• 13 Mar 2021 10:01 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Before lockdown many firms were experimenting with networking/collaborative tools, hoping to improve the inter-connectedness of departments, people and processes.  

    When the lockdown hit, many of them accelerated the move to the various tools and technologies simply to keep the organisation functioning from lots of home locations.  Even those who were not already experimenting were forced to adopt new networking and remote working technologies.

    Now lockdown is at an end (or nearing its end), you have an opportunity to review the use of the tools that have supported remote working - identifying what worked … and what didn’t. 

    Understandably, there will be a tendency to stick with the tools that have become familiar… but we productivity professionals know that there is a danger in accepting the existing satisfactory situation at the expense of missing the chance to move to a better one.

    So, the review is important.  First, though, it is important for you to review what you want the tools to do, to achieve.  Then you can review how well each tool meets your needs.

    So, make sure the lockdown has some positive results and leads you into an improved and more productive future.

  • 04 Mar 2021 7:32 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Young children take some time to accept that delayed gratification can sometimes  be an improvement on instant.  For example, waiting for a treat can make that treat better - the period of anticipation can heighten the pleasure.  Children also learn that saving small amounts of money to build funds fort a bigger purchase increases the choices available.

    Some businesses and businessmen never seem to learn this lesson.  They always aim for short term profit rather than realising that investing gains can significantly increase longer-term gains.

    Strategy is a device for imposing a longer-term view.  The vision must be longer-term and will consist of shorter-term projects and activities that move the organisation towards this longer-term vision.

    Of course, all stakeholders have to accept this need for a longer-term view … so sometimes it is necessary to ‘sell’ the vision, and hence the strategy.

    The gratification (and results) can be more intense if you wait, however.

    Ask a growing child. 

  • 25 Feb 2021 10:25 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Creativity is what will see organisations blossom as we (hopefully) near the end of this pandemic.

    In an office situation, creativity is aided by people bouncing ideas off their co-workers,  They can do this by simply walking down the corridor. When everyone is working from home, you have to find different ways of achieving this. One way is to schedule ‘bounce sessions’ where people with an idea get to present it to a colleague (preferably) or superior. These should be short, crisp sessions (15 minutes should be enough) via telephone or video conference designed to elicit the core of the idea, not details. This could be a regular occurrence, perhaps with colleagues paired up as ‘idea buddies’.  As ever with remote communications, it helps if the buddies have established a working relationship on a face-to-face basis before ‘home isolation’ started.

    We are not looking for detailed review or evaluation of ideas - simply confirmation that an idea is worth pursuing.  It helps the idea generator keep on track and means they receive positive feedback.  This helps them focus and move forward to develop the ideas with confidence.

  • 18 Feb 2021 7:37 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Remote working has been necessary during the pandemic - the alternative for many was no working.     Many organisations have adjusted to the need for remote technologies and remote communication.

    Have they, though, adjusted to the need for remote team building?

    Some of the tools and techniques of team bonding and team building work remotely.  Others do not.  

    Organisations should think carefully about the makeup of their teams, and the degree to which teams have established themselves as effective and productive teams before they are forced to work remotely.  Those who are already established may make the transition easily and successfully …. but it might depend on the nature of the work and the degree to which it requires mutual confidence and trust.

    You might consider ice-breaker games (for new teams), team quizzes and puzzles, virtual scavenger hunts, reward ceremonies  and so on - anything which improves communication,. engagement, morale and well- being.

    It is ineffective to simply assume teams will bond and be productive; you have to create cohesion and cooperation.  Teams are vital cogs in your organisational machinery - and just like your machinery  and equipment, regular maintenance is essential.

  • 11 Feb 2021 5:24 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many business leaders know that they should be thinking of digitally transforming their operations to harness the power and connectivity of modern electronic devices and networks.  

    However too many of them approach ‘transformation’ in a cautious, tentative way.  They pilot technologies or apply them to small parts of the organisation ‘to see if they work’.

