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 itb 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

Is it the NHS?

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.

We cannot afford not to try.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

More UK News

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 build on that potential is up to them - but they 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.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

New UK Productivity Council

The UK government is to establish a new, business-led UK productivity council to improve management skills and business productivity - following Chancellor Philip Hammond's Autumn statement.

The new initiative should encourage start-ups and small businesses to play a key role in narrowing the productivity gap between the UK and other developed nations.

If successful, the Council could unlock up to £100 billion gross value added 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.

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

post-Brexit UK Productivity

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 may not be.

So, don't ask me.

post-Brexit UK Productivity

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 may not be.

So, don't ask me.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Droning on

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.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Who Care?

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 fin dit hard  to switch off completely.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Measuring and Motivating 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.

So, 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

Crossing the frontier

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.

We need to convince these laggards to evaluate technology as an opportunity, not perceive it as a threat.  At the moment we seem to be simply waiting for the technology-literate generation Z to grow into positions of responsibility and authority.

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

Rhymes at Times

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.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Future US productivity?

I am in the USA on vacation.  While here, I have watched the first Presidential debate and the Vice-President's debate.

Of course i was interested in discovering how each of the parties would influence future US productivity.

Having listened to the debates (and the surrounding analysis), I have absolutely no idea   .... and I am convinced the candidates have no idea either.  I didn't necessarily expect them to use the word 'productivity' but I did expect them to address the issue.  I heard bits of fiscal policy and bits about 'infrastructure' but nothing about innovation or industrial policy (except for 'bring the jobs back').

Sorry, America - its down to the private sector without government support  - the politicians (and the neo-politicians) are too busy posturing to create real policies.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Prioritise the Manageable

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

You Can't Watch Productivity into place

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.

But surely its worth a try?

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Is there a key activity?

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

Half way house

Automation brings rewards to companies that invest.  The auto industry has installed many thousands of robots over the last 10 years - numbers of employed people have fallen, quality has risen, productivity is up.

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.

We need to work with the 'bots'.

Saturday, 27 August 2016


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.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Does buisness dress matter?

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.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

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.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Don't get too friendly

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

Transferring knowledge

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!

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!

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.

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

Its 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.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Are investors the cause of falling productivity?

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, as I said earlier, I am not sure whether the investor pressure for short term gains and immediate dividends is real or imagined - but perhaps we should find out.  If investors would accept a longer  term view, we could start to make those transformational investments and all would gain in that longer term.  

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Role of a Boss

Does your boss enhance, or detract from, your productivity?

If you ask this question of employees, you might expect them to answer 'enhance' - but they rarely do.

Too many people see their boss as 'interfering' or 'meddling', confusing rather than directing them.

Does this say something about the employees - and their perceptions versus expectations - or about the bosses?

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

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The New Normal?

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?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Correlation? Causation?

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.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Don't expect too much

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.

So, accept the new reality - and work within it.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Can we do lots - and do good?

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.

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

Balance your life - and improve business performance

Work-life balance is important.  If 'work' takes over, you end up stressed and ineffective.  If 'life' rakes over, you fail to achieve,

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 lowers productivity

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.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Go Physical

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.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Good - but not good enough.

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 said the UK manufacturing’s productivity lags behind competitor nations.
So, reasonable progress but the report card suggests "Could do better"

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Potential or waste of effort?

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 phone 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.  Perhaps 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.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

We cannot afford to fail

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!

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!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Does it make you happy?

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.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Level of measurement

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.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

First Bahrain

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 and that builds on existing strengths.

We are hoping that the World Productivity Congress will leave a legacy that will help transform Bahrain's economy; the Board of the World Confederation of Productivity Science has offered to facilitate and participate in discussions with Bahrain's leaders and development agencies to further those discussions.

The future starts in November.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Apologies to my American cousins

I am not a political animal - except insofar as I think I understand the role of government in creating the infrastructure required for productivity development (and have offered advice to quite a few governments over the years).

However, I must day that I am astonished by the current political scene in the USA.

The Republican party seems to be doing its best to tear itself apart.

The only comment I will make on Donald Trump is that, from this distance, he seems to be a 'populist' - telling people what he thinks they want to hear - with little ideology backing up his rhetoric.

Hopefully if he ever got to power, he would moderate some of his views - and take advice from those with more political experience.

I fear if he does not, the USA is in for a period of instability -and falling productivity.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Racing to the bottom

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.

Will someone please tell George Osborne?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Knowing why is really important

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.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

What more do they want?

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 organisations surely want to improve their productivity because it reduces their costs, improves their performance and competitiveness and improves their profits.

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

They may not know HOW to improve their productivity but they should know WHY they 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.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Are the figures right?

The UK continues to languish behind the rest of the G7 in terms of its quoted productivity performance - yet my personal experience is that performance of the UK labour force has risen remarkably over the last few years.  This suggests that either I am mistaken (certainly a possibility as mine is only anecdotal evidence) or the official figures are in some way 'wrong'.

Official figures measure GDP per worker or per hour worked - but what happens to outsourced work.  Are those hours worked counted? Is that contribution to GDP counted? Do other countries count figures in the same way? Has anyone carried out any recent research into the compilation of these comparative figures?  How does a shift from manufacturing to services affect the figures?

I think a review/overhaul might be in order.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Concentrate on your own future

The world is getting into another economic mess as it reacts to slowing growth in China.

However, countries in the West should look to their own performance.

I know China's slowdown means there is less demand for Western goods and services ... but this means that now is a good time to concentrate on building the infrastructure needed to underpin higher productivity.

When the upturn comes - as it will - we need to be ready ... with a supply of competitive and innovative goods and services.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

...ands who executes?

I talked last week about the need to think about key issues well in advance of them coming to pass. (The example I used was driverless cars saying we, collectively, should be thinking now about the algorithms used to determine the action the car's systems should take in the event of a potential accident - to save the driver, a pedestrian, another vehicle or....

Burt, of course, in other scenarios, thinking is not enough.  Lots of companies, for example, have had great strategies crafted by lots of successful strategic thinking - but they have then failed to execute effectively.

So good thinking must be followed by good execution.  You need a team around you who can do both.  So, look at your team and decide who are the thinkers, who are the executors.  Do you have enough of both - and can you act as the link between them.  Someone has to!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Who thinks for us?

We are in the age of driverless cars. Experts predict that a commercial, driverless car is less than a decade away.

But in the event of a potential accident, who does the car save - the driver, a pedestrian about to be hit, the occupants of another vehicle?

The algorithms built into the car's systems will determine the answer ... but who has devised those algorithms .. and based on whose thinking.

These are issues that should be concerning us now .. not in 5 years time when we are in the car not driving it.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Good intentions

This  is the first blog post of the new year.  It should perhaps therefore have a strong message of positivity for that new year.

But that new year, for you, will be what you make it.  reading my blog posts might be of some little interest to you - but it is not going to change how you behave - or what you do.

So, I leave you to find your own positive way forward.  My only piece of advice is to always remember who you are, and what your true values are. If what you do fits with those values, you won't go far wrong!