Dick Smythe was educated at Bolton School, graduated in pure mathematics and statistics at St Andrews University and then took a masters in Operations Research at Birmingham University • He became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, Operational Research Society, Institute of Management Services and the Institute of Physical Distribution Management • His career started with a scholarship from Dorman Long Steel on Teesside, working shifts on blast furnaces and steel mills before graduating and, afterwards, in their OR department – he subsequently moved to London to join the world-famous BISRA OR department, then part of British Steel, and was involved in their corporate planning and cost reduction programmes • During these earlier years, he became an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, serving on their coastal minesweepers, and a wing forward for Rosslyn Park RFC (n'th XV), playing mostly for their famed après-rugby • He was then recruited by Europe's leading consultancy of the day, PA Consulting Group, and went on to set up and grow their Productivity Services Division into a significant part of the business, becoming a PA director and sitting on their UK management consultancy board - whilst there, he led a joint study with the CBI into UK productivity, and presented the results on TV, radio and to the national press with Director General Sir John Banham - The Times leader commented: "It is refreshing to come across something that has its feet firmly planted on the ground" • Since then, he has mixed productivity consultancy work with playing the property and stock markets, skippering his own boat in the Fastnet and many other ocean yacht races and keeping his golf handicap down to single figures • He is happily married, has two sons and two grandchildren to date, and lives either by the Solent or at Marble Arch in London

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National inputs also ‘seriously flawed’

Official measures of GDP are said to be ‘seriously flawed’ – now, a report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the Centre for Cities think tank claims ‘millions more people are unemployed than official statistics suggest’ Worse still: “The joblessness rate could be three times higher than thought” because some three …

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At last, official recognition of the ‘GDP gap’

Yian Mui reports on CNBC that the US Federal Reserve wants to know what the internet is worth to you. He says the answer could help the central bank solve one of the most puzzling paradoxes of the modern economy: The current expansion is the longest in history, yet productivity gains are weak and GDP growth, …

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New UK ‘Productivity Institute’

Productivity of UK businesses is set to be supercharged with £88 million in new government investment announced the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP £88 million new government investment to help close the productivity gap between UK and major world economies and turbocharge British businesses investment will help power …

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Productivity stagnant despite global stimulus

Mark John reports that economies around the world have failed to boost productivity levels despite $10 trillion of central bank stimulus unleashed since the global financial crisis of a decade ago, according to the WEF (World Economic Forum) think tank. Productivity, a measure of an economy’s ability to generate growth, has become of a matter …

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A National ‘Balanced Scorecard’

All nations – governments and their electorates – need a National Balanced SCorecard (NBSC) of performance measures – a set of cardinals they each can monitor which covers all important factors affecting their standard of living (SoL) and quality of lives (QoL) The  NBSC would be a mix of measures – some absolute, some subjective …

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Beware ‘snooptech’

Ben Gallagher, co-founder of B+A, a management consultancy, raised an interesting slant on new digital possibilities ‘Snooptech’, as the Telegraph reported recently, is a £2.7billion industry The increasing sophistication of digital tools, as well as the continued stagnancy of productivity in the UK, has created a market for technology whose sole purpose is to allow companies …

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BoE powerless in UK productivity crisis

Tim Wallace in the Daily Telegraph reports Mark Carney, Governor of the BoE – Bank of England – saying: “Britain’s economy has a new, lower speed limit” Growth can only get to even modest levels before inflation takes off whereupon ‘we must ease our foot off the accelerator’ Ben Broadbent, one of Carney’s deputies, claims: …

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Three Factors Of Successful Companies

Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co, contributed the following interesting article to Forbes magazine   It’s been 12 years since the last recession, when the World Bank estimates that global GDP fell by 1.7%. But some companies were better prepared than others: their revenues didn’t fall as far and, as the recession …

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Organisation productivity measurement

Professor Jillian MacBryde from the University of Strathclyde says: “When manufacturers talk about productivity, they’re not talking about the same thing as the economists and politicians – they’re not even talking about the same thing when you go from company to company” Such is the current fog enshrouding the productivity of UK businesses The set …

