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  • 28 May 2020 10:30 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Most of the world is slowly emerging from some form of lockdown. It is still too early to establish what the ‘new normal’ looks like - how have people’s habits changed due to the enforced period of isolation?  Many people will rush back to their old habits - but many will not.  They will have re-evaluated their values, their beliefs, their priorities - and changed actions and behaviours as a result.


    Companies too will have re-evaluated.  We are almost bound to see quite a few re-evaluate the need for great estate - when home working proved so successful for many.


    Many of us got used to ‘virtual meetings’ and found Zoom, Teams, Skype and Facetime  very easy to use ..... perhaps too easy.


    When email first arrived, it too was very easy and convenient - but this very ease of use turned it into a monster - that consumes attention, focus and resource. We copy too many people into emails and often do not make it clear who is to action  the email. Many people find their lives dominated by email - and not just within working hours.


    Virtual meetings might go the same way. Because the various platforms are so easy to use, we might find ourselves swamped by requests to participate in many more meetings - just as we were copied into more and more emails.


    Companies need to get a grip on their use of virtual meetings - setting a protocol for when and how they should be used, who has the authority to call them in various situations, how they should be ‘minuted’ or recorded, etc.


    Otherwise they will be counter-productive, sucking productivity out of the organisation and demoralising staff. We need to start thinking now about their use - and misuse.

  • 21 May 2020 10:52 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    During any crisis which affects large swathes of the population, any nation needs leaders who can galvanise the collective spirit and collective will of the people to withstand the pressures of the crisis and take the actions necessary to survive and emerge from it.


    In wartime situations, such leaders tend to emerge - though  not always.  Too often  what we get are crisis managers who try to marshal resources and manage the situation, without creating the shared will and the shared vision of a future worth fighting for.


    America has for long been held up as the leader of the free world’ - but, in this Coronavirus crisis, we have seen little evidence of any leadership from that source.  America has looked inward, looking after its own…but in a shared, global crisis, this is not enough. We need concerted, cooperative action - and policy-making - based on effective global leadership.


    The European Union has also failed its constituency - where has been the agreed pan-European action or policy-making?


    As we slowly emerge from the crisis, we will again need leadership, concerted action and shared policy-making to help rebuild the global economy. However, what I expect to see is increased competition,, increased insularity, less free trade and less cooperation.  This puts post-Brexit Britain in a difficult position - looking to negotiate tariff-free trade deals in a situation where everyone is looking to protect their own economies.


    Where are the leaders we need?


  • 15 May 2020 7:12 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Since the lockdown started in the UYK, the weather has been very good. Small compensation, perhaps ... but let's count our blessings.


    Of course, once, when the weather was good, we did all we could to maximise our harvest - so that stocks of food could see us through the bad times that would inevitably come.


    The current economic crisis seems to suggest that many people and most firms - have not bothered to invest in the future.  They have taken their returns in the good times - and expect government to see them through the bad times.


    Being optimistic - as I am, we will get through this ... and signs are currently quite good.


    Being a realist - which I also am - the economy of the UK will be in a mess. 


    Future generations will have to pick up the tab.


    For now though, I listen to the weather forecast for next week - which is excellent - and I go about with a smile on my face.    Let's smile together - and at each other.  Let's smile out way into a better future.


  • 07 May 2020 10:01 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If, like most, people, you have been  working from home for the last few weeks, you will no doubt have participated in (endured?) a number of online meetings.


    Presumably, therefore, you will have a list of things that you should do to make such meetings effective.


    If you compare that list to the things you would have written when answering the same question about face-to-face meetings, you will probably find little difference.


    Of course there is the added issue of ensuring that everyone  has the right technology and knows how to use it  … but that is the easy part.


    Apart from technology, key ’DOs’ are:


    • make sure the purpose of the meeting is clear and shared by all participants. (Is it to collect and share information, to each a consensus, to make a decision?) 
    • construct and share an agenda (with timed entries) so that people can prepare for the meetings. If appropriate, ensure people know which data/information they are responsible for bringing to the meeting
    • make sure all participants have their chance to contribute (this means that you, if you are the meeting host, need to know the tools that are available within you platform of choice that enable you to do this)
    • Stick, as far as possible, Ito the agenda/schedule
    • Summarise each discussion and make any future actions and responsibilities  (with deadlines) clear
    • If you are trying to reach a consensus, take advantage of any included polling features to collect views.


    As we said above, apart from making sure everyone - especially you, as host - knows how to operate the software, these DOs apply just as well to face-to-face meetings.


    This is quite common. Technology doesn’t fundamentally change what we do - it can make what we do more effective (or it can make us inefficient and ineffective faster!)


  • 30 Apr 2020 4:55 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One of the lessons to emerge from the Coronavirus situation is the need for governments to adopt an evidence-based decision-making strategy.


    Businesses, too, should make decisions based on firm evidence and reliable metrics. Gone are the days of decision-making by whim or by gut feel (unless you sore president of the USA, of course).


