under a range of circumstances. 

There is no need to be heavy-handed with this ... just issue a 'reminder' of the already-established rules - for everyone's safety, convenience and efficiency.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Leave room for the melody

When you hear musicians talk, two common threads about being a good performer are ... play for the band ... and Quality is about what you don't play as well as what you do.

In buisness, the first clearly equates to the need to be a good team-player ... to consider and respect the roles and responsibilities of other members of the team ... and not to get in their way.

The second can be paralleled with the need to plan ahead and execute only those tasks that add value. Fire-fighting and wasteful activities (necessary because you didn't plan effectively) make you look busy but they contribute nothing to the 'quality output'.

So, next time you are feeling busy - make sure you know where the melody is - the real value of your activity.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

What is too much?

There has been significasnt controversy in the UK in recent weeks about the size of executive pay bonuses ... especially for executives in companies that appear to be performing badly.

So, when is too much pay simply too much?

Impossible to say ... but the differential in pay in the West generally, but especially in the US and UK, has reached impossible levels. The ratio of executive pay to the pay of the lowest paid is now abnout 200 times. 20 years ago it was about 50 times.

The rich are getting richer ... and have continuesd to do so throughout the economic crisis.

Now, that is just plain wrong!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Shared values

Managing people is often held up to be a key part of managing a business. However, too often, what is meant by this is manipulating people.

My experience is that if you and your employees have (broadly)shared values... and you manage processes effectively... AND you train and develop people properly .... then people manage themselves.

If they do, they should be rewarded - if the business is successful, people should share some of that benefit.

Shared values should lead to shared value.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Jobless Recovery

There is growing evidence that a number of economies are making (weak) recoveries from the depths of the depression.  These recoveries are not being matched by a rise in employment - unemployment remains stubbornly high in most countries.

This, however, suggests that productivity is rising ... and if we can maintain that trend - as firms do start to take on workers - we might get a 'real' - and 'strong' - recovery.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Do not expect answers from consultants

Too many people do expect consultants to answer their questions and solve their problems. Of course sometimes the problems are so specific and obvious that consultants can indeed solve them.

In many organisations,though, the 'problems' are not that simple. The job of a consultant then is to help us understand that problem ... so that we can work out our own - tailored - solution which fits in with our mission, our aims, our way of thinking and our way of going about things. Then it might work!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bring out the real productivity stats

An interesting letter in a UK national newspaper last week suggested that the average Briton walks 900 mile per year and drinks 22 gallons of alcohol each year. Thus, 'productivity' is 41 miles per gallon.

There must be a whole raft of such 'useful' statistics we could compile.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Careful with those figures

It is at this time of year that we get lots of statistics for 2011. Some of these are eagerly awaited ... so we can see how serious the current financial position is.

Amongst the first to arrive are ... retail sales over the holiday period. In the UK these are being hailed as 'good' ... up on the same period last year, for example.

However ..
(1) The same period last year saw the UK with heavy snow ... the shops were empty because people couldn't or wouldn't get there.
(2) Sales were up. But what about margins and profits. If I lose money on each sale, rising sales aren't going to help.

So be careful how you interpret what you read. Someone might want to give you a good message .. .and might present the figures to give that message. Your job is to look carefully and decide on the real 'truth' (if you have enough information).

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Down to business

So, the festivities are over ... everything is packed away for another year ... and we can concentrate on business.

We know this is a difficult year ... and WE know it demands improved productivity.

So, whatever else we do, we must get that message driven home through the corridors of power and the offices of industry .. we need to tackle REAL productivity issues.

Governments should be looking to invest in infrastructure issues. In the short term, it will help industry. In the longer term it will help industry more.

Industry needs to hold its nerve ... to do those things that allow it to survive these difficult times ... but also to keep one eye on that longer term ... and to prepare for the better times that will undoubtedly come. US manufacturing figures look good ... and could spark a (mini) revival.

Now, if only we could solve the Euro zone debt crisis. Suggestions on a postcard, please!!