    The problem is that the benefits only start to accrue when the whole organisation becomes interconnected and data flows freely across organisational boundaries.  At lesser levels of application, costs are often higher than the benefits.  

    Business leaders want to ‘test and learn’ so they apply technology ta a distinct organisational silo - department, divison or process.  Not surprisingly, when the results are less than spectacular, they consider the pilot a failure and cease investing.

    True transformation needs bold leadership and a holistic approach. The key is to integrate and interconnect several such pilots and assess the collective, cumulative impact.

    Of course, there is an element of risk - and it is often worth working with a third party integrator or advisor with existing experience … but the leadership must be committed to transformation, rather than simple incremental improvement.

    Beyond piloting lies productivity - and profitability!

  • 04 Feb 2021 8:31 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Evolution is normally a more stable process than revolution.  Changes are incremental, slow and secure, embedded before the next change occurs.

    So, if you can, you are probably better trying to evolve your business into an improved, more productive organisation.

    The process still needs to be managed. You need to ensure the organisation is prepared for evolution.  The direction of travel needs to be determined. Staff need the necessary skills for the changed situation.  Technological changes need to be planned.

    Its still not an easy process but an evolution from the present to a new vision can be managed and shaped if addressed systematically. 

    Start now!

    (Of course, if the pandemic or market forces have put your business at risk or in crisis, you might need a revolution.  Good luck with that!)

  • 28 Jan 2021 7:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Can productivity be raised too far?

    Is high productivity ever a problem?

    Well, it depends on how you look at it and the context/situation you are considering/measuring.

    For example, it is possible, by applying productivity improvement to one part of a process or sequence of activities, to create a bottleneck where the throughput of the target activity is greater than the productivity of the activities of the other parts of the process.

    So, productivity needs to be optimised for the whole process, not maximised for any one part of it.

  • 21 Jan 2021 8:39 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you can’t control events or situations, you might find yourself getting anxious.  This is negative thinking, likely to have an adverse effect on your performance and productivity.

    In such situations, it is important to identify what you can control and focus on those things.

    For example, when the pandemic hit, it was an external, major event.  You, within your organisation, were powerless to stop the threat affecting your organisation and your people.

    But, you could control how the organisation reacted to the threat.  You could, previously, have controlled how the organisation planned for such an emergency.

    You could control the external messaging with stakeholders.

    Never waste time worrying about factors affecting your organisation, your processes or your people if you have no influence or control.  Turn the focus inward, into the organisation and work with those factors where you do have influence or control.  

    You will feel better and be more effective.

  • 14 Jan 2021 10:08 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There is some research evidence from India that suggests that providing farmers with information and advice about the use of pesticides, high yield seeds, weather forecasts, etc is more important than ‘showing them what to do’.  Farmers react more positively when you leave responsibility with them.  

    Of course, today the technology exists to provide advice and information ‘just in time’ via mobile phones. If an advice service can provide information on seeds as the sewing season start, it is much better than giving a lecture 6 months before the second starts. 

    In fact, this is a general principle.

    Try to identify what information people need to be more productive and provide it in a convenient and timely form just as they need it. 

  • 08 Jan 2021 7:50 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    As we gain hope, and maybe even confidence, with the first anti-virus injections, it is time to reflect on the effects of the pandemic and form plans for the future.

    There are two main items of consideration.

    One is your readiness for the pandemic when it happened.  Did you handle it quickly? Well?

    Was such a scenario within your business continuity planning?  Should it have been?

    What would you change about the way in which you handled it?  

    What should you now change to ensure you are better prepared for any repeat?

    The second item to consider is the lessons learned. 

    What have you learned about your organisation?  

    What have you learned about remote working?

    What have you learned about remote management of staff?

    What changes will you make based on this learning?

    If nothing will change, you are missing an opportunity for improvement.  If you miss opportunities for improvement, you will lose competitiveness.

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