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  • 05 Dec 2019 10:59 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Why do people keep pretending that useful things have not been invented.


    For example, I keep seeing waiting staff in restaurants struggling to carry more than a couple of plates and I want to shout 'There is such a thing as a tray" but some unwritten convention decrees the tray to an 'object non grata'.  Why?


    I am sure you can think of other examples.


    Learning from the failure of others can be hugely rewarding.  But so can learning from their successes, their innovations, their 'wins'.


    If we are doomed to pretend that useful objects and devices do not exist, we are doomed to recreate the inefficiencies of the past ... and we have enough in the present to concentrate our efforts on!



  • 28 Nov 2019 10:34 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When we are young and inexperienced, we tend to think that if we work harder we will be more productive.


    As we gain experience (and age), we start to realise that this is not true.  Too much of our effort is unproductive.  We slowly learn to work smarter, to prioritise, to  eliminate waste, to think our way to a better solution.


    As a manager or leader, you must remember these things. Do not keep exhorting your troops to work longer hours or work harder. It is your job to find (and fund) the smarter ways of working, to eliminate tasks that are not productive, to eliminate distractions and to motivate behaviours that move things forward.


    This is not always easy ... but you fail if you don’t try.



  • 22 Nov 2019 4:12 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I was back in China last week.


    The economic miracle of China is well know but many people still think it was, and is, built on cheap labour and ‘copycat’ products.


    These people have never been to a modern Chinese gigafactory - lots of automation, just in time manufacturing, good use of AI - all backed up with solid, efficient supply chains.  


    Just like the Japanese a few generations ago, the Chinese have taken the best of the West, reviewed and refined it, and employed their improved version to dominating economics impact.


    Underestimate Chinese manufacturing at your peril!



  • 14 Nov 2019 7:37 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I watch quite a bit of sport on TV, including American football. Those of you who know the game will know that each side has virtually 3 teams playing in a match - the offence, the defence and what are called ‘special teams’ who handle kick off, kickoff reception and other isolated events. 


    Each of these teams is very well-drilled to deliver specific, pre-planned moves which are part of a strategy to defeat a specific opposing team by exploiting its weaknesses and containing its strengths. Even in a team with poor results, one of these teams might be the best in the league, motivated by being the best defence or whatever. All sides and all sub-teams are ‘in pursuit of excellence’ in terms of strategy, tactics, fitness, motivation and execution.


    Business leaders have lessons to learn here such as the importance of creating strong, motivated teams who know their job well and are fully motivated to carry it out. Every team is important and though all share the same ultimate goal (winning), each one can simply try to be the best at whatever they do.



  • 08 Nov 2019 7:40 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Recently I got caught up in a great commute ... I had to travel into the city centre at the same time as all the other unfortunates that do so at the sane time every day.


    It is clear (or it should be) that we need a new model of work, of workplaces, of team working, of synchronicity. Technology can offer us a number of possibilities. Yet our cities are swamped by millions of people swarming in at the same time each day on overcrowded roads and overcrowded trains.


    Take a link around your factory, hospital, retail store, office or wherever you work. How many functions and processes are similarly in need of fresh thinking. They work .. but they cause problems. We continue to operate them in the same way because that is how we have always operated them.


    Take a look with fresh eyes. Look at the wastes of time, effort, materials involved. Take a little time to dream up possibilities. Then take more time to develop practical solutions. 


    You might remove your traffic jam.



  • 01 Nov 2019 7:44 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Does your organisation practise 5S? 


    The answer Is probably ‘No’.  It is a much misunderstood and little used approach., regarded by many as ‘mere housekeeping’. It is, of course, housekeeping but absolutely not ‘mere’ housekeeping.


    It improves engagement, productivity and safety ... who doesn’t want to do that?


