• 12 Jan 2018 10:15 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Supercar manufacturer McClaren is to create almost 200 jobs in South Yorkshire, UK manufacturing chassis which are currently made in Europe and sent to the UK to form the basis of the assembly process.  Why did McClaren choose South Yorkshire?  Because South Yorkshire (and Sheffield in particular) has a history of investing in Advanced Manufacturing techniques and skills.


    My colleague Tom Tuttle, a board member of the World Confederation of Productivity Science, in his recent book looked at the reasons why some areas in America were more successful in securing inward investment than others - and one key point to emerge was that manufacturers take factories (and jobs) to where the skills are.


    So Sheffield snd South Yorkshire are getting a return on their investment and securing a manufacturing future for the region.


    It is good to see their long-term commitment bearing fruit.


  • 05 Jan 2018 12:21 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Australia's Productivity commission has slated the public sector for its poor productivity. Yet when you read the report what it is really saying is that the public sector, unlike the private sector, fails to measure productivity - and therefore is unable to know whether it is moving in the right direction.


    This seems a little harsh.


    How does the Australian public sector compare to the US, the UK, Canada or Denmark?


    I don't know - but I suspect neither does the Productivity Commission.  Making conclusions on the basis of insufficient information is not what we expect f®om a body charged with promoting productivity.


    So give the public sector a chance. Give them some targets to achieve - and chastise them if they fail to meet them.  But don't criticise them for not achieving unknown targets.


  • 29 Dec 2017 6:42 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We are about to enter a New Year.  Many people at this time make resolutions (personal promises) to change some aspect of their behaviour - like giving up drinking alcohol, going on a diet, managing their temper better, or whatever.


    I suggest that instead of concentrating on the personal, you go external and think about the behaviours you can change in those around you.


    Though the focus becomes external, almost certainly the only way you can change the behaviours of those around you is to modify your own behaviour first.  This teaches an important lesson about building, developing and improving interpersonal relationships. How people treat you and deal with you depends on how you treat them and deal with them.  The most important thing you can do is to listen - actively listen - to what they are telling you ... and add vision, to see what their body language is adding to what they say.


    Active listening is an important but under-used skill. It needs practice. 


    Start on January 1st and you might have it mastered in a short time. You will then understand and respond more effectively.  If you do, you will be a better manager, leader and productivity improver.


    That must be worth a try - and a little effort.


    Good luck!


  • 22 Dec 2017 3:26 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Data over the last decade suggests that labour productivity has been rising in developed countries but overall (or multi-factor) productivity has declined.


    This means that people are working harder but 'the system' is letting them down.


    We have been saying for 50 years that organisations need to work smarter, not harder.


    Now is the time for companies  to invest in new technology, up-to-date equipment and machinery (including the Internet of Things) - and (especially) in skills for the workforce.


    If enough do it, we might have a 'smart revolution' - and rising productivity at last.


  • 15 Dec 2017 8:26 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When nations establish productivity campaigns and initiatives, one feature is often financial support for companies (snd perhaps  universities and support agencies).


    Firms are encouraged to apply for grant funding for additional resources or for specific support (for advice and consultancy, for example).


    Some firms are obviously successful - and some are not.


    The problem with such an approach is twofold.


    Firstly, it encourages firms to become good at applying for grants - rather than being good at their core competencies.  Firms learn how to play this new game.


    Secondly, it can help 'shore up' poorly performing firms - which does little for longer-term national productivity.


    So, my recommendation is - don't do it .By all means (I would encourage you to) have a productivity campaign - but don't make grant funding central to it.




  • 08 Dec 2017 7:14 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Sometimes you hear or see something which really surprises you - and makes you think hard about your existing frame of reference.  Take this which I heard on the radio the other day...


    A scientist who takes his inspiration for new inventions/innovations from the animal world (sorry, I can't recall his name) suggested that the received wisdom about the wheel being the greatest ever invention was fundamentally flawed.  The result he suggested of this flaw is that we have spent fortunes paving the world.  If we hadn't invented the wheel but had spent our time developing transport that could cope with uneven ground (as animals can), we would have saved all that investment - and had much more flexible transport systems.


    What other received wisdom has similar 'flaws?  How can we unlearn and undevelop in ways that will create higher productivity?



  • 01 Dec 2017 10:55 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I saw a piece recently suggesting that India has to choose between its traditional focus on spirituality and morality - and focus on modern profit-focused business methods.


    What say I? I say 'Rubbish!"


    There is no dichotomy here.  The two are perfectly in harmony.  Indeed I would argue that morality (but perhaps less so, spirituality) is essential.  Building a mission and vision on a core set of values with a strong moral focus is a good way to engage employees - and have them make a strong, positive contribution.


    So there is no choice.  We can - and indeed should -  have both!


  • 24 Nov 2017 2:56 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We expect our staff to work hard and to do their best.  But what is 'best'. I would contend it is something to do with always being aware of the company's mission, vision and values ands always acting in furtherance of the mission and vision whilst acting in accordance with company values ... and wherever and whenever possible doing so pro-actively off their own initiative.


    This, of course, begs the question - do our employees know, and understand the company's mission and vision - and are they aware of the core values we expect?  If my 'definition, is right, and they do not know these things, they cannot be expected to do their best.  If they don't, it is our fault, not theirs.


  • 17 Nov 2017 8:20 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK's productivity performance - as reported by the Office for National Statistics and used in international performance tables- has been woeful recently.  I know I have argued in the past that the measurement scheme seems inherently flawed but that is irrelevant to today's argument.


    There seems a consensus emerging that the figures are so bad - and have been for so long - that the problem is insoluble.  Certainly no-one seems  to have come up with a plan to address the situation.


    I know there is no magic bullet - no quick and easy fix .... but we can tackle the issue by making sure we take a holistic approach in which government does what it can (with infrastructure and skills), organisations do what they can (with long-term investment, improvement programmes and skills), unions do what they can (with constructive partnerships and skills) and education/training does what it can (with targeted knowledge and skills).


    You can probably see a theme emerging here.  We need a high skill, multi-skill workforce.  We don't currently have one.  We perhaps need a lesser focus on knowledge (more easily provided in a high-tech, AI world) and a greater one on competence and flexibility.  If we invest in a high skill workforce, everyone benefits - the individuals with the skills, companies who need the skilled workforce - and the nation with higher productivity.


    Perhaps after all, there is a magic bullet!



  • 10 Nov 2017 3:00 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Some universities and colleges in the US are now being funded according to a productivity-based formula. Does this make sense?


    What is the productivity of a university? How is it measured?  Number of degrees per $1,000 of investment?


    Get it wrong - and universities will play the measurement game - making the figures move in the direction which benefits them financially even if this is not the most appropriate measure.


    This is not to suggests that productivity is not important - after all universities are spending public money - and should be held accountable for it.


    But if we get the measure wrong - we get the wrong result. Universities might benefit - but society won't.  So we need a good, healthy debate on what the measure - or measures - should be.


    The same is true in your business.  If you measure the wrong things, you get the wrong behaviours - and the wrong results. 


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