Saturday, 29 May 2021

Please connect our data

Many companies are looking to improve manufacturing productivity by improving the efficiency of their various machines and other manufacturing facilities - by, in turn, improving their data driven management … monitoring the performance of those facilities in real-time. 

Connecting and analysing all that data is a big challenge.  

What we need are standards and protocols which allow us to share and connect our data which can then be imported into analytical systems to provide useful insights.

Of course, companies could build custom code to do the job but the IoT scene is changing quickly and maintaining customer code over  time is going to  be difficult.

We need integrated platforms based around established protocols for inter-connectedness - platforms that can evolve over time to keep pace with technological change.

Manufacturing equipment makers, enterprise software developers - please help! 

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Is Pan-famine nexr?

Agricultural productivity is one of the globe’s (and the twentieth century’s) great success stories. Over that century from 1900 to 1999 the number of people employed in agriculture dropped dramatically, yet yields rose just as dramatically.

This was just as well since the global population also rose significantly and all those extra mouths to feed required a lot more food to be grown and produced.

The trend seemed unstoppable. Of course, productivity growth had to slow since the number of people could not continue to drop massively since there were so few people employed in the sector but advances in pesticides, seed formulation, weather forecasting - and agricultural technology - were sure to keep productivity rising, weren’t they?

Well, no actually.  Those optimists that forecast continued productivity growth forgot to factor in the effects of global warming and climate change. The sector has been struggling to stand still.

The effects have also been disproportionately felt in poorer, developing countries - where population growth is highest.  We, richer countries have to work harder, and share our knowledge more effectively if we are to avoid pan-famine following pandemic. 

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Creativity from Home

There is quite a bit of debate about whether working from home is good or bad for productivity.

Are working-from-home employees as efficient as those in the office?  

The jury is still out.... but perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

We need employees to be innovative and creative as well as, or even rather than, efficient.

Since many phases of the innovation process require the sharing of innovative and collaborative thinking, innovation is only likely to happen if close relationships and effective communication processes are maintained for those workers not in the office.

There can be advantages for home working - like less distraction and reduced energy lost to commuting.  But the main loss is that of the casual conversation, the experimental thinking and informal co-operation that close contact brings.

Technology can replicate some of this - but not all of it and not for all people.  It is too early to say but creativity may take a hit.  Certainly firms need to be on the ball, monitoring the situation and checking that innovation levels are being maintained. 

If not, they had better open the office to all.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Invisible employees are bad for productivity

Many employees seem to want to ‘hide in the shadows’ - to get on with their work without disturbing their supervisor/manager.  Many supervisors/managers seem equally happy with this approach, feeling that employees who ‘raise their heads above the parapet’ are likely to do so for negative reasons - because they have made a mistake or forgotten to do something. 

Of course this often means that employees are also not visible because of exceptionally good performance.

Managers should try to make all employees visible - by checking regularly on them, not in a punitive way, but simply to check that they fully know their role and responsibilities, have the knowledge, skills, tools and equipment  required to carry out that role effectively, and are fully engaged and motivated.

Supervisors should look at performance data - throughput levels, quality levels, etc - but should also talk to employees while observing them in the workplace at the source of good or bad performance.

Employees who are invisible may be dragging down your productivity. If employees are visible, you can make a judgement about their performance and manage it accordingly.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Stop being hyperactive

Anyone with a hyperactive child knows how wearing it can be to have to cope with the demands such a child can make on a regular and continuing basis.

Well, email and continual zoom meetings have been like that for many remote workers.  Everyone gets copied into emails or invited to zoom meetings which are of only peripheral interest or relevance.

If they decide not to engage with an email thread or a meeting, they get FOMO (Fear of missing out) and anxious.  Their stress levels rise. Their productivity drops.  

If they do engage, they waste time on irrelevant correspondence and inappropriate meetings. Their productivity drops.

Yet, many firms have let this happen for over 12 months.  

Few firms have issued guidelines about copying people into emails or inviting people to online meetings - even when they have seen email threads and zoom meetings which clearly have too many people in them. 

If not careful, this will continue as people return to the workplace. Productivity will be sucked out of the organisation into these communication tasks.

Treat the return to the workplace as an opportunity to issue (or re-issue) guidance and tame the beast.

Control people’s FOMO and you control their anxiety. You make them more productive. And it costs you nothing. 

Start now!