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Mentalism overtaking Materialism

According to official statistics, the GDPs of all G7 developed nations have been trending flat, even downward, over the last decade and more The big question is whether, at the turn of the century, the G7 reached a watershed between their old 20th century materialist economies and the new 21st century mentalist economies – the …

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A new ISC rides to the rescue

Puzzle no more about dormant national productivity – the cavalry have arrived in the form of Andy Haldane, chief economist of the BoE (Bank of England) who is to chair the government’s new ISC – Industrial Strategy Council – it’s another quango of sorts for a select few of our great and good to deal …

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At work but not working

According to the CEBR (Centre for Ecoomics and Business Research) UK businesses don’t know how to maximise their human capital despite the vast majority being ‘concerned’ or more about their people productivity – indeed, a survey they conducted found that: Some two thirds have not looked at ways to boost employee well-being and so motivation …

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Further UK education needs

“The new prime minister will have to rise to the skills and productivity challenge, and make sure that everyone, no matter where they come from, can get a chance to have a great job”, says Anne Milton, UK Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships The following is an article she wrote in FEWeek I want the …

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Boeing’s MAX 737 disaster

Stan Sorscher, a former Boeing engineers and now a Labour Representative at the SPEEA (Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace) is the author of a letter, reproduced in full below, which he posted to the Seattle Times In it he says Boeing’s cost-cutting culture is to blame for production problems with the 737 MAX …

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Extra task performance measures

Some interesting ideas follow from ‘Entrepreneur Europe’ on ways to assess the performance of a team – marketing or software development, say – and keeping a finger on their pulse Four extra performance measures are proposed: Planned-to-done ratios: How well have plans been executed? What % were completed satisfactorily, or better? Cycle time: Work is …

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Winners need stamina

A question managers often ask is “Why do so many big change projects fail?” It’s not so much the steps they take – all follow much the same basic steps when under way viz: Record facts Examine findings Develop solutions But where most go wrong is with other steps needed before, during and after the …

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Turbocharging Australian productivity

Adrian Blundell-Wignall, former director of the OECD and professor at Sydney University, says: “It’s not enough to tweak R&D incentives – we, Australia, need a detailed plan that will change the whole climate for smart investment and productivity growth During the (recent) election, the focus was on tax cuts and “having a go” The Treasurer …

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The Secret Sauce for productivity?

Greg Hanover, CEO of Liveops Inc, claims organisations that tap into the power of the gig economy see much increased (% ?) workforce engagement and productivity Why so? He believes it’s because independent workers are empowered to follow their unique goals and create satisfying careers for themselves And he’s right – it’s not only good …

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GDP – Consumer Surpli

Consumer surplus is defined as the difference between the highest price a consumer would have been willing to pay and the price actually paid It’s the unquantified value customers obtain from tangible stuff they buy – such benefits include taking less time or effort to do things, obtaining more fun and pleasure from life, having …

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Small Businesses measure up differently

Michelle Ovens campaigns for the UK’s 5.5 million SBs in the ‘Small Business’ publication She notes that small businesses are responding to this time of change and uncertainty with Brexit by keeping faith in the community values that make them the backbone of the UK economy. She asks: “Perhaps we have been looking at small …

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AI, the future of work and inequality

An excellent article follows, by Daniele Tavani, Colorado State University, USA – reprinted in full One of the most spectacular facts of the last two centuries of economic history is the exponential growth in GDP per capita in most of the world. Figure 1 shows the rise (and the difference) in living standards for five countries …

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Ethical capitalism

We have waxed long and hard on these pages about CEOs acting like pigs at the trough, robbing their businesses, the golden geese that should be improving the lot of all in society, by paying themselves huge unjustified pay and bonuses and maximising their share prices (and hence their shareholdings) whilst paying their employees the …

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Where measuring engagement goes wrong

