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  • 17 Nov 2017 8:20 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK's productivity performance - as reported by the Office for National Statistics and used in international performance tables- has been woeful recently.  I know I have argued in the past that the measurement scheme seems inherently flawed but that is irrelevant to today's argument.


    There seems a consensus emerging that the figures are so bad - and have been for so long - that the problem is insoluble.  Certainly no-one seems  to have come up with a plan to address the situation.


    I know there is no magic bullet - no quick and easy fix .... but we can tackle the issue by making sure we take a holistic approach in which government does what it can (with infrastructure and skills), organisations do what they can (with long-term investment, improvement programmes and skills), unions do what they can (with constructive partnerships and skills) and education/training does what it can (with targeted knowledge and skills).


    You can probably see a theme emerging here.  We need a high skill, multi-skill workforce.  We don't currently have one.  We perhaps need a lesser focus on knowledge (more easily provided in a high-tech, AI world) and a greater one on competence and flexibility.  If we invest in a high skill workforce, everyone benefits - the individuals with the skills, companies who need the skilled workforce - and the nation with higher productivity.


    Perhaps after all, there is a magic bullet!



  • 10 Nov 2017 3:00 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Some universities and colleges in the US are now being funded according to a productivity-based formula. Does this make sense?


    What is the productivity of a university? How is it measured?  Number of degrees per $1,000 of investment?


    Get it wrong - and universities will play the measurement game - making the figures move in the direction which benefits them financially even if this is not the most appropriate measure.


    This is not to suggests that productivity is not important - after all universities are spending public money - and should be held accountable for it.


    But if we get the measure wrong - we get the wrong result. Universities might benefit - but society won't.  So we need a good, healthy debate on what the measure - or measures - should be.


    The same is true in your business.  If you measure the wrong things, you get the wrong behaviours - and the wrong results. 


  • 04 Nov 2017 7:31 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A recent discussion paper from the African Union suggests that the fact that Asia has achieved the highest economic growth rates in the world in the last half century may not be unrelated to the existence of many vibrant National Productivity Organizations (NPOs) in the Asia-Pacific region and the activities of the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), the only intergovernmental regional organization that is actively promoting the cause of productivity.


    Can the AU (and PAPA - the PanAfrican Productivity Association)  match the impact of APO?


    Well, they are going to try. Let's wish them well. The world needs a productive Africa!

    BUT are the existing NPOs in Africa 'vibrant'?  Sadly, I fear not.  But a new, collective initiative might re-energise them - especially if they have government and AU support.


  • 28 Oct 2017 7:29 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    At a recent Institute of Management Services event in the UK, I was lucky to share a platform with Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas - -a an expert in corporate transformation.


    His views (thankfully) overlapped with, and complemented, mine.


    My 'executive takeaway' of his presentation is that:


    In high performing organisations, rarely are key business processes carried out exactly as specified and trained. They rely on people who are above average and above mere compliance.


    We need to explore new models and build flexible, adaptable, networked organisations - combinations of people and technology.


    Think about those statements for a minutes or two - and then think how you can enact them.


  • 20 Oct 2017 7:55 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Productivity doesn't just happen - it has to be designed in to the business, supporting the overall strategic vision and plan and underpinned by the establishment of key metrics.


    So, you need a plan.  What are you going to change?  What are you going to investigate? What do toy NEED to change?  Where are your problems? Where are your opportunities for improvement?  Where might technology help? How might you develop your staff to help them improve your business? What do your competitors do better than you?


    Answering these - and similar - questions should help you stat the planning process. 


    You don't need a revolution - but you do need to think about where you might make a number of small improvements that  could make a difference - impacting on what you do or how you do it - and impacting on your 'bottom line'.


    So, as from next week - or even today - question, think, plan  and act.

  • 06 Oct 2017 12:27 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    'Thingy' is a word used in the UK by many people to represent something whose name they cannot recall - a 'whatdyacallit', a 'thingymajig'.  All cultures and languages have such words.


    I use it here because it reminds me of the 'next big thing' (or should that be next big thingy)?


    This - according to some - is the Internet of Things - the networking of physical objects.


    Manifestations so far seem to be 'home automation' - devices that will change the colour of your lighting or switch on your kettle as you enter the house, or when you use your phone to direct it to.


    So far, I have been underwhelmed. It seems remarkable how few of these things I want to do at all, let alone automatically or 'more conveniently'. It might be 'early days' and in a few years I might be amazed at the possibilities but, for now, you can keep these thingies that are so clever - I'll work with my old technology for now.



  • 29 Sep 2017 8:26 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Has the open plan office had its day.


    When they were first introduced, they were seen as being facilitators of communication, interaction and cooperation - bringing disparate groups together.


    Now when I see them I think of them as being facilitators of noise and distraction. 


    It was always the case anyway that some employees found them uncomfortable - exposing and intimidating.


    Ia m not saying that they cannot work - only that they should be chosen for those situations where they CAN work - and rejected for situations where they are distractors. 


    We need more hybrid offices where those that need them can work in private spaces - after all there are other technical means now of improving communication and interaction ....  the office design does not have to do that.

  • 22 Sep 2017 12:29 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Fairly recently, the UK government issued a draft Industrial Strategy.  Any discussion on this seems to have been drowned out by the Brexit rhetoric.  Yet it is too important to ignore. UK productivity is low - wages are low - living standards are low. We need a kick up the backside, to shock us into action ... or we need a sensible, long-term strategy.


    Instead what we get is Brexit posturing - and all the media attention is fixed on that (and Trump, of course).


    When I advise companies, I tell them to beware of concentrating on the urgent at the risk of ignoring the important.  Well, productivity improvement is both urgent and important - it is the only way out of the low wage, low living standards cycle.


    Put the industrial strategy back on the table, please.



  • 15 Sep 2017 11:50 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Last week we talked about productivity levels - and the conundrum about unemployment and wage levels.


    I suggested, as I have done several times lately, that we might need to reconsider how we measure productivity - since the measure used to compare nations uses labour productivity.


    But the growth of robots and other automation devices has distorted this figure.  The cost of the robots is not part of labour cost - and their hours are not part of labour hours.


    So, nations that have automated the most lose in the productivity figures.  This does not seem right.

    This investment goes unrewarded and we are no longer comparing like with like.


  • 08 Sep 2017 3:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Most of the old economic certainties have gone.


    For many years, the 'rule' was the as unemployment levels dropped, wages would rise (to entice workers away from others to your organisation).  Since the great 2008 financial crisis, this has not proved true.  Unemployment has dropped to the point where the UK is close to full employment - but wages have not risen correspondingly (though they have risen).


    This position is mirrored throughout the developed world.


    The experts don't seem to know why this is so or whether this is a temporary phenomenon.


    We seem to be in a position where all we can do is 'watch this space', 'wait and see'.


    Or, as I have been suggesting in this blog lately, do  we need to change the way in which we measure productivity - to reflect the changed nature of industry.


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