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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Author's posts

NHS – ‘The Times Health Commission’ recommendations

The Times reported that Aneurin Bevan, architect of the UK’s NHS, summed up its founding principle by saying: “Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community” But what Bevan did …

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NHS – Measures needed?

Most patients applaud the individual efforts of their doctors, nurses and other NHS staff when treated by them – they clapped even more during the Covid pandemic But, despite more and more being spent on the NHS and many more doctors and nurses being trained, demand keeps rising whilst service levels keep falling All sorts …

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Can Labour really get Britain growing again?

Extracts follow from an insightful and important article by  Andrew Rawnsley, Chief Political Commentator of the Observer, published by the Grauniad – he considers, after years of Tory failure, whether Labour can get Britain growing again? Quite apart from England’s stuttering, albeit successful, start in the Rugby 6 Nations championship and Ronnie Sullivan’s recent triumph on …

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Germany trials a 4DWW amid labour shortage

When Germany, the most productive nation in Europe, decides to try out WFH via a 4-Day-Working-Week, one has to ask ‘why?’ given the debate ongoing about its pros and cons  – it turns out they seek not just to improve their productivity performance, which has been stalling, via extra workforce motivation but also to offset …

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Local Government to produce ‘productivity plans’?

‘Stop press’ – Michael Gove has just ordered councils to produce new ‘productivity plans’. Apparently, several UK local government councils have either gone bust or are very close to it. Armchair experts suggest they never had any realistic plans anyway and, for non-statutory services, they just shelled out more local tax-payers’ money on loopy projects …

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Why is HR going ‘under the radar’?

‘Why is HR going ‘under the radar’ with employees?’ – ‘To continue their employment’, many may say – Juliette Rowsell, writing in ‘People Management‘, suggests a lack of understanding of the function’s role is leading to such negative perceptions – some indeed consider HR to be either a dumping ground for failed executives and/ or …

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Team Morale Is Vital

Significant productivity improvement depends not only on the mix of people involved, their numbers and quality, and the methods they employ to serve their customers, whether using existing resources and/ or new investments, but also, and often overlooked, the team’s motivation level – and that is very much determined by their manager The following interesting …

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Public sector waste

Re-reading C Northcote Parkinson’s pearls in ‘The Law and the Profits’, written 60 years ago, one might despair about how nothing much seems to have changed since then We all know his first law: ‘Work expands to fill the time available’ – administrators thus multiply Less well known is his second law: ‘Government expenditure rises …

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Does Britain need a new public body to spur productivity?

Despite being a key player in the recently established TPI – The Productivity Institute – Diane Coyle, professor of public policy at Cambridge University, claims that ‘Britain needs a new public body to spur productivity as this would help in tackling the country’s chronic under-investment and policy churn’ – this implies that the TPI only …

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An ‘AILING NHS’?

Under the heading ‘Ailing Health’ a leader article in The Times claimed: “The NHS is delivering poor outcomes and value for money” despite average UK citizens now enjoying much longer, healthier, pain-free lives – this laudable success has had a perverse consequence because increased old-age increases attendant old-age diseases and they need significantly more costly medical …

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AI may boost government productivity by $1.75 trn a year

Sarah Wray, writing for ‘Cities Today’, covers a new report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) which claims that use of generative artificial intelligence – GenAI – could create productivity gains of US$1.75 trillion per year in the public sector globally by 2033 – the essence of her article follows – the message is that, on …

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Technology is not enough for productivity that matters

Dani Rodrik, professor of international political economy at Harvard Kennedy School, is president of the International Economic Association and the author of ‘Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy’ – extracts from his views follow: “Scientific and technological innovation might be necessary for the productivity growth that enriches societies, but it is …

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“Does anyone even understand productivity?” – The Critic

A new magazine ‘The Critic’ has just been launched – it includes an article on official measures of national productivity which, in its own way, makes many salient points about how seriously flawed they are, yet on which most of our political leaders and expert economists base their policies – readers will know we made …

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UK Civil Service expansion ended whilst quality of services to rise!

