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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The post-pandemic brave new world

The following views from Martin Sandbu, the Financial Times’ European economics commentator, are well worth reading – in my case, at least twice to get the broad span of them on board – there is no doubt that CV-19 has created a major watershed for businesses worldwide and it now needs leaders to grasp the …

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Microsoft software criticised as workplace surveillance

Alex Hern, writing in the Guardian, raises serious concerns about Microsoft software and a ‘Big Brother’ return to office work, especially when time inputs are, at long last, being recognised as far less important to efficiency and effectiveness success than results output Microsoft has been criticised for enabling “workplace surveillance” after privacy campaigners warned that …

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The future of work?

Citrix is an American software company helping organisations to simplify cloud transformation and speed adoption of digital workspaces and virtual desktops to enable greater agility, productivity, and security – Darren Fields, their Vice President UK & Ireland, contributed the following article, published in the HR Director magazine What does the future of work hold? In …

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WFH results = Productivity Up, Innovation Down

Interesting findings about WFH (alone) follow from Wharton’s Management Professor Michael Parkes, reported in the Wharton Business Daily, and Mark Golan, a top Google executive – despite their lack of clarity on precise measures used, their good news  is (labour) productivity has not stalled due to CV19, counterbalanced by the bad news that innovation has …

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Knowledge workers are more productive from home

An interesting study has come up with the above headline finding – it was published in the Harvard Business Review and conducted by Professor Julian Birkinshaw  and Pawel Stach of London Business School, and Jordan Cohen of Lifelabs Learning – extracts follow For many years, we have sought to understand and measure the productivity of …

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Is the pandemic making us more productive?

A big-picture, easy-to-read article just in from the antipodes, published in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ and written by Nathan Sheets, chief economist and head of global macroeconomic research at PGIM Fixed Income – essentially, he agrees with our view that the pandemic, when eventually over, will be seen to have ushered in a sea-change in …

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Potential £145bn productivity boost for UK economy

An LLB – LondonLovesBusiness.com – finance reporter has just announced some good news – the potential for some very big and positive numbers concerning UK SME sectors which would do much to dispel the gloom currently darkening the lives of so many in the UK – if the report is anywhere near being right, one …

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The Key to solving the Productivity Puzzle

A very interesting approach has just been published in project-syndicate.org for solving the ‘Productivity Puzzle’ – it was written by Professor Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge who is also a member of the newly formed UK Productivity Institute Although the factors contributing to stagnant productivity are well known, economists and policymakers have so far paid …

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Debt may be cheap, but the UK’s poor productivity will cost us dear

Phillip Inman, writing in the Guardian, says “Thinktanks urging cuts in business taxes to rekindle the entrepreneurialism of the Thatcher decade seem to forget that many industries which once powered growth are now dying” The strangely easy agreement between economists of right and left that the chancellor should set aside concerns about Britain’s rising debt levels still holds …

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AI will unlock USD 15.7 trillion in global productivity by 2030

India is taking the potential for AI – Artificial Intelligence – to improve productivity very seriously indeed – their government is pushing hard to build on its existing IT strengths and become a world leader in AI – this will give a massive boost to its economy and standard of living whilst helping to solve …

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£300 million to boost UK manufacturing productivity by 30%

Businesses with creative ideas to boost the UK’s manufacturing capacities are set to receive £300 million of joint government and industry funding according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK Research and Innovation and The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP in the announcement below – on the plus side, any such investment has to …

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Why Software Won’t Eat The World

An interesting article from Greg Satell offered by Medium.com which supports the argument that technology, artificial intelligence and computers in general are NOT poised to take over our lives and run the world In 2011, technology pioneer Marc Andreessen declared that software is eating the world. “With lower start-up costs and a vastly expanded market …

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CV-19 provides a giant leap for creative destruction

As the world focuses on ‘track and testing’ whilst medics internationally race to prove their CV-19 vaccine/ treatment stops people dying or suffering badly, there are many positives emerging from this damned pandemic – especially given it probably won’t be the last one, and some in the future may even be man-made Creative destruction of …

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Long-term planning for remote work

Extracts about WFH follow from an article in the HBR (Harvard Business Review) by Mark Johnson and Josh Suskewicz Mark Zuckerberg recently shared his plans for the future of remote work at Facebook. By 2030, he promised, at least half of Facebook’s 50,000 employees would be working from home. “We are going to be the most …

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Ridding ourselves of the productivity fetish will help us combat climate change

The following article by Simon Mair was published in  The Conversation  – despite some non-academic language, he highlights some of the productivity issues now afflicting more developed economies. Simon is an ecological economist, trying to understand the current economy in order to build a better one. He is also a co-investigator on the ESRC funded …

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The ‘Circular Economy’ to boost national productivity

When talking about productivity, most focus on labour productivity and seemingly ignore how well other costly input resources are used – hence the following article by Rémy Le Moigne, MD of Gate C, and published by Greenbiz, is most welcome During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals faced a major shortage of personal protective equipment, ventilators and …

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Academics to boost productivity growth and level-up living standards

Here we go again – our leaders announce the supreme importance of productivity growth to the improvement and levelling up of UK living standards – then they have to be seen to be ‘doing something’ – so three years ago they set up a PLG (Productivity Leadership Group), but that has had no notable success …

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COVID brings productivity into sharp focus

An article follows which was published by the ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – it helps explain what the strangely named ‘Be the Business’ organisation is actually doing to improve UK SME productivity levels – after three years of trying, maybe COVID can explain their lack of any quantified success …

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How much does bad management really cost the UK?