    This means that in the good times, businesses need to establish the measurement regimes that will provide the data and the metrics in the bad times.


    if we have reliable measures in place, we can see trends (so we have a better understanding of the future) and make predictions.


    Of course there will still bee uncertainties - but remember  the old adage…. what really hurts you the most are not the things that you know or the things that you don’t know - but the things that you don’t know you don’t know. If you know where your knowledge is lacking, you might be able to fill the gaps with interpolation (or  extrapolation) from known data … but if you don’t know what you don’t know,. you obviously don’t know you need to fill in the gaps.


    Ignorance may be bliss - but it is a poor foundation on which to base long-term planning and decision-making.

  • 23 Apr 2020 10:25 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What differentiates humans from the great apes?


    We know that a number of other creatures have some traits/abilities that we previously thought were exclusively human ….like the ability to use tools.


    Though some animals (and even some birds) do use tools, only man seems to have developed the ability to plan new uses for existing tools - or new, improved tools that can do the exiting job better.  This ‘creativity’ and ‘development’ seems to be uniquely human.


    Why does this interest me personally.


    Well, it seems as though man is uniquely able to improve productivity - a key element of the human condition seems to be s propensity for continuous improvement.


  • 16 Apr 2020 10:29 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One of the lessons to emerge from the Coronavirus situation is the need for governments to adopt an evidence-based decision-making strategy.


    Businesses, too, should make decisions based on firm evidence and reliable metrics. Gone are the days of decision-making by whim or by gut feel (unless you sore president of the USA, of course).


    This means that in the good times, businesses need to establish the measurement regimes that will provide the data and the metrics in the bad times.


    if we have reliable measures in place, we can see trends (so we have a better understanding of the future) and make predictions.


    Of course there will still bee uncertainties - but remember  there old adage…. what really hurts you the most are not the things that you know or the things that you don’t know - but the things that you don’t know you don’t know. If you know where your knowledge is lacking, you might be able to fill the gaps with interpolation (or  extrapolation) from known data … but if you don’t know what you don’t know,. you obviously don’t know you need to fill in the gaps.


    Ignorance may be bliss - but it is a poor foundation on which to base long-term planning and decision-making.


  • 09 Apr 2020 10:27 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    ‘Unprecedented’ is certainly the word of 2020 (apart from Coronavirus, of course)  - well, it is in the UK.  Every commentator talks about ‘these unprecedented times’.


    And, of course, we are living in unprecedented times. Economies around the world are in tatters. Many people are working from home, many are furloughed, many have lost their jobs.  


    We don’t yet know how well these economies will recover.


    The world has changed in ways we don’t yet understand.


    But unprecedented times require an unprecedented response. Those firms that will recover are those that are looking at the current situation as a a challenge, a problem to be solved, even an opportunity. They are thinking about the recovery and planning their strategy. They realise competitors may be weak or non-existent. Markets may have changed. You should be looking to identify those industries that will recover first and seeking opportunities to trade with such industries. You should seek to identify possible customer and consumer changed expectations. You should  look to identify new markets, emerging sectors, new regulation, new freedoms, new support channels and other changes to the environment and to your operating context.


    Even the worst of situations bring about  opportunities to those who have the ability to think in unprecedented ways about their potential future, their desired future state.


    If you are not already looking for such opportunities, you may be too late!


  • 03 Apr 2020 7:38 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I make no apology for returning to the subject of Coronavirus - after all, no other phenomenon has had quite the same effect on the global economy.


    Last week, we reflected on lessons we might learn from the changes we have had to make to respond to the virus - and, of course, to governmental restrictions on individual and organisational activity.


    One of the changes is the encouragement of, and then insistence on, home working.  This has given firms a useful chance to experiment with, or refine, their approaches to supporting remote working.


    I am sure all is not perfect for many companies -  but if you use this as a 'live experiment' you should be able to create a future where home working is effective for many employees - and where costs (of space) are lowered.


    At least some good might arise from this awful situation.


  • 26 Mar 2020 10:53 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Whenever something bad affects your life (like Coronavirus), it is worth taking time occasionally to reflect on the situation an to look for any positives you can find.


    Of course, I am reflecting (in this blog post) on the productivity implications of the virus - all of which are negative.


    The entire global economy is in disarray. Productivity is not on the agenda for any business or any government.They have too many other worries.


    So, where do we find positives.  Well, we could use this situation as a kind of rehearsal for the world we will have to move to as fossil fuels run out.


    We are currently seeing little international travel, less national travel, more home working, less electrically-based entertainment - and so on. 


    We are also seeing a rebirth of ‘community.  


    We are seeing social media used as a force for good.


    Are we coping?  Well, yes we are.  Off course we have no choice - but we might learn the kinds of things we have to do to make life tolerable and even enjoyable in a fossil-fuel-free world.


    Wise governments - as part of their quantitative easing and general support measures - will invest in infrastructure and will record what is happening to society as various restrictions are put in place.


    When this is all over (my guess is in about 9 months time ), they will have ’evidence’ on which to build a better world - a productive world still, but productive in other ways.



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