Return to National productivity plans

Action needed – Overall

1. Expand the new national productivity centre – TPI:

  • Clearly, all governments should take national productivity improvement very seriously – the potential benefits are £300 billion per annum for the UK alone!

  • Each NPC should be independently funded so it cannot be swayed for any party political reasons – and it should be staffed by top businessmen, academics, trade union officials and consultants who represent all sectors, public and private 

  • National governments to have done something along these lines include:

    • Australia and New Zealand who actively support their Productivity Commissions

    • Japan and the USA have their JPC and APQC 

  • And recently, it was very welcome to find that a new  TPI – The Productivity Institute – had been set up, sponsored by the ESRC – Economic and Social Research Council – and others to the tune of £32m for at least five years :

    • The institute is led by Professor Bart Van Ark from the University of Manchester

    • To date, it seems mostly staffed by academic economists

    • It also appears to be more research-based and  nationally focused rather than considering ‘what works’ and best practices for managers at organisation level – as per the APQC in the USA

    • However, it does have within its structure a separate Productivity Commission to help guide policymaking for national growth and productivity improvement – so maybe help for lower levels is forthcoming

2. Establish a National BSC – National Balanced Scorecard:

  • In the UK, public satisfaction with their government’s performance is only debated and tested at ‘general elections’ once every four or five years – it should not be so

  • A national set of performance measures is needed covering what the public want to know

3. Promote widespread innovation:

  • For innovation, a Technology Strategy Board has been set up, funded but not controlled by the UK government – it alone chooses where and what to invest in e.g. high value manufacturing, cell therapy, satellite applications, offshore renewable energy, transport systems, future cities and the connected digital economy

  • There is also a ‘Catapult programme’ ongoing where the government pumps money into leading academic research 

  • However, the UK needs to generate many more big ideas for innovation and productivity growth

  • At present, global patent filing is growing exponentially and most nations are in danger of being left far behind – last year alone, China filed well over 1.3m, the USA about 250k, Japan/ South Korea/ Germany/ Taiwan and Russia over 30k each, France over 10k and the UK a mere 6k

  •  An NIC – National Ideas Centre – should be established to trawl, assess and decide on anyone’s improvement ideas for any sector, with big prizes on offer to attract inputs from budding entrepreneurs – the NIC would need experienced people to sieve and rate those ideas plus a list of approved business angels, venture capitalists, private equity managers and the like to offer funding and support

  • However, patent filing is not enough – the UK has a great record for inventiveness but a poor record for taking commercial advantage of them:

    • Monoclonal antibodies, developed in the UK, are the basis of blockbuster cancer drugs such as herceptin and avastin but most profits from them are being made abroad by foreign producers

    • Computers were conceived by Charles Babbage, a Brit – the first working model was made by Alan Turing, another Brit, in WW2 – the world wide web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, another Brit – yet not one of the world’s top 15 IT companies is British

  • Hence, the NIC should also offer experienced mentors to entrepreneurs to help bring their ideas to markets


4. Encourage a ‘Silver Army’:

  • For extra wisdom, each nation should make better use of its retired Silver Army:

    • Governments aren’t moving fast enough to produce workers with the skills needed to meet the productivity imperative, and businesses can’t afford to wait

    • That means companies must be much more innovative at sourcing talent, whether by tapping global labour markets, building part-time workforces or making better use of older workers

    • The wisdom of retired successful managers should be harnessed to promote growth, both at home and abroad, with them acting as advisors/ mentors for managers at all levels – they’d be unthreatening to those managers as they climb career ladders and so more likely to be listened to

    • N.B. The brain doesn’t shut down at age 70 – Archimedes, Da Vinci, Edison & Einstein were older and in their prime whilst famous leaders who were older and in power include Chou en Lai, Churchill, Deng Xiaoping and Mandela