• 04 Oct 2019 7:23 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There are great hopes for autonomous vehicles - though some worry about whether the technology is ‘up to the job’. There are some driving situations and conditions where autonomy is relatively easy and others (driving in busy high streets for example) where problems are greater and the autonomy mire difficult to achieve.

    Goods vehicles, though, can exploit these differences.

    Future goods carriers could operate autonomously on freeways and motorways where the technology can do its job relatively easily, and then switch to driver control for the ‘local loop’. This can avoid the problem of excessive driver hours but maintain current levels of performance.

    The problem is that the word ‘autonomy' tends to be a ‘one size fits all’ concept with few thinking through practical and flexible approaches to autonomous driving and improved productivity.

  • 27 Sep 2019 4:53 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have been doing quite a bit of work with Lean approaches and techniques recently.

    I like Lean ... not because of the tools and techniques (which are excellent on the whole) ... but because it is based on clear and firm principles. To practise Lean it is much more important to be guided by the principles than to remember the tools and techniques.

    For those of you who might have forgotten, I summarise these principles as :

    Make the work flow

    Eliminate waste 

    Respect the People (and especially front line workers.

    If a management team ensures that they keep these principles firmly in their minds and allow them to shape all their actions, decisions and behaviours, they will find themselves managing a Lean operation with a positive and productive organisational  culture.

  • 20 Sep 2019 7:50 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The benefits of workforce diversity are well documented. Usually, however, these relate to diversity in race, gender and sexuality. There are also benefits in an age-diverse workforce where the different attitudes and skills that come at different life stages can be used to create balanced, ‘superteams’.

    In Western developed countries, this is well known and many older people remain in the workforce well into their ‘mature’ years.

    In many developing and emerging economies, things are different. Though many countries in this category revere the wisdom and experience of age, the pressure to provide jobs for the growing younger population often drives older workers out of employment. 

    This has to be resisted if the benefits of experience are to be retained.

    This in turn requires governments to implement non-discriminatory legislation and employment policies. But it also requires a change in attitude from the young. They often assume that because older people  are often technically illiterate and do not have mobile phones grafted onto their bodies, that they are uninformed and even uneducated.

    Similarly, older people should stop seeing the young as ill-disciplined and unreliable. 

    If we can get these different age groups to ‘meet in the middle’, we might create the potential for mutual respect, greater cooperation and higher productivity,

  • 13 Sep 2019 7:35 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    It is difficult to change the behaviour of a child who is a fussy eater.

    If you try to punish, you reinforce the negative associations of the food they don’t like.

    If you try to reward, you remind them that the reward is so much better than the food they don’t like.

    Sometimes, motivation is difficult. You seem to be forever reinforcing the behaviour you don’t want.

    The same can be true of a workforce. You have to think very carefully about ways to successfully change - and maintain - behaviours you want to see.

    I’m not giving answers here. The answer depends so much on history and context. I’m just asking you to think before you act, reflect after you have acted and make no assumptions.

  • 06 Sep 2019 7:30 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many people look to famous entrepreneurs as role models. (Perhaps you are one of them.) They see people driven by success, working hard over long hours and completely focused. 

    However, they fail to realise that such people might be ‘wired’ differently than the rest of us.  For us mere mortals there are things we can do to improve our abilities without working 24 hours each day. In fact, we are much better working fewer hours, focussing more and being ‘mindful'.

    Slow down and put yourself in the present. Forget your emails and other distractions. Just concentrate on now and the task in hand.

    Calm down, slow down, think down. Productivity up!

  • 30 Aug 2019 7:12 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    One of things we do, as productivity professionals, is to examine the evidence - the performance data - to identify where problems and Improvement opportunities exist.  Indeed, we often go further to investigate the root cause of a problem so we know we are not merely addressing the symptoms of an underlying problem which might re- emerge later.

    However, too often I see people not just failing to identify the root cause but even failing to identify whether or not there is a causal relationship at all.

