Productivity crisis fixed?

The Times has announced a project to be run by the strangely named ‘Be the Business’, a government sponsored initiative aimed at solving the productivity crisis said to be afflicting the nation

100 big companies, including Amazon, Aviva, BAE systems, British Land, Cisco, Google and Rolls Royce, ‘will promise to boost UK productivity by encouraging greater adoption of tech skills among their suppliers and offering mentor programmes for managers’

The rationale for this venture seems to be as follows, with our first reactions attached:

  • Current ONS statistics on GDP and national productivity are accurate and useful – they’re not – such stats prompt no action by individual businesses and are meaningless to individual citizens – and some say they’re ‘dangerously misleading’ for government ministers when policy-making
  • ‘Economic growth across the country is stalling’ says Charlie Mayfield, also boss of the the retailer John Lewis, much in the news recently for underperforming – actually, current mis-measurement of GDP is such that the UK may even be performing well – nobody truly knows!
  • ‘Productivity has barely improved over the last decade’ so the impact on the economy and our standard of living has been ‘severe’ –  whilst a social inequality gap still exists in the UK, the rich v poor ratio has continued to fall dramatically – most now have an acceptable standard of living and have moved on to seeking a better quality of life – national measures need to recognise this change
  • Small firms and the self-employed form the UK’s ‘long-tail’ of poor performers – the implication is that all big firms in any sector are best performers employing best managers who use best methods – this was not my experience and is clearly not so
  • If the ‘long tail’ acquire more tech skills and mentoring from the big boys (their customers) quantum leaps in productivity and revenue/ profits/ tax-take will result – many of the big boys fail to make big improvements when trying latest fads (aka tech skills?) such as Lean or Agile – they ignore the huge benefits on offer from truly putting their customers first, identifying and cutting causes of waste and making better use of existing resources –  and such actions don’t need any outside support (from consultants or the big boys’ surplus managers) or ‘best practice’ transfers, just internal enthusiasm and common-sense


All up, we hope we’re wrong about this latest venture – indeed, we hope it makes a big quantifiable difference for many people and businesses in the near future

At present, however, it seems to be yet another initiative that enjoys an initial fanfare of publicity and hope but lacks the beef to follow



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