    As an example, think of your home desk. If you clear away the clutter you don’t need on a daily basis, get rid of cables (by routing them properly and using cable clips or ties), organise your computer and peripherals, use the stationery trays you always meant to get, place things like the stapler, scissors and hole punch somewhere close but out if the way, etc. then you should notice a change in your attitude to the desk,


    It becomes a place for ‘work’ with fewer distractions, fewer delays, fewer frustrations.


    If you maintain that new tidy workspace, your productivity should improve.


    Now imagine doing that to a whole workplace!


  • 25 Oct 2019 7:12 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Healthy workers are productive workers.


    it is hard to argue with that statement.


    However, we might argue about what makes a healthy worker.


    Unlike the darkest day’s of the industrial revolution, nowadays, there are not many jobs - in developed countries-  that are physically damaging or dangerous.


    There are, though, many jobs which create anxiety, stress and other mental problems.


    Luckily, many employers are starting to see the dangers - helped by a general awareness-raising by celebrities including the British royal family - and are starting to address the issues.


    Where they don’t, we tend to get ‘self-medication’ by employees taking energy drinks, alcohol and other drugs to ‘get through the day’.  Such stimulants may give a short-term boost but are very dangerous over longer timescales.  Even worse, the people involved are often so tired at the end of the workday, they fail to exercise and compound their problem.


    Simple guidance - especially when built intro work-rest regimes within the workplace - can help tremendously-  Staff should be encouraged to stay hydrated, avoid stimulants, use stairs instead of lifts, park a short distance away and walk ‘the last mile’, and eat healthy snacks … but it is the job itself that is ‘the crunch’.


    Jobs should be designed to avoid or minimise stress - as should working relationships and organisational structures.


    Managers and supervisors must be trained to recognise signs of stress - and act accordingly.


    If you think this is just pandering to the ’snowflake generation’, you are probably part of the problem … and you probably have lower than optimal productivity!




  • 18 Oct 2019 7:32 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many companies now encourage staff to get involved in charitable work. Some even organise it and provide resources, especially time. The motivation is usually to improve the company image amongst the local community. 


    However there is a much more important reason for engaging with charitable work.


    We want our employees to engage with us, to work hard, to give good service to our customers, to give of themselves over and above the bare requirements of the job role. What better way to introduce the habit of engagement and giving than by engaging with local charitable work for a cause or causes that mean something to the workforce. We are presenting a role model, an engagement strategy and a reward policy all wrapped up neatly in a charitable endeavour.


    If we can get this to work, we sew the seeds for that more general engagement and giving that boosts our productivity. Truly win-win.



  • 11 Oct 2019 7:42 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I am not immune from careless or overhasty thinking. Recently I read a report on new developments for air conditioning making devices more energy efficient.


    My immediate thought was that we should just get rid of air conditioning and, for example, stop living in places where cooling is necessary.  (Apologies to those of you who live in Phoenix.)


    Of course, at the time, I was reading that report on my iPad and it’s associated data centres consume a lot of air conditioning.


    So, be wary of first thoughts. They often lead to hasty conclusions, poor decisions and inappropriate action.


    Sometimes, we just need to stop and think - again. Think through the consequences. Think what others are saying about the issue. Then start to form our view. Our view might not change but it will be clearer and more robust.


    It is not often we are in situations where a short pause would do a lot of harm.



  • 04 Oct 2019 7:23 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There are great hopes for autonomous vehicles - though some worry about whether the technology is ‘up to the job’. There are some driving situations and conditions where autonomy is relatively easy and others (driving in busy high streets for example) where problems are greater and the autonomy mire difficult to achieve.


    Goods vehicles, though, can exploit these differences.


    Future goods carriers could operate autonomously on freeways and motorways where the technology can do its job relatively easily, and then switch to driver control for the ‘local loop’. This can avoid the problem of excessive driver hours but maintain current levels of performance.


    The problem is that the word ‘autonomy' tends to be a ‘one size fits all’ concept with few thinking through practical and flexible approaches to autonomous driving and improved productivity.


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