Tag: Productivity

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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Work hard or work well?

Many say the secret for a good life is ‘work hard and play hard’ Leila Hock, in an article for Career Contessa, disagrees – ‘work hard’ apparently “makes my eyes roll a little” She believes we’ve become too preoccupied with “the grind” and it’s actually bringing us down – “It has a negative effect on …

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All nations need a National Productivity Centre

An article by Lalin Fernandopulle in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Observer, headed ‘Productivity policy vital for economic growth’, promotes the worth of all nations having a National Productivity Organisation  Sri Lanka is the only APO (Asian Productivity Organisation) member country which does not have an NPO (National Productivity Organisation). Company director Sunil Wijesinghe says: “Setting up a …

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Productivity improvement must involve all employees

The following are extracts from an article in the Huffingtom Post by Mike Clancy, General secretary of Prospect – one must involve all employees, all the time, for effective productivity improvement The UK is not productive enough and we do not share wealth widely enough: Unemployment may be historically low but public satisfaction with the economy …

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The perfect working environment?

According to an article by Michael Odell in The Times, Basecamp is a US software/ tech company that supposedly runs without the scourge of 80 hour weeks, unrealistic deadlines, weekend emails and meetings Two American guys, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, run Basecamp – they’re also authors of a new book called It Doesn’t have …

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Robots at Work

The Financial Times reported on a study “Robots at Work,” written by Georg Graetz, a researcher at the Department of Economics, Uppsala University, and Guy Michaels, London School of Economics, which examines the impact of industrial robots on jobs, productivity and growth. Industrial robots are programmable and are widely used for assembly, packaging, inspection and agricultural harvesting. In …

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Immigration pluses and minuses

The USA really should try to attract more immigrant entrepreneurs, according to Claude Barfield of the US National Venture Capital Association and Entrepreneur.com: 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second generation immigrants, and more than half of the nation’s billion-dollar startups have an immigrant co-founder According to the National Science Foundation, only 17% of US bachelor …

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UK manufacturing to become ‘smarter’

The UK magazine Drives & Controls has just reported that a group of UK manufacturing business leaders and academics have joined forces with the government to create the Made Smarter Commission (MSC) which aims to make UK manufacturing “smarter”. The inaugural meeting of the commission was chaired by Siemens CEO Professor Juergen Maier and Business Secretary …

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A short history of productivity improvement

Lydia Dishman wrote an article for Fast Company outlining steps taken over time to improve productivity – it’s not comprehensive but interesting nevertheless According to her, there’s no definitive source for the start of productivity improvement efforts but there are historical mentions of it in Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776). Smith contended that there were …

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Target setting

Targets are needed to bring meaning to any performance measure They enable one to quantify scope for improvement, performance gaps to be closed and urgency for change Told your ‘bad’ cholesterol level is 8.6 and most would ask ‘so what?’ – told that good health requires the level to be below 5 and a course …

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Waste leaves productivity dead in the water

 A post by author Charles Hugh Smith hits the nail on the head about the ‘productivity puzzle’ – rising waste in all sectors, hardly mentioned by the experts, is mostly to blame Productivity in the U.S. has been declining since the early 2000s. This trend mystifies economists, as the tremendous investments in software, robotics, networks and mobile …

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US views on employee performance measures

A sample of US managers’ views was recently published on performance measures they use In essence, they said: ‘App overload’ constantly disrupts work flows – they’re meant to streamline productivity and communications but do the opposite – most employees want a single platform for phone calls, chats, email and team messaging – so get rid …

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Forget productivity growth in future?

The following are notes jotted down whilst reading a lecture (40 x A4 pages long) given by Adair Turner, Chair of INET (Institute for New Economic Thinking) in Washington DC in 2018 ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Summary: The lecture covers the possible long term impact of rapid technological progress – i.e. work automation and AI – on the nature of …

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Invest more to raise productivity

An article by John Mills, Chairman of the eponymous JM Ltd, author of economics books and major Labour party donor, claims that UK productivity is ‘so low’ partly because we spend a far lower proportion of our national income (17%) on capital investment (aka capex) than the 26% world average – and woefully less than China’s …

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The skills delusion

Adair Turner, Chairman of INET (Institute for New Economic Thinking) and one-time Chairman of the UK’s FSA (Financial Services Authority) wrote a weighty article a year or so ago on the need for more investment in our human stock We cannot better his choice of words so, below, reproduce much of his article verbatim It …

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AI will automate tasks, not skills

Michael Hicks, Professor of Economics at Ball State University, USA, claims productivity growth, whether through automation, plant design or better-skilled workers, doesn’t kill jobs – it eliminates tasks: First, hard, dirty and dangerous ones – think agriculture and steel-making where output continues to grow in volume but now uses a small fraction of the labour …

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Run hospitals like Tesco stores

David Dalton is CEO of Salford Royal NHS foundation trust, the first to be rated as ‘outstanding’ by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) on two consecutive occasions, so his words carry considerable weight He has just posted an article in the Thunderer column of The Times which is a cause for alarm to many Why? …

