• 16 Apr 2020 10:29 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One of the lessons to emerge from the Coronavirus situation is the need for governments to adopt an evidence-based decision-making strategy.

    Businesses, too, should make decisions based on firm evidence and reliable metrics. Gone are the days of decision-making by whim or by gut feel (unless you sore president of the USA, of course).

    This means that in the good times, businesses need to establish the measurement regimes that will provide the data and the metrics in the bad times.

    if we have reliable measures in place, we can see trends (so we have a better understanding of the future) and make predictions.

    Of course there will still bee uncertainties - but remember  there old adage…. what really hurts you the most are not the things that you know or the things that you don’t know - but the things that you don’t know you don’t know. If you know where your knowledge is lacking, you might be able to fill the gaps with interpolation (or  extrapolation) from known data … but if you don’t know what you don’t know,. you obviously don’t know you need to fill in the gaps.

    Ignorance may be bliss - but it is a poor foundation on which to base long-term planning and decision-making.

  • 09 Apr 2020 10:27 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    ‘Unprecedented’ is certainly the word of 2020 (apart from Coronavirus, of course)  - well, it is in the UK.  Every commentator talks about ‘these unprecedented times’.

    And, of course, we are living in unprecedented times. Economies around the world are in tatters. Many people are working from home, many are furloughed, many have lost their jobs.  

    We don’t yet know how well these economies will recover.

    The world has changed in ways we don’t yet understand.

    But unprecedented times require an unprecedented response. Those firms that will recover are those that are looking at the current situation as a a challenge, a problem to be solved, even an opportunity. They are thinking about the recovery and planning their strategy. They realise competitors may be weak or non-existent. Markets may have changed. You should be looking to identify those industries that will recover first and seeking opportunities to trade with such industries. You should seek to identify possible customer and consumer changed expectations. You should  look to identify new markets, emerging sectors, new regulation, new freedoms, new support channels and other changes to the environment and to your operating context.

    Even the worst of situations bring about  opportunities to those who have the ability to think in unprecedented ways about their potential future, their desired future state.

    If you are not already looking for such opportunities, you may be too late!

  • 03 Apr 2020 7:38 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I make no apology for returning to the subject of Coronavirus - after all, no other phenomenon has had quite the same effect on the global economy.

    Last week, we reflected on lessons we might learn from the changes we have had to make to respond to the virus - and, of course, to governmental restrictions on individual and organisational activity.

    One of the changes is the encouragement of, and then insistence on, home working.  This has given firms a useful chance to experiment with, or refine, their approaches to supporting remote working.

    I am sure all is not perfect for many companies -  but if you use this as a 'live experiment' you should be able to create a future where home working is effective for many employees - and where costs (of space) are lowered.

    At least some good might arise from this awful situation.

  • 26 Mar 2020 10:53 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Whenever something bad affects your life (like Coronavirus), it is worth taking time occasionally to reflect on the situation an to look for any positives you can find.

    Of course, I am reflecting (in this blog post) on the productivity implications of the virus - all of which are negative.

    The entire global economy is in disarray. Productivity is not on the agenda for any business or any government.They have too many other worries.

    So, where do we find positives.  Well, we could use this situation as a kind of rehearsal for the world we will have to move to as fossil fuels run out.

    We are currently seeing little international travel, less national travel, more home working, less electrically-based entertainment - and so on. 

    We are also seeing a rebirth of ‘community.  

    We are seeing social media used as a force for good.

    Are we coping?  Well, yes we are.  Off course we have no choice - but we might learn the kinds of things we have to do to make life tolerable and even enjoyable in a fossil-fuel-free world.

    Wise governments - as part of their quantitative easing and general support measures - will invest in infrastructure and will record what is happening to society as various restrictions are put in place.

    When this is all over (my guess is in about 9 months time ), they will have ’evidence’ on which to build a better world - a productive world still, but productive in other ways.

  • 19 Mar 2020 10:40 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When we carry out future -gazing or horizon scanning, we can often see likely large-scale changes ahead. For example, self-driving vehicles are coming. We are not sure when but they are coming. What does this mean for those who currently have driving jobs?

    Well, many of them will simply lose their jobs. However, take parcel delivery. Someone has to load the van - though not necessarily the ‘driver’. Someone has to carry the parcel to the customer. So the van probably needs some attendant - though this job might be lower-skilled and lower-paid then ‘driver’.

