• 31 Dec 2020 4:53 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Was what you did and achieved in 2020 the best you could do, bearing in mind the limits caused by the pandemic?

    If not, you have to think about what you can do and achieve in 2021 to improve. There is no point repeating what you did last year and expecting better results.

    So, set yourself some performance goals - and then establish a set of action plans to achieve them.

    Simply having goals in mind and striving to achieve them is likely to improve what you do.  If not, you should at least improve your ability to plan and to monitor progress against plans.

    So, a minor win at least - and a major win at best.  What have you got to lose?

    Happy New Year!

  • 24 Dec 2020 10:35 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    It is Christmas day.

    I know some readers do not celebrate Christmas ... but I send greetings anyway.  

    I also remind you that 'festivities' are valuable in  the workplace - to celebrate, and cement, success.

    So, take what chances you can to combine seasonal cheer with rewards for effort and success.

  • 17 Dec 2020 10:10 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Every business - and every manager in that  business - should know what are the critical success factors … what must the company do - and do well - if they are to be successful.  What are the factors that underpin the mission.  

    The aim is not to identify lots of these - but the essential (‘critical’) ones.

    One probably relates in one way to customer satisfaction or service; another (especially in smaller businesses) might relate to the control of work-in-progress and/or cashflow.

    Once these are identified, the business should identify some measure that will tell them how well (or badly) they are doing in relation to each CSF.  These are the organisation’s key performance indicators (KPIs) - and there should be at least one that relates to each CSF.

    Finally, they need to identify actions that will make those indicators move in the right direction, showing progress is being made in relation to the CSFs and towards the mission.

    We like to think of a form of ‘golden thread’ that runs through everything the organisation does - from establishing the mission, to identifying CSFs, to identifying appropriate KPIs - and establishing acv set of action plans.

    The concept is very simple; execution  is harder - but failing to create the golden thread means some important factor may be overlooked.

  • 10 Dec 2020 5:44 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We have all been in situations where we have received efficient, friendly service from someone with a smile.  Efficient AND friendly service is so much more effective at creating customer well-being and customer loyalty than merely efficient service.  

    We remember it.  We value it. We react to it.

    It must be more than ‘smile training’ or the muttering of phrases such as ‘Have a Nice Day’. It should be genuine pleasure from someone who knows their role, knows how to interact with people - and is aware of the effect their attitude can have on customers.

    Some of this can be trained - but some of it depends on hiring those who already have the right attitude, keeping those people informed and engaged - and rewarding the behaviours that delight your customers. 

    Of course, friendly service cannot make up for inefficient or poor service.  Efficient service is the bedrock on which friendly service can be built.

    It is not rocket science but it is not common to receive such service.

    Think about it.  A smile might be your secret weapon to improve customer service and improve productivity.

  • 03 Dec 2020 7:57 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Lots of workers (in manufacturing) are concerned about losing their jobs to robots, as the inexorable rise of automated machines and AI gathers pace.

    One common ‘defence’ is to suggest that robots only take over the drudgery - leaving the humans to take on more skilled, more knowledge-based tasks, and making the workplace safer.

    This is a valid argument - unless, of course, you are one of the ‘drudges’ and do not find yourself elevated to the richer, knowledge-based work held out in front of you when the changes were proposed.

    Those of you older than 40 in the UK will know that a whole generation has grown up in former mining communities will very few alternative job opportunities.

    Once, young unskilled males had the options of mining, manufacturing or military.  Now those options are limited to filling orders in a warehouse, flipping burgers or driving a delivery van  - and automation is set to tackle at least two of those in the coming years.

    The dream when I was growing up was that such automation and technological advancement would allow us all to work fewer hours and yet live better lives. In practice technology has made a very small number of people very rich, left many people working much longer hours (or multiple jobs) and left quite a lot of people with no job at all.

    We generate more wealth - but we distribute it les equally.

    This is a recipe for short-term gain but longer-term unrest.

    We need an industrial strategy that is tied to a social strategy - and we need a productivity strategy that addresses all of social, environmental and economic benefit.

  • 26 Nov 2020 7:38 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    It is amazing how a problem, and especially a disaster, can focus the mind ... focus efforts of individuals and teams ... focus organisations - and even focus nations.

    The current pandemic has been very much ‘pan’ - crossing countries and continents. It has seen remarkable global cooperation and collaboration in the search for an effective vaccine, with even the beleaguered WHO (beleaguered thanks to the ex-president of the USA) providing coordination and communication.