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NZ shows way for public sector productivity

The New Zealand Productivity Commission was asked by its Government to provide guidance and recommendations on measuring and improving productivity in public services, especially education, health, justice and social welfare which play an important role in promoting individual and community well-being The Commission interviewed multiple current and former senior state sector leaders, carried out case studies to …

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Boeing seek at least 20% improvements, not 1-4%

Dennis Muilenberg is CEO of Boeing, the US’s leading aerospace and defence company, and the US’s biggest exporter – they employ 140,000 people in some 65 countries An article by J P Donlon says Muilenberg is ‘on a tear to find another gear to compete in an increasingly complex, global and interconnected world’ Why? Opportunity: Worldwide …

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Hire better managers

Vipula Gandhi, a Managing Partner at Gallup, has joined in the productivity debate with a new No Recovery report seeking reasons for the growth of USA GDP per capita (a measure of prosperity) having slowed from highs of 3% in the 1960s to only 0.5% now He argues that: A lack of major technological or …

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Cheap labour solves productivity puzzle?

Merryn Somerset Webb, editor of the magazine Moneyweek, claims to have solved the productivity puzzle afflicting the UK – actually, all other developed economies are suffering in much the same way  “It’s never ever seemed like much of a puzzle to us” she says, adding: “We’ve written many times over the last decade that, if you …

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UK – a hub with no spokes

Andy Haldane, chief economist at the BoE (Bank of England) and so one of the finest of finest economic thinkers, recently gave a speech about the UK’s productivity problem to the Academy of Social Sciences – clearly, we should treat his every word with great respect, or should we? The following is a precis of …

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Sheffield’s answer to the puzzle

In 2015, the University of Sheffield showed Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, two photographs: One of the Orgreave coking plant that closed in 1990 – ‘a brown and broken edifice dissolving like a rust stain into a post-industrial landscape’ The other, taken a decade later, of a solitary gleaming building on the …

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Labour has a terrible productivity idea

According to an article for Bloomberg View by Ferdinando Giugliano, one-time member of the Financial Times editorial committee, the UK’s Labour Party has come up with a ‘terrible idea’ for sorting out the country’s current productivity problem John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, proposes giving the Bank of England (BoE) a yearly 3% productivity growth target to sit …

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UK SMEs waste £57 bn a year

NatWest has unveiled research, conducted by the Cebr (Centre for economic and business research) which reveals UK SMEs (defined as companies with 10 – 259 employees) could add up to £57 billion a year – more than the cost of Brexit – to the UK economy if they were as productive as SMEs in Germany …

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Help for SMEs to get practical

Under the above heading, Alison Rose, chief executive of commercial & private banking at NatWest wrote the following article which all SMEs would do well to consider As we gear up for Brexit, the UK’s flagging productivity performance is continually in the fore of media headlines and economic analysis Following a further fall in productivity …

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Communism versus Capitalism

Communism has been defined as a system where: People work according to their ability and receive according to their needs All big decisions are made at the centre All data is processed at the centre   Capitalism, on the other hand, is an alternative where: People are free to buy/ sell/ invest in whatever they like …

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‘Silver Army’ advances

Excerpts follow from an article about the advancing ‘Silver Army’ by Gary Rotstein in the Pittsburgh post-gazette The future of older workers During a recent three-day presentation at Columbia University, a succession of speakers from academia and the business and health fields focused on the potential productivity of older workers who can help the economy and …

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Unmotivated workforces cost $7 trillion, annually!

‘Employee engagement and workplace productivity are inextricably linked’ according to an article from Consultancy.uk Engagement apparently means ‘absorbed in and enthusiastic about work’ – just don’t ask why the word engagement is preferred nowadays to the straightforward motivation ! Gallup have just issued a report entitled State of the Global Workforce covering employees in 155 countries (of the 192 …

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P.I.N. – a new productivity broadside?

Last week I attended the launch of a new initiative for improving UK productivity – I sent the following email to Kate Penney, PIN programme manager – she has already thanked me and promised to pass it on Kate, I thought the launch of the PIN (Productivity Insights Network) last Tuesday evening in London went well – …

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CBI rides to the rescue

Having exchanged pleasant words about my new book Productivity Knowhow with the CBI’s Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, and members of her team, I chanced upon a report they had written, entitled: FROM OSTRICH TO MAGPIE  In it, they:  “Set out to find new ways to tackle the striking variation in productivity that exists between UK firms …

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Freelancing is good for many

Freelance employment should be used much more by most organisations in sectors which: Need certain specialist skills, but not on a full-time basis Have fluctuating demand patterns making employment of a full-time workforce to supply in good time prohibitively expensive Using freelance labour (say 20% part-time, 80% full-time) is much like outsourcing some processes – …

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More demand, more productivity