An article by Peter Cappelli and Liat Eldor in the Harvard Business Review is reproduced below close to its entirety Surveys to assess how engaged workers are in their jobs are highly popular among employers, who hope the results will help them improve employee productivity and creativity and reduce turnover – but consultants and academics …

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Economists’ information gap

Robert Samuelson, an economic journalist writing in the Washington Post, says: “Many economists often don’t know what’s going on” How refreshing to read this breeze of commonsense after being buffeted by gales of expert opinion and advice from the government and its agencies, economic think-tanks or the media The following is a precis of his …

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21C to be greatest century in history

According to Ian King, banyanhill.com, we were promised flying cars by now but got Facebook – not to mention Google, Twitter and Skype He admits Facebook has its uses but the utopian future expected has yet to arrive – all these new technologies have not yet led to widespread prosperity In 1930, John Maynard Keynes …

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GDP – Flaws

At present, GDP is universally taken to be not just a measure of national output but also shorthand for national well-being Richard Tomkin, assistant director of the ONS (Office for National Statistics), which collects all the base data, says: “GDP is used as an all-encompassing proxy for people’s living standards although never designed for this” …

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Current NHS productivity measurement

The University of York’s Centre for Health Economics confidently announced that, despite the government making drastic cuts: “Hard working NHS staff are providing 16.5% more care per £ than they did 10 years before whilst national productivity has only grown by 6.7% over the same period In particular, they claim that: NHS outputs have continuously …

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Is everything preordained?

According to ‘The Science of Fate’ by Cambridge scientist Hannah Critchlow, your future may be more predictable than you think Everything about you is fated, from your love or hate of garlic, your academic success, your expanding waistline or the cancer that will eventually kill you Everything is determined by your genes and environment If …

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Leonardo paints knowledge path

According to The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene, knowledge in the mid-fifteenth century had hardened into rigid compartments viz: Philosophy and scholasticism The Arts Science The Occult – dark knowledge Leonardo da Vinci was then a youth, the illegitimate son of a notary so lacking the usual formal education – hence his …

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Absolute returns

So much capital is misallocated these days, and that continues to drive down trend GDP growth – the term misallocated capital is used by economists to describe capital that is deployed without having any impact on productivity – it’s capital that is deployed unproductively Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners wrote about The Productivity Conundrum …

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AI increases productivity

By 2021, artificial intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation of Filipino companies to increase by 1.7 times, and nearly double employee productivity gains in the Philippines, according to a study titled Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI The study made by Microsoft and IDC (International Data Corp.) surveyed 109 …

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New technology needs new models

According to the WEF – World Economic Forum – manufacturing executives today are confronted with an enormous variety of promising new technologies, ranging from artificial intelligence to connected machinery to 3D printing, all of them offering some combination of cost savings, quality improvements and increased flexibility They then say it’s tempting to think that a …

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Puzzle – What puzzle?

“The Miracle Years Are Over – get used to It” So announced Ruchir Sharma, a contributing opinion writer for the NEW YORK TIMES, in a well-argued article reprinted with only minor tweaks below Across the world, economists have had to downgrade growth forecasts – but it’s not as bad as it sounds Last year (2018) …

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Gallup’s ‘most profound’ finding

The Wall Street Journal suggested there could be a single fix for many of the big problems that companies experience – hiring better middle managers They based this on a Gallup study that found a company’s productivity depended on the quality of these crucial leaders – managers don’t just influence results, they explain a full …

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Productive recidivists

Over 70% of offenders re-offend within one year! Why is this? Most prisoners are locked up for most of the day and not treated well by the officers which surely makes them worse than they were at the start, not better – in these Universities of Crime, they learn to despise authority, not learn a …

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Catching the right fish

With globalisation, all organisations can fish for new recruits in the one big pond But the most successful anglers are they who hire on merit, not in their own image, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at Columbia University in his book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders An article …