    The result is a number of potential vaccines being developed and tested in a remarkably short time. - and the first glimmers of hope that the pandemic might soon be under control.

    This is a great lesson in facilitating innovation.

    Remember those 'C's - cooperation, collaboration, coordination and communication. But mainly remember the immense focus placed on the problem - and therefore on potential solutions. 

    When seeking innovation, you must have these conditions in place, serving the efforts of a team or teams who are completely focused on an agreed problem. 

    Of course this should preferably be done before disaster strikes :)

  • 19 Nov 2020 8:13 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The obvious answer is ‘Yes’ but is that the right answer?

    it depends on what you means by ‘worry about’.

    The CEO needs to worry about ‘big issues’ - those that directly affect achievement of strategic aims and the overall mission.

    Of course, productivity is important.  It is a useful measure of ‘future profit’, of competitiveness.  But is it a big issue?

    Yes - but not at the employee level.

    Even though the productivity of employees can be aggregated to the level of the organisation  it is not the determining factor of organisational productivity.  What matters is the productivity and effectiveness of the overall ‘system’, of the way various organisational components interact and interplay.

    So, productivity is definitely an issue for the CEO - but at the highest levels where it does indeed directly affect achievement of strategic aim and the overall mission. Senior and middle mangers should then address the productivity of the various organisational components - functions, processes, departments, teams - so that productivity is build from the ground (shop floor) up.

    The CEO then has no need to worry!

  • 12 Nov 2020 8:02 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Two trends have come together to transform attitudes to technology.

    Firstly, hardware (closely followed by software) has become so advanced that many tasks previously thought incapable of being computerised or digitised have now come within application areas

    Secondly, people have become used to using technology since they now use their mobile phones for a range of daily tasks.

    This means that:

    many companies can see opportunities to improve productivity by computerising or adding technology support to a range of processes;

    workers are not as frightened of using technology as they might have been even a decade ago.

    Of course this is a generalisation.  It is still incumbent on firms to ensure that all employees do, in fact, have the skills they need to work effectively with new technologies.  Firms should also work towards having compatible and complementary software with similar user interfaces and user experiences so that confusion is minimised.

    This is often best achieved by adopting a comprehensive, modular technology platform which can be tailored to the company’s needs but maintains a consistent approach across the platform and within all modules.

  • 05 Nov 2020 10:25 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A crisis like the one the world is at the moment changes political, economic and business thinking. Long-term strategy understandably gives way to survival thinking.... “How can we get through this?”

    So, longer (but not that long) issues such as climate change become very much a ‘future nice-to-consider’ rather than an impending issue.

    Individual firms (and especially small firms) just have to do what they need to survive the next few months (perhaps, unfortunately, the next few years) and short-term cost savings are more important than considered and balanced thinking.

    However, governments have a responsibility to think in the longer-term.  They need to be thinking NOW about the measures they need to take to raise productivity and innovation after the pandemic to raise the revenue to pay off the loans they have taken to pay for their current palliative measures.

  • 30 Oct 2020 7:27 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Which governments succeeded and which have failed in meeting the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic?  Well - as ever - it depends on your definition of success.

    There are two main factors against which the future will judge governments: the first is public health and well-being; the second is economic performance.   The first will be judged over the next 1 or 2 years; the second over the next 10 or 20 years.

    We can, though, make some suggestions as to how some governments are doing according to their current policies and actions.  I can only comment in any detail on the UK situation but it does seem as though too many governments have been too reactive and have little in the way of strategy governing what they do. Of course, this pandemic is fairly fast-moving and governments must react to developments - but this should be within a strategy/policy framework based on pre-pandemic thinking and scenario planning.  (We knew that some form of pandemic was a possibility based on global experience of SARS, bird-flu, ebola, etc.) 

    In terms of economic planning, a downturn in economic activity is generally a time to turn to future planning - and especially manpower planning... reviewing future manpower needs and adjusting education and training accordingly as well as investing in infrastructure.  I have seen little evidence of this - where is the government drive for training and skills development?  The UK government invested hugely in a ‘furlough’ scheme whereby employee wages were paid by the government to avoid companies having to make those employees redundant.  However, the government could have made such support contingent on those employees undergoing some form of skills development.  This was an opportunity missed to help create the potential for future productivity gains - and to help those employees feel valued.

    The pandemic is likely to be with us for some time.  It is not too late to impose some critical and creative thinking and establish some forward strategy in support of a vision for a post-pandemic nation.   

    Lobby your government to think before they (re)act.

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