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  • 15 Aug 2019 10:44 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to take some time away from the pressures of work to recharge your body and mind and come back stronger.  Here is little tip (hack?) complementary to that one.


    Most of us have a ‘To Do’ list, things we have to get done. We might use a formal task manager or we might use a notebook but the list exists. Some of these tasks will be urgent, some will be interesting, some will be easy, some will be important; hopefully some will be  challenging and rewarding.


    Throughout the day we will prioritise these tasks - hopefully based on their importance rather then their urgency. Some we might leave - perhaps because they are not urgent or important enough .... and sometimes we just procrastinate because we are too tired to face another challenge.


    Well if you do tend to do this .. in effect having a mini-break during work time - try to have some of the boring, relatively unimportant tasks available to use during these gaps. You still get a mental break .. but your To Do list does reduce. At the end of the day, another 1 or 2 tasks will have been completed and you feel some satisfaction rather than guilt or shame at putting things off.


    So, rest while you are working and you become more productive.



  • 09 Aug 2019 7:44 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have been reading and writing about Lean quite a bit recently. It is one if those topics where the more you know and the more you read, the more you realise you don’t know.  There are so many interweaving and interrelated topics where you can’t fully understand one topic without also understanding two more.


    Some people might give up, thinking life isn’t long enough to work through all this.


    I, however, prefer to think that this simply shows the all-encompassing nature of Lean ...  a philosophy and way of life rather than a set of tools and techniques.


    In fact, if you immerse yourself in the basic principles , the rest becomes fairly straightforward and the detail is less important. Just focus on :


    Making it flow

    Eliminating waste

    Respecting your people.


    Then, whether you apply Kaizen, Kanban, Jidoka, Heijunka or any other specific tool, this focus on the principles will keep you straight.


    Navigating the labyrinth of topics and tools will make you a better Lean practitioner but a simple focus on ‘becoming Lean’ will get you most of the way to being a Lean organisation.



  • 02 Aug 2019 7:40 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Recently I talked about value - and the fact that it is not a straightforward phenomenon.  What I didn’t mention in that piece was the topic of what you value ... personally.


    Presumably if you are reading this, one of the things you do value is productivity - for yourself or your organisation  ... or both. You strive to be productive and to create a productive organisation.


    Well, take an hour today .. and be unproductive. Do something frivolous ... just for the fun of it. It’s good to turn off occasionally.


    Ironically, of course, it will make you more productive - by recharging your batteries and resetting your mind. 


    So, turn off for an hour. I give you permission.



  • 26 Jul 2019 7:46 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There are lots of blogs written about topics such as a The 7 habits of the Superperformers, suggesting we can learn from what successful business people and entrepreneurs do to make them successful.


    Well, we can. But the (one) secret is very simple.


    Most successful business people - and politicians come to that - keep themselves fit. They jog, run, go to the gym or swim on a regular basis.


    Of course they are very busy people but they take the time to get fit. No, more than that, they make the time. They schedule it into their busy lives.


    Regular exercise obviously makes you fit giving you energy and making you more able to cope with stress.  But it also makes you mentally sharp, capable of better analysis and decision-making.


    So, get your trainers on.



  • 19 Jul 2019 7:38 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Lean Thinking emphasises the concept of value - which in business is the creation of product/service features and attributes that the customer wants or needs AND is willing to pay for. 


    The second criterion of that statement is very important. If the customer is not willing to pay for something you are creating or adding to your product/service, then you are wasting your time (and money). Take a few moments and think about, say, your car.  If all the items were separately priced, are there some of the ‘included extras’ that you would choose to exclude? In my case, one item is electric windows. In my youth, all car windows were raised and lowered by mechanically turning a handle. The system worked. It was simple. It has been replaced by a system that is more expensive and is more likely to go wrong, resulting in an expensive repair. So, I would  be quite happy to eschew this feature and save a little money. So, why can’t I?


    Well, the car companies work on standardised procedures and economies if scale. If I, and others like me, were able to choose between electric and manual window opening, the manufacturer would have to create a separate production line or workstation for the manual option. This would increase costs, add to their parts costs and make manufacturing a little more complex.


    These ‘value decisions’ are thus not simple. Manufacturers are continually balancing customer choice and value with manufacturing cost. You, as a customer, may lose a little choice but you do get a cheaper car.


    And, of course, price is factored into your value decision. 



  • 12 Jul 2019 7:38 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Are you doing everything you can to make your organisation efficient? Do you run a very ‘tight’ and ‘lean’ company..


    Good! 


    But it’s not enough.


    Efficiency is the baseline. It is where all organisations should start from. It is almost a ‘given’.


    If your competitors are also striving for efficiency, they will be at the same base position.


    So, on top of your efficiency, you need to add .... innovation, strategic direction, world-leading customer service ... those things that make a difference to the customer experience. These are often perceived as somewhat more difficult to achieve ... but a singular focus on the needs of the customer is all that is required.


    One way to help this is to think not about what the customer wants but about what the customer wants to achieve.  So if you are selling dog biscuits successfully, you might, on reflection,, assess that what the customer really wants to achieve is a healthy, happy dog. The biscuits are simply a means to that end. 


