Saturday, 29 February 2020

Sometimes quick is better

When improving performance, we often urge companies to take a longer term view. Forget short term gains and concentrate on the gains to be made year in, year out over many years,

Yet, sometimes, companies should concentrate on the short term. 

If a company is in trouble, it might not be able to wait for long term gains. It needs  impact now!

And In many improvement and change situations, quick wins are needed to show people that the programme of improvement or change does indeed have benefits and should be followed through.

So, as ever, context is everything. You have to review the situation, take notice of the views of key stakeholders and then plan accordingly - keeping an eye on both short term and long term gains.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Lay the Foundations

There has been much talk recently in the UK (before, during and even after, the election) about improving rail links to, and in, the north of England.  HS2 (the high speed link to London) might get all the publicity (and almost all of the money) but the government is also promising to invest in local rail and even buses.

This is good news for UK productivity.

Manchester and Birmingham punch below their weight when compared to similar sized cities in Europe.

At present, neither of them has particularly good transport infrastructure and certainly nothing resembling an integrated transport plan.

Of course, transport is not the only area that must be addressed (skills is certainly another important contender for ‘key’) but it can support other investment and other development.

So, I welcome the promises of investment - and I will watch the developments with interest … but I hope to see evidence of multi-mode integration planning  … and I hope to see the productivity fruits in 10 years and more.

We would like higher productivity now, but that is unrealistic.  It is important to put down the foundations now - and await the benefits that should come.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

No more comfort breaks

I was musing the other day about 'off the wall' inventions that might do good for the wrong reasons - or were designed to solve a problem that no-one knew existed.

My starting point was some old news (2019) that a UK firm had designed a toilet that was specifically designed to be uncomfortable - it has a 13 degree slope.  The point is to discourage people in certain environments (workplaces, restaurants, etc) from staying too long.

(The firm is already in talks with local councils and motorway service station operators.)

Can you think of other examples of such attempts to shape behaviour?

I thought of certain music played in bars and restaurants which has me running from the place - but that's because I am not their target customer - I don't believe in paying for overpriced drinks because the decor is 'trendy'.

Keep your eyes and ears open and look for other examples. It might help you with insights into what your firm could do to improve performance - after all real innovation often breaks existing rules and conventions.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Change the Ratio

I saw recently that Mark Zuckerberg had had millions wiped off his ‘fortune’ by a small dip in Facebook’s stock value.

Laving aside the morality of the vast fortunes of these tech billionaires, I wonder whether  one can create a truly engaged workforce when the leader of the organisation ‘earns’ so much more than the rest of the ‘team’.

“We are all in this together’ cannot really apply - there may be work teams carrying out key processes but I think it unlikely that there is one cohesive organisational team.

People often talk about the difference (in attitudes and culture) between the private and public sectors …. but I think there is much more difference between small and large organisations. ‘Organisation’ causes changes in relationships … and this is exacerbated by huge differences in earnings levels.

Of course, perhaps my attitude is the result of envy - but I don’t think so, Perhaps it is a UK perspective - possibly.

I am not sure whether one could set a limit on the earnings multiple of the leader compared to the lowest paid but I believe it should be lower than it is in many firms.

What worries me on a practical level is the degree to which senior executive’s strive for short term performance to improve their annual bonus, perhaps at the cost of poorer longer-term performance. 

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Unexpected Gains

Sometimes businesses gain from unlikely sources and causes - and often from secondary products or services.  We know, for example, that the boom in personal computer usage through the 1990s was great for …. makers of printer inks.

Now take the (relentless) growth of Amazon - globally.  Who has benefitted most - besides Amazon themselves of course.

Well one beneficiary is the suppliers of packaging materials - Amazon sends our millions of packages daily.

And, of course, all those packages have to be delivered. So, couriers have done very well - as have manufacturers of small/medium vans  Sales of small commercial vehicles rose by about 8% in 2019 over 2018 - Amazon being the driving force as small, independent couriers take over last-mile delivery.

So, when scanning the future for new product or service opportunities, be sure to look how you might ride on the back of other emerging  companies or sectors.

Can you climb on the shoulders of a new giant?