• 21 Jun 2019 7:31 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I talked recently to the Young Fabians (a UK-based left wing think tank) about "Britain's puzzlingly poor productivity".  In such situations, people often want to know the 'secrets' or the 'answers'. The YF were too smart to expect that. They understand that complex problems require hard thought, experimentation and multiple potential interventions.

    Of course, experience helps. I have worked around the globe and have some understanding as to what works in particular situations - with a different geography, history, culture and so on. This shortens the list of options and reduces the time for experimentation.... but there is still no guarantee of success. Pulling the 'big levers' is often affected by the little cogs ... those little things that keep the whole machine running. Forgetting this is a big mistake.

    In any situation, you have to understand who has the power, the influence and the commitment to making things work.

    Generic principles apply - but may have to be overridden by local knowledge. That is why it is absolutely essential to 'go to gemba' and find out for yourself what is happening, what the current context is, who the key stakeholders are and what might or should influence the approach you take.

    The members of the organisation (or the leaders of the country) are often too involved. They find it hard to step back and 'read' the current situation. Politicians, in particular, find it difficult to set aside their core political beliefs and act only on their core values. They 'know' what they want to work and are generally very surprised if and when it doesn't.

    So, we need people like the Young Fabians to keep an open mind but stay true to their core values, to read the situation they are examining and to construct interventions, with advice from 'experts' that they are sure fit the particular context and situation. We might then grow a generation of genuinely radical thinkers.

  • 13 Jun 2019 10:28 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Interesting question, is it not?  I guess you found it interesting or you wouldn't be reading this.

    So what do you need?

    Well fundamentally - just one thing.

    A burning desire to identify and eliminate waste in all its forms - waste of resources, waste of effort, waste of talent, waste of time and so on. 

    Once you've learnt to identify waste, it can become something of an obsession.  Seeing people wasting their time and effort makes you angry.  Seeing people who create processes that makes people waste their talent and effort makes you even angrier.

    So, start to attune your radar.  If you don't know the 7 wastes of Lean, read up about them - and start to look for them throughout your organisation - and everywhere else. .  Calm your anger and think about how you would organise things differently to avoid the waste.  You have now worked out how to make your business more productive.

  • 07 Jun 2019 7:40 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I used to ask myself the question...

    What have you done today to improve the organisation?

    Now I am older and wiser, I ask ...

     What have you done today to improve your life?

    After all, work is part of life and we are understandably being asked to think about work-life balance.

    Too many people don't think about their non-work life ... yet there is quite a bit of evidence to show that those who do - and have an active, balanced life, are more effective during work time,

    Remember also, that life is what happens whilst you are waiting for something to happen. If you don't take control of your life, you are left at the mercy of ..... fate.

    So, regularly ask yourself ...

    What have I done today to improve my life?

    What am I planning to improve my life?

    Your organisation will be better for it!

  • 31 May 2019 5:44 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    UK productivity has been bad for quite a long time and productivity growth is currently low. 

    What impact will BREXIT (the departure of the UK from the European Union) have?

    Well, we don't know all the implications but here is one scenario.

    The UK is currently a high employment, low wage economy with lots of people working part-time.  This means that for some time it has often been easier for firms to expand production by hiring new staff than by investing in capital equipment.

    When the free movement of labour from EU countries ends, there may, in certain industries, be a shortage of the right people with the right skills.  This will create problems .... but in the medium term, it will make capital investment seem more attractive and more financially viable. So, in the longer term, we may see a gradual move to a higher wage but more capital-intensive economy ...  with an associated productivity rise.

    Its an ill wind ..... but remember, this is a rise in the recorded productivity figurer, not actual productivity.

  • 24 May 2019 7:27 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Do you use a task manager to help you schedule tasks and activities?  Many people do.  There are many apps out there to help you.

    Do you wake each morning, look at your list of outstanding tasks and feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you should achieve that day.

    You are setting yourself up for failure.

    At the end of the day, you probably look at the list again and find you are carrying over quite a few of those tasks until the next day.  You therefore feel you have 'failed'.

    This is repeated each day, increasing the sense of frustration, of pressure, of failure.