    Let me give you an example. In s recent blog (not mine) the author stated that Monday was the worst day for productivity - suggesting that in many, even the majority of, organisations, performance dips on a Monday. If this is true (and I assume the author had evidence to show it was) and we could find out why, we might be able to address that issue and avoid this performance penalty.

    However, we might simply be looking at a statistical anomaly or even a piece of well-established folklore. Perhaps there is nothing about Mondays that causes performance to drop.

    So be careful how you treat what people say.  Don’t jump to hasty conclusions. Ask what the data is telling you - and what it isn’t. Dig deeper. Triangulate. Find the causal relationship and then identify the root cause. You then have a chance of solving your problem. But don’t address, or worry about, problems that don’t exist.

  • 23 Aug 2019 7:27 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many firms believe that technology will make them more productive - technology in their main processes and in their communication/administrative processes. 

    Technology, of course, can be an aid to productivity. But it is only really effective when the firm is already quite efficient. We have all seen firms where technology has simply automated or accelerated existing inefficiencies.

    And many of us are ourselves caught in the email/ messaging whirlpool, constantly reading and replying to communications that we didn’t need to receive.

    Introducing technology is an ideal time to review how you do things - and to find out how you SHOULD do things. Add technology to the improved processes and you get a ‘double whammy’ - two sets of improvement for the price of one.

  • 15 Aug 2019 10:44 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the need to take some time away from the pressures of work to recharge your body and mind and come back stronger.  Here is little tip (hack?) complementary to that one.

    Most of us have a ‘To Do’ list, things we have to get done. We might use a formal task manager or we might use a notebook but the list exists. Some of these tasks will be urgent, some will be interesting, some will be easy, some will be important; hopefully some will be  challenging and rewarding.

    Throughout the day we will prioritise these tasks - hopefully based on their importance rather then their urgency. Some we might leave - perhaps because they are not urgent or important enough .... and sometimes we just procrastinate because we are too tired to face another challenge.

    Well if you do tend to do this .. in effect having a mini-break during work time - try to have some of the boring, relatively unimportant tasks available to use during these gaps. You still get a mental break .. but your To Do list does reduce. At the end of the day, another 1 or 2 tasks will have been completed and you feel some satisfaction rather than guilt or shame at putting things off.

    So, rest while you are working and you become more productive.

  • 09 Aug 2019 7:44 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have been reading and writing about Lean quite a bit recently. It is one if those topics where the more you know and the more you read, the more you realise you don’t know.  There are so many interweaving and interrelated topics where you can’t fully understand one topic without also understanding two more.

    Some people might give up, thinking life isn’t long enough to work through all this.

    I, however, prefer to think that this simply shows the all-encompassing nature of Lean ...  a philosophy and way of life rather than a set of tools and techniques.

    In fact, if you immerse yourself in the basic principles , the rest becomes fairly straightforward and the detail is less important. Just focus on :

    Making it flow

    Eliminating waste

    Respecting your people.

    Then, whether you apply Kaizen, Kanban, Jidoka, Heijunka or any other specific tool, this focus on the principles will keep you straight.

    Navigating the labyrinth of topics and tools will make you a better Lean practitioner but a simple focus on ‘becoming Lean’ will get you most of the way to being a Lean organisation.

  • 02 Aug 2019 7:40 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Recently I talked about value - and the fact that it is not a straightforward phenomenon.  What I didn’t mention in that piece was the topic of what you value ... personally.

    Presumably if you are reading this, one of the things you do value is productivity - for yourself or your organisation  ... or both. You strive to be productive and to create a productive organisation.

    Well, take an hour today .. and be unproductive. Do something frivolous ... just for the fun of it. It’s good to turn off occasionally.

    Ironically, of course, it will make you more productive - by recharging your batteries and resetting your mind. 

    So, turn off for an hour. I give you permission.

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