Shoot the productivity messengers?

One groans when leading economists, senior government ministers, even John Humphries on the BBC’s Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, trot out the same old message about the dire straits of the UK economy viz:

  • “Woeful productivity gap”
  • “Grim reading”
  • “More austerity”
  • “We’re in a new paradigm of lower productivity growth”


Philip Hammond, the dour UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, weighs in with: “Regrettably, our productivity performance continues to disappoint” – so we know what his crystal balls are telling him

None of these experts seriously question the basic data they use in order to reach their conclusions about national performance levels and trends – and all position themselves at the leading foggy edge of technology when offering solutions, ignoring bigger opportunities staring them in the face

What’s needed is some fresh thinking from outside the tent – some optimistic devil’s advocates with clout who can counter all this pessimistic guff

At present, nobody is shouting about the enormous waste of costly resources that’s ongoing everywhere – in many organisations, over 50% of total costs – not 1 to 2% as many think

But waste reduction is also viewed as dirty, downmarket and intellectually low-brow – hence, it’s not even measured by most managers, academics and economists – hence, there are few serious drives to cut it

Instead, managers bleat for more and more input resources and investment, and continue to waste the same % of them because they also assume their current methods of operation work well – which they don’t

For example, imagine the tax-payers’ reaction if they found out the NHS did not need the extra £20 billion per year of their money promised by the government – simply by cutting waste everywhere – but the data is missing, so the public never find out, and an overall drive on NHS waste is never started

And it’s not just the NHS – the great majority of organisations, public and private, could improve their productivity by at least 20% without having to invest in expensive, latest and best technology

But the great majority of managers don’t realise this

They not only lack good performance measures

Their leaders also continually bombard them with ‘doom and gloom’ rather than messages enthusing about an exciting and prosperous future

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