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Customer measures needed

Once, supply of most goods and services people wanted to buy was limited – suppliers thus had the whip-hand – for example, Ford could offer their ‘Model T’ cars using the strap line “any colour so long as it’s black” Those days are long gone Mid 20’th century and on, competition between suppliers started to …

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Customers don’t measure up

Supplier organisations have two sorts of customers – external and internal: External customers pay for the goods or services private or public sector organisations offer them – it’s their money alone which keeps businesses in business and public services alive, and pays every employee and shareholders dividends – they decide whether or not to buy …

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Waste murders productivity

Whilst few managers measure productivity well, even fewer measure their waste of outputs and costly inputs Waste arises both internally and externally: Internal waste = When things are not done RFT (Right First Time) and work is rejected or has to be reworked External waste = When things are delivered to customers either not as …

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Current productivity fog

All managers need to get the most out of all costly input resources they employ: In the private sector, to beat their competition in meeting customers’ needs whilst minimising unit costs and maximising sales and profit margins In the public sector, to optimise the number and quality of services on offer However, most managers do …

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NHS targets have had their day

Lord Prior of Brampton is reported by The Times as saying: “NHS staff suffer from learned helplessness in a dysfunctional system” So what prompted this mystifying statement? A&E units are currently reporting their worst numbers of patients waiting longer than four hours, many on trolleys as no beds were available – the NHS Confederation of …

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Zipf’s Law

Zipf’s law is a mysterious, empirical law – it’s also linked to Pareto’s rule: It suggests limits on the size of companies and their share of markets According to Annalee Newitz, the editor of i09, in 1949 linguist George Zipf noticed that people used a very small number of words most of the time – …

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Wealth gains and distribution

US Fed Chairman Jerome Powell believes our two greatest challenges for the next decade are ‘the widening wealth gap and sluggish productivity’ But Lawrence Fuller, in an article for Seeking Alpha, claims the Fed’s attempts to create a wealth effect by inflating the value of financial assets has mostly benefited the top 10%, and even …

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4 day weeks to boost productivity

A new report by Autonomy – a thinktank focusing on the future of work – argues that a shorter working week should be a central pillar of our economic future. They say calls for a shorter working week have gathered pace in recent years, with the TUC, the Green party, large and small unions and now the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, joining …

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Productivity tops Brexit

An article by Peter Barker, Gui Tao and Xinhua – www.xinhuanet.com Improving productivity, instead of the Brexit issue, is the primary task facing the British economy at the moment, says renowned British economist Jim O’Neill “The UK being in or out of the EU (European Union) is not the most important thing facing our economic …

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Clusters need roads

An article by Maria Machancoses,  a director at Midlands Connectvestment, is fully reproduced below For centuries, good roads have influenced the way we live, work and trade As a nation that makes over 80% of journeys by road, and whose population is forecast to grow to 75m by 2050, investing in our ageing infrastructure is rightly at the top of the agenda. Rather than …

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Current knowledge levels

Many, perhaps most, developed nation companies are brainwork companies nowadays i.e. at least 33% of their employees have degrees or equivalent Clearly, all top jobs require best brains/ problem solvers – there’s little routine work for them – it’s their ideas, decisions, tactics and plans, actions and people skills that are needed most But the …

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Knowledge measures needed

Management guru Peter Drucker once said: “In the knowledge economy, everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts” – he might have added that managers act this way because they lack the measures and understanding needed to maximise the knowledge productivity of their teams It’s another productivity gap afflicting most …

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Aggregation hides info needed

Current measures of productivity become less and less useful the higher the level they go: Aggregation increasingly blurs the performance picture Apples get mixed with pears Specific inputs used for specific outputs and outcomes get lost in the mix At national level, this aggregation problem is at its worst, compounded by much output and most …

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UK productivity gap half-explained?

According to Philip Aldrick, Economics Editor of The Times, Britain’s dismal productivity gap with much of the developed world is due not only to lack of investment, bad management and low interest rates as previously thought Another significant causal factor has been found The UK’s ONS – Office for National Statistics – asked the Paris-based OECD …

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