• 20 Jul 2022 2:35 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you run around all day long, switching from tasks to task, you may end up completing little, achieving less.

    You probably need to think more, act less. Plan more, execute more efficiently.

    This applies to your organisation. Sometimes, your employees may be working very hard but making little progress towards longer-term goals and objectives.   Like you, they need focus and direction, not more action.

    Workers who are not productive are almost always in that position because the ‘system’ lets them down.

    Engage them - and engage with them.  Find out what frustrates  them ,what stops them being more productive.

    Then work out what you can do to remove the barriers and release the energy

  • 14 Jul 2022 7:59 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Sorry about returning to the subjects of 4 day working weeks and remote working. But I continue to see claims that both of these increase productivity.

    Most of these clams seem to arise from surveys of staff who themselves claim they are more productive working from home.

    I am prepared to believe that staff are happier working from home, without the daily commute and I do believe that, in general terms, happier staff are more productive, more engaged staff.

    However, I started my productivity career as a humble work study engineer looking at what people were doing in their work role snd trying to improve it.   I soon realised that what we really needed to study was not work but non-work - the waiting time and waste caused by ‘the system’ or the process. People can work hard and productively but still be part of an inefficient system.

    I think these happy WFH employees are doing this. Their personal productivity may have risen but the overall system and organisational productivity suffers from the silo working and lack of idea building that results from people locked in their homes instead of sharing information and ideas in the office.

    I promise not to return to this topic for a while. It seems to have become a mini-obsession but I don’t like people claiming productivity increases when they are not measuring it.

  • 06 Jul 2022 10:29 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Various companies are experimenting with a 4 day working week.  There seems to be  a general belief ‘in the air’ that productivity will remain the same or even increase.

    I have expressed my doubts about this in the past but my real observation is that these companies seem to be forgetting that the world, more generally, is moving to a 7 day working week.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that people should work 7 days a week, but to reduce the number of days does not make much sense to me.  In many cases, it is office workers who are making this change to their week while others, because of the nature of their work they do, are prevented from making the change.

    What do you think this does to the morale of front-line 5 day workers?

    Those office and admin staff are supposed to be there to support the front line troops and probably already have lower working hours, better vacation allowance and even better pension arrangements. Now they are going to get a four day working week!

    And we expect the productivity of the organisation to stay the same or improve!

  • 29 Jun 2022 11:41 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Especially in difficult times (and current times certainly count as ‘difficult’ for most businesses), business asks for help from government. 

    Yet in the good times (and they will come again), they want government to stop ‘interfering’.

    They can’t expect to have it whichever way they like.

    The role of government in improving productivity is simple.  They should establish a supportive infrastructure - microeconomic climate, policy framework ,technology infrastructure, physical infrastructure (airports, ports ,roads and so on).  They should set overall direction - directing how productivity and economic success should shape social and environmental objectives.

    They should then  get out of the way and allow business to build on the supportive infrastructure, building successful trade and making their contribution to societal well-being by providing employment and paying ‘fair’ taxes.

    Government is not there to apply sticking plasters or medicine. Businesses have to address their own issues, solve their own problems and develop their own productivity.  Otherwise, governments provide aid and support - normally at great expense - and load the economy with too many rules, regulations - and taxes.

    Government should let businesses grow into ‘big boys’ or ‘big girls’ who can look after themselves.  Tools are available. Advice too.  Buts free handouts should not be necessary.  Unfortunately, in hard times, some businesses will ‘go to the wall’ but those that are left will be leaner, tougher and more productive.

  • 22 Jun 2022 10:23 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Leaders, and especially entrepreneurs, are hard-wired to seize opportunities and follow leads.

    This is only effective, however, when those leads and opportunities help you move forward in your existing strategy towards your agreed mission and vision.

    Otherwise they are a distraction and they suck energy out of you and your organisation.

    Always judge potential opportunities against your existing goals and priorities.  Otherwise productivity drops.  

    Productivity is like a  reputation. Its hard to acquire but easy to lose!

  • 15 Jun 2022 10:24 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Very few organisations improve productivity  by accident.  They may do so as a ’by-product’ of some other initiative (such as installing new technology or establishing a new workforce development programme) but productivity doesn’t just come along unbidden.

    This means that you have to seek it out. You have to plan for it. You have to examine your business and work out what can be improved. You have to ask questions about what you do now - and how you do those things. 

