• 27 Oct 2021 10:45 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The UK government is pouring m ore money in to the National Health Service.

    During the pandemic the NHS has been highly valued but terribly stretched and many of its normal day to day procedures have been cancelled or postponed all activity was focused on those with COVID.

    However, pouring money into the NHS without a longer-term plan is not efficient or effective. Pouring  money into equipment, for example, has no point if the skilled personnel to operate that equipment have not been recruited or trained.  Similarly, however, hiring lots of new staff has no point if the beds and ancillary equipment do not exist.

    Worse than this, pouring money in does not encourage higher productivity.  The NHS is a vast machine and s complex system. It must have many inefficiencies.  It needs an approach to re-evaluating structures, processes, procedures and skills to make it efficient and to create a vision for its future before the money goes in.

    Now which politicians have the courage to propose that, and the determination to carry it through?

  • 20 Oct 2021 11:35 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Electric cars, buses, even planes. They are all coming.  Vehicles are  improving all the time.   As sensors become more efficient, range is extended - and range anxiety is the one factor that puts buyers off electric vehicles.  If, as a driver, you can’t make it to the next charging point, you’re in trouble.  But for a plane?  

    Let's assume the problems of recharging can be solved.

    But where is the electricity coming from to charge all the batteries.

    Few countries seem to be taking a strategic view of their power generation … even those with ambitious targets for their rollout of electric vehicles.

    It is government’s role to set the strategy AND create the infrastructure.  Future productivity and prosperity depend on it.  

    A vision of a a carbon neutral economy is no good without the means of creating, and maintaining it.

  • 14 Oct 2021 8:03 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There have been many reports that the pandemic has proven the effectiveness and  productivity of home working.

    However, a lot of these reports were based on surveys of employees who say they feel more productive when working from home.

    I can see the advantages for employees of the flexibility that home working brings - the lack of a  commute, the ability to provide childcare, etc. 

    However, the lack of real engagement with work colleagues is bound to harm creativity snd innovation - perhaps not in the short term, but in the longer term, the lack of cross pollenisation of ideas turns off the creativity tap.

    So, organisations will do OK, and maybe even thrive for a while … but they should be aware that new ideas are less likely to emerge and develop on Zoom.

    And, of course, just because employees feel productive, it doesn’t mean they are.

    We need structured research involving proper productivity measures before we can confirm productivity gains or losses from home working.

  • 07 Oct 2021 10:28 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One useful principle to remember when dealing with incoming mail is to to try and handle everything only once.  Pick something up and deal with it so it needs no further action.  It is so obvious but all too often people sort incoming mail into different piles - according to category or priority.  Each one then has to be looked at again, even though the action needed might be both simple and short.

    The 2 minute rule is broadly similar. If you have a short amount of time available in your day, select a task that can be accomplished within that time period. This also avoids the multi-tasking productivity penalty whereby a continual switching of focus between tasks means you get distracted, confused, tired and unproductive.

    So don’t attempt to bite off a little bit of a large task; eat a whole one in your available 2 minutes (or whatever time is available).

    You will feel a greater sense of accomplishment; and you will be more productive.

  • 29 Sep 2021 11:17 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Mindfulness has been a bit of a buzzword over the last couple of years. It suggests that we should all be aware of who and what we are, and try to focus on the present moment instead of always worrying about what has happened in in the past, or what might happen in the future.

    One way of improving our mindfulness is to use all our senses.  Be aware of the sights, smells and sounds around you. This helps anchor you in the ‘here and now’, thinking of the present location and the present situation.

    If you have a problem worrying you, try to go outside for a (short) walk, to increase the sensations you can observe and the stimulation you receive from the environment.  With luck, while you stay in your ‘here and now’, your subconscious will process your problem - so you kill two birds with one stone. 

    After a couple of weeks of this ‘active sensing’, reflect on whether it has helped. Do you feel different, less stressed, more relaxed, more productive?

