• 01 Apr 2016 8:02 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What are the secrets to productivity development at the national level?

    Well, after many years experience in a range of countries, I would have to say "Don't ask me".

    Thee is no panacea, no golden bullet.

    If I had to offer any advice, it would be to ;

    • Get the macroeconomy right - reduce regulation, open up markets
    • Invest in infrastructure (especially communications - roads, ports, airports - and telecommunications)
    • Invest in skills  (basic, vocational and technical).
    • Be lucky!

  • 25 Mar 2016 6:39 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A number of agencies, and even countries, have attempted to create measures of 'happiness' - as an alternative to using GDP to value the work undertaken by people.

    This needs further work - but shows some promise. Lots of activity is currently not 'caught' in official GDP figures.  The work of volunteers, for example ... or the work of people that goes into 'free' services.  When you use 'free' apps on your smartphone of tablet, your work might be ,more productive - and this might contribute to a 'better' GDP figure .... but often it won't.

    The whole point of productivity is to make people more 'wealthy' - but we need to measure wealth in ways that reflects the priorities of citizens and workers.  If people value leisure time over consumer goods, we might prioritise reduced working hours over increased GDP - and we might prefer to measure something like 'well-being' (or even 'happiness') over simple economic activity.

  • 18 Mar 2016 8:01 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK Office for National Statistics has just issued time series data for labour productivity across a number of years and for a number of sectors.  Quite interesting (for productivity nerds like me) but ultimately unhelpful in so far as the level of aggregation is so high that it has no effect on behaviour or future performance.

    What the government needs to know is ... What do we need to do to make the data move in the right direction?

    Interpreting this data - to result in strategy - is difficult.

    The old adage - You get what you measure - fails at this level of aggregation.

  • 11 Mar 2016 8:26 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Some of you will now that I have been in Bahrain for the last week helping prepare for the World Productivity Congress which will be held here in November. (see worldproductivitycongress.net for details.)

    Conversations obviously covered the productivity of Bahrain and its move towards becoming a post-oil economy.  Lots of Bahrainis look at Dubai as a possible model - creating an exciting, vibrant economy without oil revenue.  But Bahrain should not be looking to be a second Dubai - but a first Bahrain.  It has lots of advantages: it is a relatively open, diverse society with a rich history and culture; it has a good technology infrastructure; it has an open economy with no taxes on the movement of capital; most Bahrainis speak English- the international language of business.

    What Bahrain has to do now is to find a 'usp' - an area of economic activity that it can make its own and that builds on existing strengths.

    We are hoping that the World Productivity Congress will leave a legacy that will help transform Bahrain's economy; the Board of the World Confederation of Productivity Science has offered to facilitate and participate in discussions with Bahrain's leaders and development agencies to further those discussions.

    The future starts in November.

  • 05 Mar 2016 5:34 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I am not a political animal - except insofar as I think I understand the role of government in creating the infrastructure required for productivity development (and have offered advice to quite a few governments over the years).

    However, I must say that I am astonished by the current political scene in the USA.

    The Republican party seems to be doing its best to tear itself apart.

    The only comment I will make on Donald Trump is that, from this distance, he seems to be a 'populist' - telling people what he thinks they want to hear - with little ideology backing up his rhetoric.

    Hopefully if he ever got to power, he would moderate some of his views - and take advice from those with more political experience.

    I fear if he does not, the USA is in for a period of instability -and falling productivity.

  • 26 Feb 2016 6:13 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK languishes at the bottom of most productivity league tables.  We seem to be a low skill, low performing country.  Lots of 'good' jobs have been taken out of the economy and replaced with part-time, low skill employment.

    The UK must start to invest in skills - and skill-based employment sectors.  Otherwise it will continue its 'race to the bottom' - lots of jobs but no satisfying employment or careers.

    Will someone please tell George Osborne?

  • 19 Feb 2016 9:40 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    India has the highest population of livestock in the world and produces a whopping 147 million metric tonnes of milk, a number also unsurpassed by any other country. However,  when it comes to productivity, it is way behind most other nations -  Israel’s productivity is 10 times greater.

    India is starting to realise what it needs to do - but is not yet sure how to go about it.

    This is really important.  Knowing WHY one needs to improve is the key catalyst in determining HOW to improve.  

    Unless the will is there, the tools and techniques have no power.

    So, expect to see improvements in India's agri-productivity in the next decade.  They are on the starting blocks.

  • 12 Feb 2016 7:20 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I saw a piece on the web the other day that suggested that sensible, progressive governments should offer incentives to organisations to improve their productivity.

    But organisations surely want to improve their productivity because it reduces their costs, improves their performance and competitiveness and improves their profits.

    If this is not enough of an incentive, I worry about the kinds of people running modern businesses.

    They may not know HOW to improve their productivity but they should know WHY they need to.

    So government support should be in that 'HOW' domain - offering guidance and support ... but more importantly, improving the infrastructure that supports higher productivity and creates potential for performance growth.

  • 05 Feb 2016 6:05 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK continues to languish behind the rest of the G7 in terms of its quoted productivity performance - yet my personal experience is that performance of the UK labour force has risen remarkably over the last few years.  This suggests that either I am mistaken (certainly a possibility as mine is only anecdotal evidence) or the official figures are in some way 'wrong'.

    Official figures measure GDP per worker or per hour worked - but what happens to outsourced work.  Are those hours worked counted? Is that contribution to GDP counted? Do other countries count figures in the same way? Has anyone carried out any recent research into the compilation of these comparative figures?  How does a shift from manufacturing to services affect the figures?

    I think a review/overhaul might be in order.

  • 29 Jan 2016 7:05 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The world is getting into another economic mess as it reacts to slowing growth in China.

    However, countries in the West should look to their own performance.

    I know China's slowdown means there is less demand for Western goods and services ... but this means that now is a good time to concentrate on building the infrastructure needed to underpin higher productivity.

    When the upturn comes - as it will - we need to be ready ... with a supply of competitive and innovative goods and services.

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