By Kristy Dorsey, Business Correspondent, writing in The Herald, has spotted that middle management inadequacies explain much of the ‘productivity puzzle’ before CV-19 struck, and most of them remain in their jobs Would you hire a solicitor who had never been to law school, or take your car to a mechanic who had no automotive training? How about …

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The Occam’s Razor Of Productivity

Good practical sense from Professor Jim Woods in stockinvestor.com for all busy executives out there – and stock investors too Want to achieve more in life? Of course, you do. Yet for most of us, the idea of achieving more comes with the corollary notion that we are going to have to do a lot …

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Are You Leading Through the Crisis … or Managing the Response?

A thoughtful article in the Harvard Business Review by Eric McNulty and Leonard Marcus which our current leaders might do well to note The coronavirus crisis, like every crisis, is unfolding over an arc of time with a beginning, middle, and end. It is useful to think what distinguishes what was, is, and will be. There was a past of …

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Are office clusters as crucial to productivity as they once were?

More grist for the pandemic mill from Paul Ormerod writing for cityam.com   The Prime Minister is now demanding that offices reopen to revive economic activity in the centres of towns and cities. But there is not yet much sign of a return to work. The preferences of the workforce are an important factor in …

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How Fed Policy Is Wrecking the Economy

The following insightful article was posted by James A. Bacon of baconsrebellion.com – it makes one wonder about the quality of thinking of those on national bridges steering all economies, not just the USA’s Of all known government interventions in the U.S. economy, the most insidious and dangerous is regulation of the price of money (interest …

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How to reverse the productivity slowdown

Thought-provoking views follow from Alistair Dieppe,  Lead Economist in the Development Prospects Group at the World Bank – he considers how global economies got to their current low point, and then ventures some broad solutions, but one has to question who will act on them and be able to make the big quantifiable productivity improvements …

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How a Fully Distributed Company Keeps Its Team Engaged

A useful article follows  from Inc. by Matt Haber, their San Francisco Bureau chief If you’ve had to adapt to working from home in the last few months, you could learn a few things from Matt Mullenweg – the co-founder of website-building platform WordPress (as used by this website) and Automattic, the parent company Mullenweg lives in …

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Next CBI boss finds ray of hope in coronavirus crisis

A dash of optimism from NEIL CRAVEN for the MAIL ON SUNDAY – however, given the track record of the CBI and ‘Be the Business’ summarised below and their evident failure to date to improve UK productivity, we note the lack of practical support and ideas for UK managers in the following piece- but nevertheless …

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Can COVID-19 solve the UK productivity puzzle?

A thought-provoking article in Raconteur by Nick Easen The coronavirus-induced shutdown has caused a revolution in how we work. Overnight bricks-and-mortar stores shuttered, while agile businesses shifted online to survive. Countless collaborative tools, from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, meant remote workers have to show real output to justify their jobs, rather than just turn up to …

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Tolerance is good for all

Given the current demonstration marches ongoing worldwide following the shocking killing of George Floyd, there are many issues being raised to be faced by all – and, in particular, as far as this website is concerned, by many people at work regarding how they treat each other there: The overall mantra should be ‘ALL lives …

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Dramatically improve customer service so as to cut costs

I have no connection with John Seddon and his Vanguard consultancy company – indeed, many moons ago, I worked for one of the ‘big consultancies’ that he criticises so much in his books and the following podcast – nevertheless, I have long since thought he peddles powerful ‘productivity improvement advice’ which produces astonishing results, in …

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Why working from home is bad for productivity

An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald by James Adonis, somewhat contradicting what many managers are starting to believe I don’t know about you but I can barely wait for this working-from-home period to end. The compulsive walking to and from the fridge, the procrastination as I stare out my window, the commandeering of …

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CBI a closed-shop for McKinsey alumni?

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) claims to be the UK’s largest employers’ group, although the IoD (Institute of Directors) might dispute this claim – they assume to be the mouthpiece for British management, forever putting their views for change to the UK government They have just announced that Tony Danker – apparently ‘a business …

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5 Questions About China That Boards Should Be Asking Right Now

Another thought-provoking  HBR article follows, this time by William J. Holstein and Roger M. Kenny  U.S.-China relations have not been so tense since before President Jimmy Carter and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping agreed to exchange ambassadors in 1979. Attitudes have hardened especially in the last two months, in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in …

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Chinese Companies’ Response to Covid-19

A very interesting article just published in the HBR by Das Narayandas, Vinay Hebbar and Liangliang Li – it offers many  lessons for western companies, big and small   The past four months have provided an opportunity to study a once-in-a-lifetime moment — how companies function during an unprecedented global pandemic while also navigating an …

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Covid-19 kickstarts gigification of knowledge work

A long-needed article in the Harvard Business Review by Sameer Hasija, V ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan and Prashant Rampai promotes an inevitable change in the way much ‘knowledge work’ will be conducted in future – back in the 80s, we ‘gigified’ much of our Productivity Services Division’s consultancy work, much to the disdain of many in the …

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Rebuilding the Economy Around Good Jobs

A prescient article in the Harvard Business Review by Professor Zeynep Ton In countries hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, customer-facing service businesses don’t just face a tough two to three months; they face a tough two to three years. Because people will still be nervous about catching the disease until a vaccine is widely available, …

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Will companies shift from China to India?