    This is no way to become productive.

    What you should do is to determine which of the tasks should be done by you - and which by others.  You should maintain 3 or 4  important tasks to be done each day - others should be eliminated, automated or delegated.  You can then complete those tasks, tick them off and feel a sense of achievement,  Your morale will rise, your stress lower - and you will become more productive.

    You can also, then, throw the task manager away.

  • 17 May 2019 7:43 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    What is the most important thing to be done in a business?

    Is it creating the vision?

    Is it setting strategy?

    Is it managing people?

    Is it building a supply chain?

    Well, all of these are important - but perhaps the biggest single thing to be done is to build relationships - with all stakeholders - other managers, investors, employees, customers, and people in the local communities affected by the organisation’s activities. All of these have an interest in what the company does - and how it does it; some have the ability to influence the outcomes.  We need to share information with them, understand their concerns, recognise the contributions they have to make and listen to them when making decisions - especially those decisions that affect them.  We should treat them as a valuable resource - able to improve the decisions we take and increase our chances of success. We need to recognise when conflict may occur - and take steps to avoid or minimise it.  If we build positive relationships, we do indeed maximise the chances of success - and we build trust and confidence.

    If you are unsure of the quality of the relationships you have with your stakeholders, or not confident in your ability to build positive relationships, then you owe it to yourself - and your business - to seek out support, training or other forms of help that can transform your ability to build those positive snd supportive relationships.

    It might be the most important thing you ever do!

  • 10 May 2019 8:52 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We are often asked to reflect on 'what we think'.  But, rarely, on how we think.

    Many of us are charged with making improvements, with innovation, with important planning and decision-making.  How we think - and how well we think - is therefore important.

    Yet most of us don't know.  We think how we think - how we have always thought.  We haven't had thinking lessons.  We developed our thinking processes based on our education - but, even there, there were no lessons on thinking.

    So, we may think illogically, with bias, with pre-conceived (perhaps out-of-date) notions and on the basis of insufficient or imperfect information.  If we have the occasional 'flash of brilliance', we congratulate ourselves - forgetting that the rest - the majority - of our thinking is far less than perfect.

    So, perhaps it is time to do some basic research (reading) about critical and creative thinking - and start to think about how you think, why you think like you do - which leads to why you behave like you do. It might change what you do (because you've changed why you do it).

  • 03 May 2019 7:44 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    "Our people are our greatest assert:".  So say most companies.  Yet few of them behave as if they really believe it.

    They fail to involve, empower - even train and develop - their employees and then are surprised when those employees fail to maximise their contribution - if they stay at all.  They are much more likely to seek an employer who will look after them.

    So, treating your employees well makes all kinds of sense  - especially financial.  The costs of poor performance coupled with the costs of high labour turnover might break your business; they will certainly make you less competitive.

    So, take the time to think about how you might improve the participation and performance of your employees.  It makes sense!

  • 26 Apr 2019 8:00 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have been involved with training individuals and groups for many years.  I think i know something about what works - and what doesn't.

    My main lesson is that 'doing' works - getting trainees to undertake activity to reinforce any knowledge they might have gained.  The closer the activity is to a real-life work situation for which the trainees are being prepared, the better.

    This is why I am really looking forward to the impact that VR and AI are going to have on training.

    When we can put trainees in a near-to-real-life situation and observe how they get on, the more we can tune our training, mentoring, coaching and skills development processes to deliver maximum on-the-job impact.  VR is about to enter the mainstream - getting cheap enough to deploy to practical -sized  training groups.  It will then take a while for we trainers to learn how to exploit it ... but the results could be amazing.

  • 19 Apr 2019 7:20 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Efficiency is not enough.

    I have spent much of my life urging companies to become more efficient - and helping them to do do.

    But, of course, I know that some do not go far enough.

    Becoming more efficient should not be an end in itself.

    Becoming efficient creates capacity - it gives an organisation the headroom to start thinking about doing different things, adding more value, innovating.

    So, regard your journey to greater efficiency as a stepping stone. 

    Refine your business to create that capacity to transform it in the longer term.

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