    A good, but simple, approach is just to walk the business occasionally looking for signs that things are wrong or could be improved.  Piles of waste or piles of work-in-progress might indicate you could benefit from process change.

    Talk to the workers on the shop floor.  What don’t they like about what they do.  What do they think needs changing.

    Then talk to the supervisors. Do they identify the same potential problems as the workers?

    Go back to the office and check the data. Are there any trends in output levels, quality levels, labour costs, customer satisfaction levels?

    When you find something that doesn’t seem quite right, start an investigation to understand the problem or potential improvement? What might happen if you change various factors of the situation? What unintended consequences might there be?

    Then start to plan the changes you think will bring benefits.  Prepare for any changes you intend to make - especially to job roles and working methods. Support your workforce through the change.

    Don’t wait for productivity to come about. Seek it out and plan for it!

  • 08 Jun 2022 11:39 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many business leaders think technology can give them a productivity boost.  

    They may well be right.  Addressed properly, changes in technology can transform processes and make them more efficient.

    However,. the gains are  not easy to unlock - and they certainly take time.

    There may even be a temporary drop in productivity while new technology or a new software system is being implemented.

    Often firms under prepare for, or under-resource, the changeover.  They fail to ensure they have customised the technology or system to their specific needs. Then they fail to adequately monitor the changing situation, making sure they are aware of what is working properly and what is not, what parts of the organisation need help during thew changeover process, what needs to be redone, and so on. 

    Managers have four simple tasks to carry out: Organising, Planning, Monitoring and Controlling..  Managers must take the time to get all of these right.

    This might delay benefits for a little time - but those benefits will come if the project is properly managed.

    As the heading to this post says …. Be patient  But while being patient, Manage Well!

  • 01 Jun 2022 11:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you hate Monday mornings, you are probably in the wrong job … but so many of you, I know, cannot simply change your job at this time.

    Perhaps one reason so many people hate Mondays is that they have to move from the freedom of being able to choose what to do to a situation where their day is mapped out for them.

    Some people in senior jobs have the luxury of mapping out their own working days - though they are, of course, guided by priorities, emergencies and so on. 

    The rest of us do what we are told.  But perhaps there is something we can do.  

    We can think about our week and decide not what we are going to do, but what we are going to think about while doing the tasks set out for us (assuming our job does not preclude thought).

    We can plan our next holiday.

    We can try to write a song.

    We can plan a blog post.

    We can think about an apology to someone we’ve offended.

    Give  yourself a bit of freedom - and plan/create something connected with one of your interests or current problems.

    Mondays might then seem quite different.  You will probably find the work easier too and you might be significantly more productive.

  • 26 May 2022 8:00 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When I was learning about management and productivity, one important exercise was the in-tray exercise where the student is faced with a pile of documents from an in-tray and has to work through the pile dealing with them if possible or prioritising them for later handling if that is more appropriate.  Some could perhaps be delegated to others and a small number could be ignored (such snd those where the recipient  is simply copied in to a wider-circulated note).

    This was, for me, a very useful exercise where I learnt that, wherever possible, a message should be handled only once.  When at the end of the exercise, if the pile left for later handling is nearly as big as the original pile, the student has failed in this aim (of handling each paper only once).

    Now things are even worse for managers.  The existence of email, internal messaging systems and social media sites such vas LinkedIn make the pile of things to deal with much bigger than it used to be in ‘paper days’

    But the principle remains.

    Whether a message arrives on paper or electronically, you should aim to ‘touch it’ only once.

    To keep it simple, remember that you only have to decide to do one of three things:

    File it, discard it (ignore it) or take action.

    Often this is a simple decision.  If it isn’t, make it so.

  • 18 May 2022 10:42 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I read quite a lot of studies that suggest that remote working did not and does not, negatively impact productivity.

    However, I am sceptical.

    The studies are generally of 2 types.

    The first set are studies that essentially consist of questionnaires asking employees if they have been less productive whilst working from home.  Not surprisingly, they say ‘No’.

    The other set are ‘technical studies’ which purport to show that remote employees spend as much time on their computers, make as many keystrokes and so on.

    Neither of these measure outputs or achievements …. surely the only thing that really matter.

    So where you look at such studies, read them carefully to see what was measured.

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