Saturday, 31 October 2020

Calling All Governments

 Which governments succeeded and which have failed in meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic?  Well - as ever - it depends on your definition of succcess.

There are two main factors against which the future will judge governments: the first is public health and well-being; the second is economic performance.   The first will be judged over the next 1 or 2 years; the second over the next 10 or 20 years.

We can, though, make some suggestions as to how some governments are doing according to their current policies and actions.  I can only comment in any detail on the UK situation but it does seem as though too many governments have been too reactive and have little in the way of strategy governing what they do. Of course, this pandemic is fairly fast-moving and governments must react to developments - but this should be within a strategy/policy framework based on pre-pandemic thinking and scenario planning.  (We knew that some form of pandemic was a possibility based on global experience of SARS, bird-flu, ebola, etc.) 

In terms of economic planning, a downturn in economic activity is generally a time to turn to future planning - and especially manpower planning... reviewing future manpower needs and adjusting education and training accordingly s well as investin g in infrastructure.  I have seen little evidence of this - where is the government drive for training and skills development?  The UK government invested hugely in a ‘furlough’ scheme whereby employee wages were paid by the government to avoid companies having to make those employees redundant.  However, the government could have made such support contingent on those employees undergoing some form of skills development.  This was an opportunity missed to help create the potential for future productivity gains - and to help those employees feel valued.

The pandemic is likely to be with us for some time.  It is not too late to impose some critical and creative thinking and establish some forward strategy in support of a vision for a post-pandemic nation.   

Lobby your government to think before they (re)act.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Keep Moving Backwards

 Many, if not most, companies are looking to improve productivity these days.  They may design single, initiatives or projects to look at key issues or, if they are smart, have an ongoing ‘movement’ that systematically addresses all business processes.

Too often, however, even the smarter companies concentrate on ‘up front’ processes and tasks - the direct-to-customer activity.  This is not necessarily bad - in fact it is an effective starting point.  Howevere, it is also necessaery to work ‘back’ through ancillary and support activities to ensure the commitment to improving productiivty extends throughout the organisation and all it does.

Let’s take a simple example. 

A conmpany might review its manufacturing process and work out ways in which performance can be improved - either in quality or throughput terms.

They then need to work through supporting processes so that logistics activities, warehousing and so on are attuned to the new process. They also neeed to review staff onboarding, training and development processes to ensure staff are prepared to fully contribute to the new process.  Sounds sensible, doesn’t it?

However, in productivity development, the devil is in the detail.  The organisation needs. to think through the full consequencs of all the process and support activity changes.  Are production planning processes fit for (new) purpose.  Are quality assurance and quality control processes still relevant?

Further ... if we have changed onboarding, training and development processes, do we have the administrative processes and skills to make sure those activities are effective and efficient.

The organisation must continue to work ‘backwards’ through support processes and support roles to ‘complete’ the picture and build a truly effective organisation with holistic and comprehensive, productive processes, roles and activities.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Hard Work

Do you want yourvemployees to work hard?  (Yes, we’re starting with the easy questions.)

Well, actually you don’t. If those employees are doing the wrong things, or even doing the right things but in the wrong way, then hard work can, at best, be sub-optimal and ,at worst, counter-productive.

What we want from our employees is  achievment of agreed outcomes, where those outcomes are in support of the organisational mission and move it towards its vision, helping realise the strategic plan.

This can be relatively easy for employees - if there is a current, active plan in support of a shared mission and vision.  So, we sre looling for outcomes, not outputs.

This requires a change of mindset.  

I talked a couple of posts ago about the importance of establishing critical success factors and supporting key performance indicators, and I talked last time abouit the dangers of hsving inappropriater measures of performance.  This post brings both those points into sharper focus.

Ths mission and vision should lead us to the criticsal success factors - those things the organisation should do, and do well, to achieve its mission.  The KPIs follow on, letting us identify whether progress is being made in relation to those CSFs.

So, you need to know not whether your employees are working hard but whether they are ‘moving the needle’ in relation to the KPIs which measure progress on CSFs which detemine success in achieving the mission.  

And, preferably, your employees should know why you are measuring what you are measuring - and why it is important.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

To measure ... or not?

 I am a firm believer in measurement of performance as part of a wider performance management regime.

However, I am also aware of the dangers of inappropriate measurement.

Measurement drives behaviour change. This means. however, that if the measures are ‘wrong’, you will drive behaviour in the wrong direction.

People, understandably, will try to move measures in the direction that  puts them in a  favourable light. If this does not move the organisation closer to its mission, something is clearly wrong. Staff end up playing the measures game, rather than concentrating on real, successful performance improvement.

A simple - but all too common - example is where staff are incentivised to maximise  output.  If they do this at the expense of quality,  they still win but the organisation will lose.

So, review your performance measures and KPIs regularly - and check they are having the desired effect - in both the short and  longer-term.  

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Critical Success Factors

 Every business - and every manager in that  business - should know what are the critical success factors … what must the company do - and do well - if they are to be successful.  What are the factors that underpin the mission.  

The aim is not to identify lots of these - but the essential (‘critical’) ones.

One probably relates in some way to customer satisfaction or service; another (especially in smaller businesses) might relate to the control of work-in-progress and/or cashflow.

Once these are identified, the business should identify some measure that will tell them how well (or badly) they  are doing in relation to each CSF.  These are the organisation’s key performance indicators (KPIs) - and there should be at least one that relates to each CSF.

Finally, they need to identify actions that will make those indicators move in  the right direction, showing progress is being made in relation to the CSFs and towards the mission.

We like to think of a form of ‘golden thread’ that runs through everything the organisation does - from establishing the mission, to identifying CSFs, to identifying appropriate KPIs - and establishing a set of action plans.

The concept is very simple; execution  is harder - but failing to create the golden thread means some important factor may be overlooked.