The Chancellor has announced a cap on civil servant headcount across Whitehall ‘to stop any further expansion, increase efficiencies and boost productivity’ – apart from an overwhelming sense of deja vu, one wonders what the impact of this latest initiative will be on individual processes remaining staff have to follow and so the quality of services …

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Productivity leads to prosperity

New from the MGI – McKinsey Global Institute – a transcript of a McKinsey podcast where Olivia White and Charles Atkins join McKinsey editorial director and host Roberta Fusaro to share tangible ways for boosting US productivity. We always applaud the MGI for being one of the very few to focus on productivity as being …

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How To Win? – Manage well

Aliza Knox, a contributor to Forbes.com which habitually seems to offer splendid business common-sense, writes about how to rise and thrive in today’s global corporate world – whilst the world currently seems infatuated, and so blinded, by the claimed benefits versus potential pitfalls of AI, she homes in on the most import driver of productivity …

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The key to solving the NHS productivity puzzle

At long last, a focus on the real needs for improving NHS productivity levels – our political leaders, whatever their colour, forever compete for votes by promising more and more costly inputs – more doctors, nurses, hospitals etc. – and we, the public, the customers, the people who pay for them, mostly admire the staff …

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Productivity relatively ignored!

Once upon a time a CBI survey of senior UK managers found that 80% of them paid little attention to productivity – it was not a boardroom issue – their specific views included: It’s too difficult to measure productivity in most areas and sectors It’s seldom the main determinant of financial success for any organisation …

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“AI will double productivity in next decade”

Geoff Colvin, writing for Fortune magazine, reports that top economist Professor  Erik Brynjolfsson says AI will double productivity in the next decade: ‘You need to embrace this technology and not resist it’ Years before Open AI’s ChatGPT startled the world in 2022, Erik Brynjolfsson was studying the questions that have since made AI a red-hot topic: Will the …

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German army efficiency grid

A useful thought follows, dredged up from an old copy of ‘Bluffers Guide‘ re consultancy which, in many ways, continues to be relevant today whilst also raising a chuckle or two The German army was once renowned for its efficiency – but how did they manage this? It was said to be because of the …

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State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Gallup Report

A new report from Gallup offers more aggregated statistics that nobody can dispute – it merely adds to the dense information fog that leaders offer the productivity world – front-line managers should read on and be prompted to change, or not This annual report represents the collective voice of the global employee. In this year’s report, …

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WFH – A clash of productivity and morality?

An interesting viewpoint from the ever-controversial Elon Musk follows which is copied from an article in a publication of which, sadly, I no longer have  the details One prominent figure who has taken a strong stance against remote work is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla. In recent statements, Musk not only criticised the productivity …

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AI offers a massive uptick in productivity growth

Dean Baker, the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, just wrote a wise article in ‘Counterpunch’ about the pluses and minuses of Artificial Intelligence and raised issues many commentators overlook We have long known that people in policy debates have difficulty with arithmetic and basic logic. We got …

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£300 bn annual UK saving ignored!

In the UK alone, at least 80% of all organisations could improve their productivity by at least 20%, many by 50% or more A conservative 20% productivity improvement across all sectors would translate into an annual saving of at least £300 billion for the UK alone – realised by a combination of: Cutting waste, and/ …

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Will AI be good for workers?

The McKinsey Global Institute is a rare source of good practical advice on major productivity issues – here, their Michael Chui, Kweilin Ellingrud and Asutosh Padhit focus on the impact of AI and actions needed now to take most advantage of it – the following article was published by Fortune magazine – its message applies globally, not just …

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Altman updates ‘Moores Law’

Hermione Taylor, writing in the Investors’ Chronicle, considers whether “newfangled AI technology will solve our economic problems or be the cause of unknown crises – AI could transform productivity but at what cost?”   As advanced economies battle high inflation, low growth, stagnant productivity and labour shortages, could salvation be on the horizon? Last month, …

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Brexit, strikes and labour shortages

Below, Larry Elliott, economics editor of the Guardian, resurrects the economic debate about Brexit – he says: “If you want a benefit of Brexit, here it is: British employers must now innovate again” – what he overlooks is, for many of us including me, Brexit was about sovereignty, not economics – we would have liked to …

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Workers become happier, more productive with AI assistance

According to Madison Hoff, writing for Business Insider, a study of workers who got an AI assistant became happier, more productive, and less likely to quit There’s a lot of fear right now about whether AI is coming to replace people’s jobs. Tech workers like software engineers are concerned about AI in the workplace, for instance. AI may …

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Our productivity problem may not be as bad as it looks

Some good sense from Clancy Yeates, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, about current productivity levels down-under and applicable to most developed nations  High inflation isn’t the only thing that’s bothering Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe. He’s also been making noises lately about a problem affecting many economies around the world, including ours: weak productivity …

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Boost your productivity … do absolutely nothing

Gavin Esler, the broadcaster, says too many of us are drowning in digital stimuli but the best ideas come when we log off – take a trip on any London tube train to see the problem – take a nap after a good lunch to enjoy the oncoming wellbeing world An older man takes a …

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