According to Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator, after a year-long analysis of seven developed countries and six sectors, global management consultancy company McKinsey reported that: “Demand matters for productivity growth and increasing demand is key to restarting growth across advanced economies.”  The report by James Manyika, Jaana Remes and Jan Mischke was published in the Harvard Business …

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UK skills shortages

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) claims it is ‘absolutely vital’ that UK businesses have access to migrant workkers from the EU ‘to mitigate intense workforce pressures’ Otherwise, British businesses and employers would no longer be able to compete – firms would be unable to get the staff they need …

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Steel industry productivity

Professor Mark Perry, University of Michigan, wrote about productivity in the US steel industry – this is especially relevant given President Trump is threatening to protect the industry by introducing tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminium The main reason for the loss of US steel jobs is a huge increase …

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Failure demand

The following article is reproduced en toto – it explains a concept which has an enormous impact on the efficiency and costs of many processes and staff morale – sadly, far too many managers, and consultants, seem unable to understand it or refuse to believe it – far worse, many of their customers, whatever the …

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Be single-minded

The following is an article by Professor Martin Hansen of the UC Berkeley School of Information The secret to productivity? Do less, obsess more Do one thing well, not lots averagely   In October 1911, two teams raced to be the first humans to reach the South Pole. One leader and his team achieved the …

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Outsourcing and immigration have downsides

Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson and Harvard economist Jason Furman recently wrote that America’s weak productivity growth is a mystery in an article entitled “Slower growth has real political consequences” A Peter Skurkiss responded, commenting that “it wouldn’t be a mystery if these gentlemen would set aside their politically correct blinders” He continued A major …

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Low productivity for low wages – and vice versa

One of the greatest capitalist entrepreneurs of all time, Henry Ford, famously declared: “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible – it’s not the employer who pays the wages, employers only handle money – it’s …

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Micro and Macro productivity

Productivity is a measure of how efficiently outputs are produced from costly inputs Sounds simple – but, if it means anything to anyone, it can also mean different things to different people, especially when used at micro or macro levels At the MICRO/ ORGANISATION LEVEL productivity measurement is used to: Check that most output is being …

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How to improve national productivity

They say there are only two ways to produce sustained long term growth in the current material world: Increase the number of workers employed, assuming any one new worker produces as much as any other existing worker – but this is severely limited because: Birthrates, immigration constraints and right-skills availability restrict net increases The world’s …

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Free trade is good for all nations

“Economists are worried about international trade” according to Harvard Professor Gregory Mankiw in an article printed by the New York Times No less than Adam Smith, in his famous ‘Wealth of Nations’ made the case for free trade, arguing that trade among nations is like trade among people: No one feels compelled to sew his …

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National happiness beats GDP hands down

Economist Ed Conway claims in The Times that “GDP is actually pretty good at measuring the total amount of income generated in Britain” His main point is that: Every politician from right to left obsesses about income above all other measures of progress Yet income comes surprisingly far down the list of what really matters …

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Much innovation not reflected in statistics

Susan Athey, ex Microsoft and now Expedia and winner of a prestigious medal for being the best US technology economist, was interviewed by journalist Ana Fuentes The following are extracts from her article: Q. Global growth, now running at 3.5%, might be a lot higher if we took into account the whole contribution from digitalisation …

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AI pluses versus minuses

Some optimists, like technologist Nick Bostrom, believe AI is: “The last invention the human race will ever need” However, given these are early AI days, fundamental questions still being asked include: How can we make sure robots’ only purpose would be to serve humans and our environment and make human lives better? Should robots make …

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NZ Productivity Commission slams their public sector

A new NZPC (New Zealand Productivity Commission) report slams parts of their public sector for inefficiency It says the private sector measures its productivity but the public sector falls short despite $40 billion being spent every year on such as health, education, justice, law and order and social welfare “The New Zealand government has been …

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Japan pushes CI into Africa

The Japanese government, via the JPC (Japan Productivity Centre) is helping African companies on their productivity journey by adopting Kaizen (aka CI – Continuous Improvement) and lean management techniques At first, they selected three Model Companies in Africa – Japanese experts trained their middle managers and supervisors – then productivity improvements were sought The results were …

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Buffett bullish on the future

Warren Buffett, stock-picker extraordinaire and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is one of the richest men in the world – his words are invariably ‘pearls of wisdom’ His optimism contrasts well with the pessimism of his fellow-countryman Professor Robert Gordon who claims progress, and so prosperity, has peaked A precis of a recent bullish article by …

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Clusters of SMEs are a priority

According to research conducted by Opus Energy, the top three geographical areas in the UK where SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) have productivity issues are: West Midlands North East London To compete, SMEs there are being forced to implement a wave of changes, including: Introducing flexible working Paying employees above the average wage Offering …

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Groupthink waffle or results needed

The following is a precis of part of an email from Professor John Seddon of Vanguard Consultants who  spoke at a public-sector ‘shared services’ conference The opening keynote was from the interim leader of the Government Shared Service programme – a very nice man – who said: We aim to be the best civil service in …

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