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  • 22 Sep 2021 10:24 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There have been quite a few claims over the last five years that artificial intelligence (AI) will result in huge gains in productivity.   These huge gains don’t, though, seem to be arriving any time soon.

    When one looks back at the claims, many have been put out by AI start up companies keen to laud AI and their product in particular. 

    Very few of them, however, have hard data of productivity measurements to back up their claims. 

    I would expect a start up to have confidence in its product but after a year or two in the marketplace, I would expect confident claims to be replaced by case examples with measured, preferably verified, data.

    Until we see such case examples, we have to take the claims with a pinch of salt. We can hope for a productivity revolution, but should expect productivity evolution.  

  • 15 Sep 2021 3:11 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We’ve talked quite a few times about measuring productivity - to highlight (relative) inefficiencies, to set benchmarks and targets for improvement - but mainly to understand just what is happening in a process.  We measure throughput, quality levels, error levels, downtime, waiting time - anything that affects overall productivity. 

    Where possible, we try to use measures that already exist for some other purposes - to avoid the extra cost of a monitoring/measuring regime. 

    Now, life is starting to get a little easier. Many modern processes have some form of analytics built in -  but it is surprising  how many firms do not take advantage, usually because they do not have an overall measurement plan into which the analytics can be incorporated.

    So next time you invest in new plant or equipment, makes sure you know what analytics it can provide - and make sure key employees are trained in how to use - and interpret - these figures.  

    If you make the data part of a wider plan to measure and monitor performance and productivity, so much the better.  Your data analysts just might become as important as your process engineers.

  • 09 Sep 2021 12:15 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many of us use multiple messaging and productivity platforms in our work - Zoom, Teams, Slack and so on. Quite a few also regularly drop into Twitter or Facebook.

    Each time we read an interesting post or contribute to a discussion  we get a little feeling of satisfaction. We are participating and contributing. We feel good. 

    However, we may not be achieving. Completing a task is not the same as producing an appropriate outcome. Completing the task becomes the goal instead of the means to achieving a goal.

    So beware of simply feeling good, satisfied that you have done something.  Try to measure outcomes, not outputs.

  • 02 Sep 2021 9:42 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many people use ToDo lists and apps to keep track of their outstanding tasks.  

    There are also lots of apps available, with different flavours of operation.

    However, you need to remember that  a ToDo list (even one contained within a sophisticated app) is just that  - a list of tasks. It has no understanding of priority or urgency and certainly no knowledge of how a task should best be carried out.

    So, you need to apply all of this extra, external knowledge to the tasks in the list if the list is to prove useful. Don’t expect to become more productive by simply adding tasks to your ToDo list.  Even AI can’t help here - it takes good old, human knowledge, experience and judgement to properly prioritise and organise. So, Think.  Plan. Shape your ToDo list to match that thinking and you should get good results.  But don’t thank the app; thank yourself for thinking through the issues and addressing the tasks according to established criteria.  And remember, the list is always flexible; it can be changed as circumstances change to affect priorities.

    ToDo lists are good; but only when supported and backed up by a thinking human being.

  • 26 Aug 2021 9:11 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I saw in a recent survey that people who thought their productivity had increased (or at least stayed the same) whilst working from home during the pandemic, also reported that their mental well-being had improved.

    This could suggest that high productivity makes people feel better about themselves or conversely that poor mental health results in poor productivity.

    The third possibility (and perhaps most likely) is that both are true.

    This in turn suggests that companies if you want high productivity from your WFH workforce, you should pay attention to, and put resources into, the psychological

    well-being of your workers, especially into supporting those that are feeling isolated and need social contact to replace the ‘office vibe’.

    When thinking about a return to office working, perhaps a structured, hybrid approach is best - choosing the work location according to the project/task being worked on.

    So, not one, not the other, but an appropriate blend of remote and home working might best replace what you have now.

  • 18 Aug 2021 9:12 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    People often claim that technology is the key to improved productivity.  Firms should, they say, be investing in digital services, robotics, AI, IoT and so on.  

    Generally, there does seem to be a correlation between investment in technology and productivity improvement.

    Case proved, then?

    Well … not necessarily.

    I learned many years ago that correlation is not necessarily causation.

    From my experience, I would read things differently.

    Firms often look at technology investments when:

    • they have analysed processes and identified ways of  streamlining systems, processes and procedures;
    • the labour market is very tight and they are having trouble finding employees with the right skills;
    • labour is expensive.

    Only the first of these is really a direct win for technology - and perhaps that should be put down as a win for systematic process analysis and improvement.  The other two are direct results of a tight labour market.  

    This is what really drives technology adoption.

  • 12 Aug 2021 9:33 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many people feel overwhelmed at work.  The relentless tide of messages and emails seems to set an impossible agenda.

    So, we need to improve our time management, right?


    If you create more space by better organisation, ‘other stuff’ will be re-prioritised and re-arranged and you’ll soon be overwhelmed again.If you show your boss you can complete more then others, s/he’ll give you more to do.

    The answer, therefore, is to focus

    Make sure you know what is essential to the organisational or departmental mission.

    Then determine what outcomes you need to deliver to contribute to that mission.

    If you can achieve (most of) those outcomes, you’ll change from being overwhelmed to  being very busy but satisfied.  Your sense of achievement will take over.  You’ll probably do more as well.

  • 05 Aug 2021 10:00 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    For some people, art plays an important part in their lives. I’m not talking about ‘the arts’ - if I was, that first statement would probable apply to just about everybody - but to the visual arts.

    What about art in business?

    Well, art can obviously transform a working environment but it can also stimulate, excite and inspire staff - and, of course, it makes a statement about the organisation and its leadership.

    Displays of creativity can inspire workers to unleash their own inner creativity, improving approaches to innovation. And how about having a ‘drawing wall’ where workers can add their own creative touches to the environment?

    And if your office receives lots of visitors - especially customers and potential customers - works of art send them a message about you and your breadth of vision; your commitment to things others than profit.

    I’m not saying that investing in art can transform your productivity  but I am saying that investing in art can change the way in which your staff, and your customers, think about you and the organisation.

  • 29 Jul 2021 10:26 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One of the keys to high productivity is to organise - and then to schedule - work according to its priority and urgency.  Too often, though, this potential productivity gets sidelined as other facto come into play - meetings get scheduled and key personnel get jacked out of operational processing. 

    Now,  a new approach is helping restore the potential for high productivity.

    Companies are beginning to designate core working hours’ during which ‘peripheral activities’ (such as meetings) cannot be scheduled.

    The company then knows that within those core hours, every person and every process is ‘on’ snd working to full capacity.    

    As companies are now moving away from home working back to the office, it is an ideal time to introduce this concept of core working hours and get everyone used to the concept -and the practice.

  • 22 Jul 2021 10:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What separates the very best musicians from the also-rans is the long-term commitment to the goal, and to the practice required to achieve it.  Hours, days, weeks and years of relentless practice drive up performance, improvs timing and rhythm and change the person from someone who plays an instrument into a musician.  They become flexible, resilient, agile performers.

    Now, apply this to your organisation, your processes, you’re staff. If you can get workers to understand what world-class performance is, give them the skills, drill them into operating sound, secure processes and support them properly, you may be able to create an orchestra that can play sweet music for you.

    But they need a strong conductor who understands the score and understands them.  That is your role.

    Without that coordinating role, they may pull in  different directions.

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