    Take school bus drivers. It is unlikely that buses will carry groups of school kids without some form of adult supervision. So, a security guard or supervisor is needed, 

    In all future scenarios, the implications of a technological change have to be thought through; the societal and cultural implications must be considered. Change of any magnitude is rarely simple or obvious.

    Don’t just think about the future. Consider it with some thought.Think about how it affects your specific company.  This thinking should affect how you act in response to the change and the degree to which you will be successful in addressing it.

  • 12 Mar 2020 11:31 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We should be able to assume that most business leaders are aiming to improve the productivity and performance of their organisation.  Yet, not many of them seem to be successful in doing this. This suggests these leaders are doing the wrong things or not doing the right things correctly.

    I think many of therm have an incomplete or erroneous view of what drives productivity - especially over the longer-term.

    For example, many use cost-cutting to drive profits up .... but they cut those elements that drive productivity growth - like skilled workers.  Using low-skilled, cheap labour might raise profits in this quarter (and earn the leader a bonus) but it damages the fabric of the organisation and lowers its longer-term potential.

    And, generally, low-skilled labour is less likely to engage in cultural shifts to support continuous improvement and employee-led problem solving.

    Actually, in those statements lie another major problem - reward systems for senior executives. If their remit is long-term strategy, their rewards must be calculated on long-term performance, not short-term profits.

    Shareholders need to make business leaders accountable for longer-term decisions and results.

  • 05 Mar 2020 11:30 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A lot of productivity writers and bloggers advocate a morning routine to set you up for the day. 

    The problem with routines is that they tend to result in routine thinking. If you want fresh, innovative thinking you need to break out of the straight jacket of your established routines and establish some new routes to success.

    Of course, routines have their place but I advocate  an evening routine so that you get full reflection in the current day’s activities but you give your sub conscious time to use that reflection to roam elsewhere, take in other stimuli and perhaps come up with solutions to your problems or identify new opportunities.

    Of course you have to arrive at a solution that works for you .., but just for a time move your planning and journaling routine to the evening and see if it makes a difference.

    What have you got to lose?

  • 28 Feb 2020 7:36 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When improving performance, we often urge companies to take a longer term view. Forget short term gains and concentrate on the gains to be made year in, year out over many years,

    Yet, sometimes, companies should concentrate on the short term. 

    If a company is in trouble, it might not be able to wait for long term gains. It needs  impact now!

    And In many improvement and change situations, quick wins are needed to show people that the programme of improvement or change does indeed have benefits and should be followed through.

    So, as ever, context is everything. You have to review the situation, take notice of the views of key stakeholders and then plan accordingly - keeping an eye on both short term and long term gains.

  • 21 Feb 2020 7:36 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There has been much talk recently in the UK (before, during and even after, the election) about improving rail links to, and in, the north of England.  HS2 (the high speed link to London) might get all the publicity (and almost all of the money) but the government is also promising to invest in local rail and even buses.

    This is good news for UK productivity.

    Manchester and Birmingham punch below their weight when compared to similar sized cities in Europe.

    At present, neither of them has particularly good transport infrastructure and certainly nothing resembling an integrated transport plan.

    Of course, transport is not the only area that must be addressed (skills is certainly another important contender for ‘key’) but it can support other investment and other development.

    So, I welcome the promises of investment - and I will watch the developments with interest … but I hope to see evidence of multi-mode integration planning  … and I hope to see the productivity fruits in 10 years and more.

    We would like higher productivity now, but that is unrealistic.  It is important to put down the foundations now - and await the benefits that should come.

  • 14 Feb 2020 7:51 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I was musing the other day about 'off the wall' inventions that might do good for the wrong reasons - or were designed to solve a problem that no-one knew existed.

    My starting point was some old news (2019) that a UK firm had designed a toilet that was specifically designed to be uncomfortable - it has a 13 degree slope.  The point is to discourage people in certain environments (workplaces, restaurants, etc) from staying too long.

    (The firm is already in talks with local councils and motorway service station operators.)

    Can you think of other examples of such attempts to shape behaviour?

    I thought of certain music played in bars and restaurants which has me running from the place - but that's because I am not their target customer - I don't believe in paying for overpriced drinks because the decor is 'trendy'.

    Keep your eyes and ears open and look for other examples. It might help you with insights into what your firm could do to improve performance - after all real innovation often breaks existing rules and conventions.

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