• 06 Mar 2015 8:29 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    In a recent paper, the governor of the Central Bank of Barbados said that even though Barbados is relatively prosperous as a Caribbean nation, it will only move up the international 'league table' by improving its labour productivity. 


    He then suggested that this is difficult because only about 30% of the Barbadian workforce feels fully committed to their jobs.


    I wondered how you productivity professionals out there felt about this ...  and whether you agree that that the systems, processes and procedures you put in place can be largely ineffective if workers are not 'committed to their jobs'.


  • 27 Feb 2015 7:51 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    In small businesses low productivity is rarely the fault of the workers - it is usually because the owner/manager has not set up production processes properly -or has failed to manage them effectively.


    Too many owner/managers want to micro-manage ... they see their job as 'keeping on top of things'.


    It is - of course... but they must set up systems of production - and then measure the performance (of the system, not the people) - so that they know whether it is  effective - and improving.  This should not need hourly - or even daily -  intervention, especially if they have a good production supervisor.


    They need to give the supervisor responsibility, authority - and if necessary, training ... and let them 'keep on top of things'.  They should then check progress with the supervisor weekly or ask them for a regular report (brief and quantitative).


    The aim is to make the system work - then the owner/manager can plan for improvement and growth.


  • 21 Feb 2015 11:10 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There has been discussion on the Productivity Futures LinkedIn group this week discussing whether productivity and innovation are natural enemies or bedfellows.


    Of course I chimed in - well, I can't resist - and my view is that real productivity development - revolutionary rather than evolutionary - is unlikely without innovation.  Innovation can transform productivity.


    Tor Dahl reminded the group that productivity is about doing the right things in the right way 100% of the time.  Innovation can change what we do - and how we do it.  Systematic approaches to improvement - and the standardisation that goes with them - ensure we do the right things ALL the time.


    Any of you who want to try to run your organisations without innovation please inform me - I want to stay clear of investing in you.


  • 13 Feb 2015 7:36 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have started this blog before with words such as ..."I read a survey the other day..."


    Sometimes reading the results of these 'business surveys' can be interesting .. but too often it seems the results are so obviously in favour of the organisation who commissioned the research.


    I read a survey the other day (see its a habit) that suggested that dirty and untidy offices harm productivity.  No surprise there, then .... if 5S is good for factories, its good for offices ... but when you see that the report was commissioned by the Contract Cleaning Association, alarm bells start to ring.  Often you get little indication of how many people were surveyed or what the questions were ... just the results or 'conclusions'.


    Perhaps if I stopped reading these surveys, I would be more productive.


  • 07 Feb 2015 10:06 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Teams are sometimes more productive than the sum of their parts - because the 'chemistry' among the team is 'right'.


    We've all seen such 'chemistry' at work - in working teams and in personal relationships.


    But is it a lucky accident - or can we create it?


    Team building is not about taking teams on outward-bound, adventure experiences .... or getting them together to discuss emotional issues.


    It is about putting the right people together in the first place - understanding their abilities, strengths, weaknesses, preferences, sensibilities, and so on.  And about making sure they have the skills, the resources, the time and the support they need for the task in hand.... and making sure they share the overall vision for the outcomes of the task.


    We build a team by understanding the task, understanding individuals ... and then taking the time to think about ways in which different individuals will fit with each other - or can be made to fit with each other.


    Its not rocket science - but it certainly isn't a 'given' either.


  • 31 Jan 2015 10:05 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Productivity is a 'neutral' measure - it doesn't come with praise or blame attached.  


    To understand the reasons behind the figures we have to dig deeper, sometimes much deeper, than the headlines.


    For example, we might read that the construction industry has had a poor quarter in terms of measured productivity - but a scratch of the surface might reveal that bad weather caused lots of projects to be delayed and/or mothballed.


    Such 'environmental factors' are chance events .... or are they.  If we know that every winter the construction industry loses a large part of its productivity, wouldn't we expect them to do something about it - rather than simply bemoan the fact.


    Of course they can't change the weather ... but there are always things that can be done to ameliorate the effects.  Those things might not be cost effective ... but a little imagination and ingenuity should identify strategies for coping with cold, wet, frost or whatever.


    So, when people (and industries) say , "We've been unlucky",  don't take it at face value.  Challenge them to make their own luck in future.


  • 24 Jan 2015 9:52 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We all need a bit of ‘me-time’ … when we forget about all the tasks we have on our To-Do list, forget all our work pressures, forget our commitments and concentrate on ourselves.  ‘Me-time’ needn’t be long; it is the quality that matters.


    Well, of course the other thing that gives us real pleasure is ‘you-time’ given us by others; when people give us a present, their time, their company but above all, their consideration.


    This applies in a work environment.  A ‘pat on the back’ or a quick “Well done” is our ‘you-time’… it lets us know our work is appreciated, that we are making a difference, making a contribution that is valued.


    For this to work – as a motivating phenomenon - you have to give people tasks for which they are well-prepared … with the right equipment, the right tools, the right knowledge and the right skills.  Then reward.  Praise must be seen to be due and deserved.  If it is, the ‘warm glow’ that people feel raises their performance a couple of notches over quite a long time period.


    So, get the conditions right – and start to give your employees or your colleagues some valuable ‘you-time’.  It is an investment worth making.

  • 17 Jan 2015 8:35 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I've been doing a lot of writing recently.  I'm lucky - I find that words just come out - easily - in torrents.  My problem is not writing; its marshalling my thoughts and turning the words into something readable and sensible.  When I read back what I've written, I invariably think it is too long - too discursive - failing to get to the nub of the matter, to realise the main points of the argument.


    Of course I know I should plan, shape and construct - treat writing like any other project.  I should do the 'marshalling of thoughts' before I put fingers to keyboard.  My aims should be clear, I should have thought about the intended audience, identified my aims - and therefore my key points .. and then concentrated on getting across those key messages.


    Too many people plan projects how I write.  They know what the overall target is but they fail to plan the milestones, the waymarks that signal progress.  They ramble around in the general direction of the project aims, consuming resources that need not be deployed - and confusing those who are involved.


    It is often easier to work without detailed planning ... but it is a wasteful way of working.


    So, let's plan and then focus.  We know it makes sense!


  • 10 Jan 2015 9:21 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What will lead you to higher productivity in 2015?


    New products, new technologies, new structures?


    For most organisations, the answer is none of these.  Those that succeed in improving their productivity will do so by doing what they do now a little more effectively and/or efficiently.  Big gains come from lots of small, incremental gains.  Revolutions in productivity are rare.


    So, start your structured, disciplined, comprehensive review of your operations today - and look for those areas where you can shave a bit off cycle times, waiting times, and waste.


  • 03 Jan 2015 9:54 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I read recently that Coca-Cola has withdrawn its voicemail system from its Atlanta headquarters in an effort to improve productivity.  Callers now get a simple message suggesting they should use another means of contact.


    Voicemail was originally introduced as an 'added value' service for callers - saving them the need to call again - but is now seen as an 'overhead' that sucks time and effort out of the organisation.  It is worse than email in some ways since taking down details from a voice message can take multiple listenings.


    Presumably there are other services we have introduced as time-savers or value enhancers that will, in time, be regarded as unnecessary or positively harmful.


    email? text messaging?


    Or have Coca-Cola got it wrong.  Will all those callers who are forced to ring again or use some other means of contacting Coca-Cola personnel simply vote with their feet, become annoyed, not bother to pursue their contact.  I will be interested in any follow-up comments/actions once 'the dust settles'.


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