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  • 24 Jan 2020 12:11 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I was browsing the web recently when a headline “Offensive Productivity” caught my eye. It was an article relating to an American sports team and was bemoaning the performance of the attacking members if the team (the offence).


    Now, here in the UK, we don’t use productivity in relation to the performance of sports teams. (I’m not sure what the metrics would be).  


    So, why am I mentioning this?


    It just reminded me of that old aphorism .. Britain and America are 2 countries divided by a common language .... but the real reminder is that some language - indeed some concepts - do not travel well across national - or cultural - borders, 


    Those working in lands other than their native land do well to remember this and those offering books, blogs, tweets, etc to an international audience should also remember that some parts of their messages might be misinterpreted.


    Re-read what you write, putting yourself, as far as you can, in the mind frame of target readers - or perhaps simply casual observers. Try to spot obvious - and less obvious - sources of confusion or misunderstanding - jargon, local references, slang, etc.


    Make your productivity - and other - pronouncements culturally neutral and certainly try to ensure you are avoiding ‘ offensive productivity’.


    Of course, if you ever find my messages offensive, please give me the benefit of the doubt. Offence was not intended.


  • 16 Jan 2020 11:55 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Politicians are binary creatures.


    They view important issuers as black and white,.  They are right and everyone else is wrong.  They rarely listen to conflicting views because they KNOW those holding contrary views cannot be right.


    Some business leaders act in a similar way.  They surround themselves with people of similar views or people who are prepared to espouse similar views (‘Yesmen’).  They won’t even listen to people who will be affected by their decisions or actions.


    Both sets of individuals are unlikely to be right all of the time and doomed to failure (in the longer term) as their mistakes come home to roost.


    Failing to listen is a major crime. If you don’t listen to your customers, your employees, your suppliers and other stakeholders you will not find out what is, or might be, going wrong in your business and what opportunities for improvement there are.


    Diversity of opinion is healthy and constructive.  Of course leaders sometimes have to listen but not necessarily change their decisions or actions.  But failing to listen to what people have to say means they might miss important caveats, consequences or influencing factors.


    Making unpopular but informed decisions can be the right thing to do.  Making unpopular and uninformed decisions is crazy.  


    It stifles engagement, innovation, contribution and productivity.



  • 10 Jan 2020 7:29 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Do we want to design processes that are ‘good’?


    Well, we first have to define ‘good’.


    I would suggest that ‘good’ processes are consistent processes. If a process is consistent, we can observe it, measure it and understand it. Then we can improve it, secure in the knowledge it will perform better - consistently.


    If a process is inconsistent or erratic we can do none of those things. We first have to  understand why it is inconsistent and that can be a major study in itself So it consumes resources at this stage before we can start improvement activity.


    Our aim, therefore, is to design processes that behave predictably and consistently. We can then claim to have designed a good process.



  • 03 Jan 2020 7:41 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Sometimes, very small parts of a process can have a massive impact on overall performance.


    Take Formula 1 racing.


    Quite often, the winner is determined by when tyre changes are carried out .., or the speed at which they are carried out. Yet tyre changes probably account for less than 1% of elapsed time.


    So, when looking at business processes, don’t ignore the small details. They may be one of the governing or influencing factors. Ask the same searching questions about every stage of the process. 


    Why do we do it?

    Why do we do it like that?

    Why do we do it at that point in the cycle?

    Why does that person or team do it?

    Could we eliminate it?

    Could we simplify it?

    Could we rearrange it?

    Could we do it differently?


    Keep asking these questions and you’ll find yourself on the winner’s podium.



  • 27 Dec 2019 8:14 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many of us are about to celebrate the start of a new year. It is traditional to make resolutions or promises to oneself that should make us a better person in some way. Those of us who are committed to productivity or performance improvement should make a similar professional promise.


    For example if you travel often, especially by train or plane, how about promising yourself to buy a new business text to read on each journey. At the end of the year, you should have learnt some valuable lessons to help your improvement efforts.


    If you are a business person, how about promising to take a waste walk each week, looking for obvious and less obvious signs of waste.


    The promise you make to yourself will depend on where you are in your career, in your organisation and in your personal development. But, today, take a little time to think through possibilities - promises you know you could, and should, make and keep.



  • 20 Dec 2019 1:51 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Six Sigma is based on consistency - on reducing variation so that processes run smoothly and consistently, to their specification. 


    Most processes have some variation - due to  inconsistency of raw materials, variations in machine or equipment performance, human inconsistency and error, variations in  the environment and so on. 


    We either have to stop such variations occurring or design the process to be flexible enough to cope with the variation.


    If the variations are within acceptable - and planned - limits, the process should be able to  cope.


    So, oddly enough, our aim is to control process elements and environmental factors  and train our staff so that we have consistent inconsistencies - within tolerance limits.  If you can get there, give yourself - and your team - a pat on the back.



  • 13 Dec 2019 7:37 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What will a group of productivity experts do for you if you want to improve productivity?


    Well, the best you can expect is to gain wisdom about best current practice.  That’s the job of an expert - to disseminate the best of current knowledge.


    What the experts won ’t necessarily give you is innovation, new thinking and transformational improvement,


    For that you need cognitive diversity - you need the views of the experts tempered and enhanced by other who are perhaps creative in other fields.


    Cognitive diversity comes from educational, social and cultural diversity - so your recruitment and work assignment process should help you achieve such diversity of employment - not because it is a good thing to do (which it is) but because it can help change the culture, the thinking and the innovation potential of your organisation.


    Asking engineers to solve your engineering problems is clearly a good thing to do - but if you sprinkle into your thinking some extra, divergent thoughts from, say, musicians, sports coaches, medical professionals or others with different background and different expertise … you might just hit on a radical solution which will transform performance and productivity.



  • 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!



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