    You might then consider what other things you could do (and sell at a profit) to help create healthy, happy dogs.


    Your expertise and experience with dog biscuits should be retained (and even enhanced) but you might look for complementary products and services ... or simply a marketing campaign for the biscuits that focuses on their role in creating healthy, happy dogs.


    Your biscuit manufacturing should be efficient but the ‘wrapper’ of customer service and appropriate promotion is where additional profits lie.



  • 05 Jul 2019 7:36 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I saw someone suggesting the other day that increased private  investment in (private) education would improve its productivity.


     think this is debatable.


    As in many other areas, it depends on how you define and measure productivity. We all know that productivity is quite different than production or output: fundamentally it involves the incorporation of resources consumed ... mirroring the judgement we all face daily on assessing 'value' for goods and services we consume.


    More investment would certainly raise the numbers of students coming out of private education .... but, as we have just said, that is not a measure of productivity..... nor, importantly, of that very elusive factor 'quality'.  


    Take India as an example. Lots of private colleges and universities output thousands of students each year. Yet, there is some doubt about whether many of them are fit for the workplace. They know lots of stuff ... but they can't do very much. Their employability skills are lacking.


    Even in admittedly strong areas like engineering, India's education is limited. Their engineering graduates are excellent at solving 'standard' engineering problems .., but when faced with a problem that requires ingenuity and innovation, they lack the problem-solving and creativity skills to take the next step.


    So, let's define what we mean by 'productivity' in relation to education, let's determine our aims, objectives and aspirations ... and then try to assess whether more investment from the private sector can help us deliver.


    It possibly can .... but if we don't know what we want to happen, we can't bring it about.



  • 28 Jun 2019 7:34 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Remote or distance working (often referred to as ‘working from home’) has become increasingly popular over the last decade.


    There is no doubt that for many job roles, the technology exists to facilitate such working. Access to company data and services is no longer a problem.


    What is still a problem, however, is that most workers are not ‘solo fliers’ ... their role is part of a wider set of roles that constitute a team - and, often, the performance and success of the team depends on more than the performance of the individuals within it.


    Success depends on how the group of people function as a team, sharing responsibility, handing off tasks to one another, supporting one another when something goes wrong and acting on the basis of mutual trust. 


    This can happen with remote workers but only if the relationships hsve been built by face-to-face working before remote working is introduced and preferably when at least some of the team maintain a physical presence and co-working. The team needs to maintain the ‘glue’ of shared values, culture and trust that make them a team.


    So, introduce remote working by all means but you must manage it. Decide which roles can be carried out remotely without breaking team spirit, team responsibility ... and team productivity.


    Well planned and well managed, it can work, and can save costs and help some employees with work-life balance, child care, etc.  But if you don’t plan and manage it well, it could destroy team cohesion .. and cost you more in the longer term.



  • 21 Jun 2019 7:31 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I talked recently to the Young Fabians (a UK-based left wing think tank) about "Britain's puzzlingly poor productivity".  In such situations, people often want to know the 'secrets' or the 'answers'. The YF were too smart to expect that. They understand that complex problems require hard thought, experimentation and multiple potential interventions.


    Of course, experience helps. I have worked around the globe and have some understanding as to what works in particular situations - with a different geography, history, culture and so on. This shortens the list of options and reduces the time for experimentation.... but there is still no guarantee of success. Pulling the 'big levers' is often affected by the little cogs ... those little things that keep the whole machine running. Forgetting this is a big mistake.


    In any situation, you have to understand who has the power, the influence and the commitment to making things work.


    Generic principles apply - but may have to be overridden by local knowledge. That is why it is absolutely essential to 'go to gemba' and find out for yourself what is happening, what the current context is, who the key stakeholders are and what might or should influence the approach you take.


    The members of the organisation (or the leaders of the country) are often too involved. They find it hard to step back and 'read' the current situation. Politicians, in particular, find it difficult to set aside their core political beliefs and act only on their core values. They 'know' what they want to work and are generally very surprised if and when it doesn't.


    So, we need people like the Young Fabians to keep an open mind but stay true to their core values, to read the situation they are examining and to construct interventions, with advice from 'experts' that they are sure fit the particular context and situation. We might then grow a generation of genuinely radical thinkers.


  • 13 Jun 2019 10:28 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Interesting question, is it not?  I guess you found it interesting or you wouldn't be reading this.


    So what do you need?


    Well fundamentally - just one thing.


    A burning desire to identify and eliminate waste in all its forms - waste of resources, waste of effort, waste of talent, waste of time and so on. 


    Once you've learnt to identify waste, it can become something of an obsession.  Seeing people wasting their time and effort makes you angry.  Seeing people who create processes that makes people waste their talent and effort makes you even angrier.


    So, start to attune your radar.  If you don't know the 7 wastes of Lean, read up about them - and start to look for them throughout your organisation - and everywhere else. .  Calm your anger and think about how you would organise things differently to avoid the waste.  You have now worked out how to make your business more productive.


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