  • 22 Sep 2021 10:24 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There have been quite a few claims over the last five years that artificial intelligence (AI) will result in huge gains in productivity.   These huge gains don’t, though, seem to be arriving any time soon.

    When one looks back at the claims, many have been put out by AI start up companies keen to laud AI and their product in particular. 

    Very few of them, however, have hard data of productivity measurements to back up their claims. 

    I would expect a start up to have confidence in its product but after a year or two in the marketplace, I would expect confident claims to be replaced by case examples with measured, preferably verified, data.

    Until we see such case examples, we have to take the claims with a pinch of salt. We can hope for a productivity revolution, but should expect productivity evolution.  

  • 15 Sep 2021 3:11 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We’ve talked quite a few times about measuring productivity - to highlight (relative) inefficiencies, to set benchmarks and targets for improvement - but mainly to understand just what is happening in a process.  We measure throughput, quality levels, error levels, downtime, waiting time - anything that affects overall productivity. 

    Where possible, we try to use measures that already exist for some other purposes - to avoid the extra cost of a monitoring/measuring regime. 

    Now, life is starting to get a little easier. Many modern processes have some form of analytics built in -  but it is surprising  how many firms do not take advantage, usually because they do not have an overall measurement plan into which the analytics can be incorporated.

    So next time you invest in new plant or equipment, makes sure you know what analytics it can provide - and make sure key employees are trained in how to use - and interpret - these figures.  

    If you make the data part of a wider plan to measure and monitor performance and productivity, so much the better.  Your data analysts just might become as important as your process engineers.

  • 09 Sep 2021 12:15 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many of us use multiple messaging and productivity platforms in our work - Zoom, Teams, Slack and so on. Quite a few also regularly drop into Twitter or Facebook.

    Each time we read an interesting post or contribute to a discussion  we get a little feeling of satisfaction. We are participating and contributing. We feel good. 

    However, we may not be achieving. Completing a task is not the same as producing an appropriate outcome. Completing the task becomes the goal instead of the means to achieving a goal.

    So beware of simply feeling good, satisfied that you have done something.  Try to measure outcomes, not outputs.

  • 02 Sep 2021 9:42 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many people use ToDo lists and apps to keep track of their outstanding tasks.  

    There are also lots of apps available, with different flavours of operation.

    However, you need to remember that  a ToDo list (even one contained within a sophisticated app) is just that  - a list of tasks. It has no understanding of priority or urgency and certainly no knowledge of how a task should best be carried out.

    So, you need to apply all of this extra, external knowledge to the tasks in the list if the list is to prove useful. Don’t expect to become more productive by simply adding tasks to your ToDo list.  Even AI can’t help here - it takes good old, human knowledge, experience and judgement to properly prioritise and organise. So, Think.  Plan. Shape your ToDo list to match that thinking and you should get good results.  But don’t thank the app; thank yourself for thinking through the issues and addressing the tasks according to established criteria.  And remember, the list is always flexible; it can be changed as circumstances change to affect priorities.

    ToDo lists are good; but only when supported and backed up by a thinking human being.

  • 26 Aug 2021 9:11 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I saw in a recent survey that people who thought their productivity had increased (or at least stayed the same) whilst working from home during the pandemic, also reported that their mental well-being had improved.

    This could suggest that high productivity makes people feel better about themselves or conversely that poor mental health results in poor productivity.

    The third possibility (and perhaps most likely) is that both are true.

    This in turn suggests that companies if you want high productivity from your WFH workforce, you should pay attention to, and put resources into, the psychological

    well-being of your workers, especially into supporting those that are feeling isolated and need social contact to replace the ‘office vibe’.

    When thinking about a return to office working, perhaps a structured, hybrid approach is best - choosing the work location according to the project/task being worked on.

    So, not one, not the other, but an appropriate blend of remote and home working might best replace what you have now.

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