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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Why only labour productivity?

Why do we measure just labour productivity when it’s the productivity of all costly input resources used together that matters most: Because we always have done – it was relatively easy to count in the old manufacturing days? Because if you produce more per worker, there’s more to share out to each worker – which …

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Happiness at work

Undoubtedly, productivity growth has made a huge difference to the quality of lives of billions of people, first by reducing work negatives – tasks that are dull, dirty, dangerous or difficult – and then increasing work positives by adding many more jobs which are interesting and fulfilling whilst also enhancing social lives with greatly improved …

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MGI assess productivity puzzle

The MGI (McKinsey Global Institute), the in-house think tank of the consulting giant McKinsey & Co, opened a recent ‘discussion paper’ on the productivity puzzle afflicting the USA and other developed economies by stating: “Now, as low birth rates slow the expansion of the labour force, increasing productivity, the output we get from every hour …

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National productivity measurement

Question: What is any manager at any level prompted to do when bombarded with the following: From the ONS (Office for National Statistics): “UK productivity has grown by just 0.5% – it has taken a decade to deliver as much productivity growth as was previously achievable in a single year” A media headline: “Britain has …

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Inequality is on the move

The proportion of rich to relatively poor keeps changing as more and more of any nation’s people benefit from the huge productivity gains made since the Agricultural and then Industrial Revolutions which started in the 1700s Clearly, most of the poor in most developed G20 nations are a lot better off than their counterparts in …

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Productivity sure aint ‘dull’

The following is a letter sent to the Sunday Times on 17 July, 2017 following an article by Andrew Marr, the broadcaster and journalist, which concludes that ‘productivity is dull’ Productivity has transformed the lives of most people in the UK What were luxuries for a select few a mere 100 years ago, if they even …

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AI becoming mainstream in Retail

Expert systems to aid human and plant maintenance and clever OR (Operations Research) computer models (aka apps) to find optimum solutions to complex business problems have been around for over 50 years now AI (Artificial Intelligence) is just the latest moniker for much the same, albeit more powerful Retail Week recently published an article about …

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The following sweeping pearls of wisdom are 100% from Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum I could not, indeed would not dare, try to improve on them but they surely deserve to be widely read We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way …

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Digital investment benefits need time

An interesting article from IoT Agenda explores why digital investment in increasingly capable devices/ things/ solutions are empowering businesses to transform their processes and workflows but not yet showing up in real productivity gains One theory is ‘the metrics used are suspect’ – however, the author sides with another The rapid evolution in transformative technologies …

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Five forces to reshape civilisation by 2030

Peter Morici, economics professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, USA, recently published some interesting views on changes he expects world-wide by 2030: A reworking of democracy – Democratic societies outperformed all others in the 20th century – however, recent populism (ideas which appeal to ordinary people) has led their governments to …

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Dismal productivity trends need not continue

The OECD – Organisation of Economic and Cultural Development – recently painted a dismal G7 economic picture claiming  ‘slowing rates of productivity growth’ in advanced nations over the last ten years or so Other data suggests the same trend is underway in many less affluent nations according to an article by Marc Levinson – his …

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Cheap labour slows productivity growth

A nation’s mix of sectors largely determines its overall productivity and prosperity levels And some sectors are much more productive than others For example, the UK has some highly productive sectors such as manufacturing which are continually improving their (labour) productivity levels by investing in latest technology such as robotics, automation, IoTand AI Japan is …

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Greatest AI value needs new business models

In the 60s and 70s, most firms invested in mainframe computers, then minis, to improve service, not output, and because everyone else seemed to be doing so – they were not investing in IT to improve productivity – and these IT investments were all focussed on supporting existing business models Josh Sutton, CEO of Agorai, …

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Baumol’s disease

Professor William Baumol of Princeton University recently died aged 95 ‘Baumol’s disease’ is thought by some to explain the current productivity puzzle afflicting most developed nation’s economies, especially their labour-intensive service industries e.g. healthcare, education, performing arts Quoting from an article by George Will in The Washington Post, Senator Daniel Moynihan explained this disease: “The number …

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BA put customers last

BA – British Airways – was once state-owned and nicknamed ‘Bloody Awful’ Then, in the 80s under Lord King and Colin Marshall, it transformed itself into the ‘World’s Favourite Airline’, not least by delivering the now-famous PPF (Putting People First) course to all staff, some 200 at a time, who assembled at upmarket venues such …

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If productivity so vital, why not measured?