A tectonic shift in global business supply chains may be about to happen according to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Vijay Govindarajan and Gunjan Bagla   America’s (and other developed nations’) relationship with the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, is undergoing a stark, rapid and perhaps permanent transformation. …

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A clear vision for the post-crisis future?

An HBR article by Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz follows – we called this approach ‘normative forecasting’ back in the good ol’ days   As the Covid-19 pandemic shakes the global economy and disrupts the way we live, work, and conduct business, leaders are scrambling to manage the immediate fallout. But, as history proves, …

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FILE – Productivity, Credit and Debt

A great 30 minute YouTube video – “How the Economic Machine Works” – is well worth watching It was made some years ago by Ray Dalio, Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates He explains the fundamentals behind how national economies work, how human nature makes credit and debt cycles inevitable, and how, ultimately, …

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The post-pandemic world?

An article by Hubert Joly in the HBR  (Harvard Business Review) raises some interesting thoughts on human needs that leaders should consider once we’re through this pandemic and past these ‘watershed times’   During the Covid-19 crisis, I’ve spoken with many CEOs who have said that a key priority for them, naturally, has been the …

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How to make ‘remote work’ more productive

An interesting slant on the pandemic impact follows – published by FastCompany.com and written by behavioural scientist Kristen Berman It might seem like the glorious era of remote work is upon us, driven by a pandemic push. Zoom! Slack! Who needs the office? The promise of uncompromised productivity paired with freedom is alluring. While software …

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Pandemic offers a productivity boost?

 An interesting article by Chris Dillow was recently published in the Investors’ Chronicle Has the coronavirus solved the UK’s problem of stagnant labour productivity?   It’s a strange question, but one posed by Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts. It expects that in 2021 we’ll be producing 2.8 per cent more than we did in …

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Coronavirus statistics: what can we trust?

The flurry of figures, graphs and projections surrounding the pandemic is confusing. An article in The Guardian by two experts, Sylvia Richardson and Professor David Spiegelhalter, guides us through the maze The past few weeks has seen an unstoppable epidemic … of statistics. The flood threatens to overwhelm us all, but what do all these numbers …

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Coaching Your Team Through Uncertain Times

An interesting article all locked-down managers should read by Francesca Gino and Dan Cable, and published by the Harvard Business Review As they try to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, people are stressed and scared — nervous about others’ and their own health and the state of the world. For those lucky enough to be …

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It’s output results, not input hours, that matter

A piece by Jared Lindzon of Fast Company follows – at long last, some in the outside world are now saying what this website has been banging on about for years – the pandemic has reinforced how foolish it is to compare input times with output volumes, especially when it comes to knowledge-based work. In …

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Office productivity

OFFICES ARE ABOUT TO CAUSE PRODUCTIVITY TO EXPLODE So claims Mike Phillips in one of Bisnow.com’s featured series on the ‘Future of Work’ – it’s more realisation that the pandemic has given a massive kick-start to many business changes needed given the enabling technology has been around but not used well for many years now  …

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A shorter work week?

Some interesting views from The Socialist, an Australian publication Microsoft recently granted its workers in Japan five Friday’s off in a row, resulting in a 40% productivity jump. Similar recent experiments have resulted in healthier, happier more efficient workers.  Around the world the idea of reducing working hours is a topic of debate and discussion …

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Steve Jobs’ advice on becoming more productive Is quite brilliant

Inc.com published an article by Marcel Schwantes, founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core Steve Jobs is most famous for founding Apple and turning it into one of the biggest and most valuable brands ever. One may think that Jobs juggled lots of massive projects at once to reach the pinnacle of success. But he actually credited much …

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M/S says “Remote working is here for good”

An Inc.com report by Jason Aten follows – with only a few changes: If nothing else, in these past few weeks, we’ve learned that as a whole, people are quite resourceful when it comes to figuring out how to adapt and stay productive, even in extraordinary circumstances. You have to admit that it’s impressive how …

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Will the Pandemic make us more productive?

The following thoughts, published by Bloomberg Opinion, are from Karl W. Smith, a former assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina and vice president for federal policy at the Tax Foundation. The Great Suppression will continue to cause enormous economic and personal hardship for scores of millions of Americans. It is possible, …

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How to boost office productivity

The following article is by Constantine Von Hoffman, published by Computerworld and sponsored by Microsoft – it offers important advice for all office managers nowadays Upgrading to new applications and tools can do so much for a business. Up-to-date software can improve efficiencies and boost productivity, leading to both top-line and bottom-line gains. But getting …

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