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  • 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.

  • 15 Jul 2021 7:34 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When trying to improve productivity, many people start by looking at inputs - trying to reduce costs by saving materials, energy or manpower. 

    There is nothing wrong with such an approach except that it is an incremental approach. Your are unlikely to save more than 10-15% of costs so productivity can only rise by that amount.

    What you need is something more revolutionary - more innovative.  So, look at your outputs - and especially outcomes.

    What are you trying to achieve? And how near do current outcomes come to targets and aspirations.  What can you do instead of what you do now?  What can you change to improve outputs?  How can outcomes be improved to look more like those defined in your strategy?

    When outcomes and outputs are improved, you can then look at inputs - for they might need to change to help achieve revised outcomes.

    Only, them should you think about reducing costs.

  • 08 Jul 2021 10:31 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If your organisation expects you to be ‘always on’, always working, always available by telephone or email, they are exhibiting signs of ‘toxic productivity’.  I hate that term for all sorts of reasons but mainly because it has nothing to do with productivity.

    People who work 24 x 7 (or think they do) are unlikely to be very productive, especially in the longer-term. One can be highly directed and productive for a day or two - perhaps even for a week.  If you persist, however, your physical and mental health will suffer.  You will work harder and harder but not have effective outcomes - this is not being productive.

    So, schedule relaxation into your working day. : take time out every day to relax and recover.  Listen to some music, write a journal, do some painting, play the guitar, learn French - or just do nothing.

    In the middle of productive activity, take a few seconds to breathe deeply, relax your mind, practice some mindfulness.

    Think about how important work is in your life - and how important other parts of your life are. Set limits on how much each part of your life impinges on those other important elements.

    Your organisation may help with this balance - but many do not. You must! Not only will you be healthier, your productivity will improve,.

  • 01 Jul 2021 4:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When the pandemic hit and the world went into ‘lockdown’,  most companies moved into remote working, using technology to support employees working from home. There were all sorts of claims that productivity improved as a result.  I’m afraid that I was churlish enough to cast doubt on these claims (in this blog) suggesting that the improved productivity was either a temporary phenomenon, imperfect measurement or wishful thinking.

    Later evidence appears to suggest I was right. If there was any improved productivity, it’s did not last. Many companies are eagerly looking forward to having employees back in the office where they can mingle, interact and feed off one another.

    So, lets be generous and say that those companies that reported an initial improvement in productivity on lockdown were right.  

    What caused it?  

    Well, there are a numbers of possibilities.  One is that it was simply something like a ‘sugar rush’ - the taste of freedom and flexibility excited workers who responded with hard work, longer hours and strong focus.  This initial sugar rush wore off (as one does) and productivity dropped - but managers found it difficult to report, so didn’t.

    Another possibility is that it was a ‘Hawthorne effect’ - employees knew someone was taking an interest in their work and their performance and they responded accordingly.  As the perceived interest from managers waned, so did the performance.

    None of this means that productivity of remote work cannot be high - only that it doesn’t happen by accident; it isn’t a ‘given’; it has to be planned and managed.

  • 24 Jun 2021 3:57 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you start your on line meetings by simply asking a question such as..”You’ve all seen the plan. Any comments?”, your team members will probably look away from their cameras down at their desks (or kitchen tables.).  The energy drains from the meeting before it has really started.  

    Team members do not know what is being asked of them. Are they supposed to comment from the perspective of their own role or department?

    You need to give them a firmer prompt - a more directed question. Something more like “Can each of you tell me how ready your department is to deliver your part of the plan?”

    Even successful individuals and teams are more successful when they receive a clear invitation to contribute snd a clear steer as to what that contribution should look like.

    The ideal prompt meets three criteria: it gets people oriented or reoriented to the task and relevant context; it helps them add something new to their thinking; and, if possible, it sparks some passion and pride in the outcome.

    Use successful prompts to shorten meetings but make them more successful.

  • 17 Jun 2021 6:04 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Measuring performance is essential for a number of reasons.  

    Firstly, as the adage goes … if you can measure it, you can manage it.How do you predict job times if you don’t know the performance level at which your equipment and your people will work.

    Secondly, if you don’t know performance levels, ho do you recognise and reward good performance? How do you recognise and eliminate poor performance?

    The latter is vital.  If you accept poor performance and appear to condone it, you are establishing a culture in which your workforce thinks you don’t care if they don’t work at their best.

    Once that happens, you can be in a vicious spiral of poor and poorer performance.  

    Good luck with reversing that!

  • 10 Jun 2021 6:40 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you are always moaning about the number of meetings you have to attend, then almost certainly you do have too many meetings.  The pandemic - and the forced switch to Zoom and Teams and the like for meetings - has opened up meetings to all.

    Just because all can attend, it doesn’t mean that all should attend.As many as possible should avoid the meeting and be doing some productive work. They can be informed  about the meeting later … well, the key decisions and actions anyway. 

    So next time you hold or organise a meeting, take as much time over the attendance list as you do over the agenda.  Why are people being invited? What will they add? What contribution can they make? Do they need to be consulted … or just informed about outcomes?

    Can you stop their suffering and leave them off the invitation list? 

  • 03 Jun 2021 7:47 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK’s rail franchise system (where private companies bid for the right to tun rail services on the national infrastructure)  was introduced to improve competition and efficiency.  

    However, the bids - and the assessment of them - were highly over-optimistic. They looked to offer value-for-money for the government/taxpayer and a good return for the franchisee …. but in reality, these benefits rarely accrued.

    The reality was poor quality service and low profits.

    This phenomenon is all too common in government contracting -where someone has a good idea but no-one has the information or expertise to establish an effective measurement and monitoring regime.

    However the real problem lies in setting goals.  The aims of an effective rail transport system should perhaps more sensibly be set as safety, reliability and punctuality - whether that translates into profits might then depend on the subsidies government is prepared to provide. 

    Government should learn more about setting SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals - and thinking through the unintended consequences of policy decisions.

    (Incidentally, you might notice that my expansion of SMART differs from the most common set of words used. That suggests A stands for Attainable, but I much prefer Assignable. You must know who is responsible for achieving the goals - who has been assigned responsibility.  I think if goals are Specific, Messurable, Assignable, Relevant and Time-bound they are Attainable.)

  • 27 May 2021 3:30 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many companies are looking to improve manufacturing productivity by improving the efficiency of their various machines and other manufacturing facilities - by, in turn, improving their data driven management … monitoring the performance of those facilities in real-time. 

    Connecting and analysing all that data is a big challenge.  

    What we need are standards and protocols which allow us to share and connect our data which can then be imported into analytical systems to provide useful insights.

    Of course, companies could build custom code to do the job but the IoT scene is changing quickly and maintaining customer code over  time is going to  be difficult.

    We need integrated platforms based around established protocols for inter-connectedness - platforms that can evolve over time to keep pace with technological change.

    Manufacturing equipment makers, enterprise software developers - please help! 

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