Capita surveyed 250 managers and 250 workers across a range of UK industries including retail, logistics and construction They found a ‘huge disconnect’ between the number of managers who feel productivity is important and those who actually measure it Key findings were: Only 32% of bosses feel their business is very productive yet 71% do not …

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Political parties’ productivity plans

Productivity is the biggest peacetime issue facing all UK political parties Annual improvements are vital if living standards and average earnings are to be raised – so what did their recent manifestos say about it? Conservative party manifesto – essentially ‘to grow the national wealth pie’: Introduce a National Productivity Investment Fund – spend £23 …

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National productivity positions built on sand

I read an article about Chinese productivity posted by Bloomberg journalist Michael Schuman and sent him the following email: Michael, I read your article about Chinese productivity with great interest The first step in any major productivity improvement drive is indeed to establish the current position – where are you now? Most ‘expert’ commentators try to do …

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CEOs rate potential of new technology ‘very low’!

A new Gartner survey of 388 CEOs/ senior executives found they rated as “very low” the potential for productivity improvement from new breakthrough technologies such as IoT, AI, blockchain (secure databases) and 3D printing In particular, when asked for their ‘top enabling technology for improving productivity’: Only 2% chose IoT – and only 1% picked either …

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Vanguard lead way for big improvements

Productivity is the most important peacetime issue facing any nation or organisation – therefore, one would expect all governments and major business schools, management organisations and consultancies to focus on it  Not so For example: The UK has no well-known, well-supported productivity ‘centre of excellence’ e.g. a UK Productivity Centre – HMG might occasionally set …

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By George, ‘every company is dying’

According to Sir George Buckley, a top quality UK export from the North of England to the USA and now Chairman of Stanley Black & Decker and Smiths Group,  the ‘basic building blocks are the same in all companies’ George says: ‘At the 30,000ft level, every company needs: A dream To know what it wants …

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EU to become USE?

Since the euro-based austerity crises visited on Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy – followed by the refugee crises causing Schengen alarm bells to ring loudly across most EU states – then Brexit – and now elections in France and Germany raising increasingly important national sovereignty issues there – the likelihood is the EU, as constituted, will …

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Passports to productivity Improvement?

Some say the ‘Productivity Puzzle’ is the result of a storm of problems affecting both supply and demand in G7 developed nations viz: Supply: In the past, major technological advances (aka Schumpeter discontinuities) enabled quantum leaps in productivity levels – G7 nations would all adopt them and improve at about the same rate – now, without more …

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IoT to transform many processes

“The IoT (Internet of Things) can help businesses be more productive and efficient” says Phil Goldstein, web editor for BizTech – “but they need a plan to integrate disparate technologies whilst addressing protection needs against malicious actors” Steve Darrah, Director of National Solutions at Intel, says that “IoT can be used to improve efficiency and …

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Diageo appoints a CPO

Many companies employ inspectors and quality controllers in an effort to minimise waste and boost good output volumes Very few indeed  have anyone specifically in charge of productivity or widespread employment of best practices, whether from internal or external sources Now, at long last, a major company has appointed a Chief Productivity Officer (CPO) – …

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Pareto analyses

Pareto, a 19th century Italian economist, spotted that “80% of effects arise from only 20% of possible causes” – apply this rule to national productivity levels and just the top quintile of companies determine whether improvements are made – and it has been ever thus In other words, the great majority of companies are doing …

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The capitalist’s dilemma

N.B. The following are extracts from an article published in the Harvard Business Review in June, 2014 – it remains highly relevant today Professor Clayton Christensen and Derek van Bever of Harvard Business School  have embarked on a fascinating study into what may be holding back growth in the USA and elsewhere given ‘corporations are …

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