We’ve all seen technology completely disrupt certain industries – photographic film, film cameras, music recording, etc.

Sometimes what emerges from this process of disruption is a changed but equally strong industry; but sometimes the disruption is so great and over such a long period that the former industry dies but the new one takes a long time to get established. How many of you have got an electric car?
Internal disruption can be quite unsettling too.  If mis-managed, new initiatives and new ideas can cause disruption to current ways of working but the new form of working takes too long to establish – and customers are disappointed.  The drop in performance might be so huge that it takes months or even years to make up.
So, when making major change – plan, plan and plan – and then make sure you have the skills to execute.

Real world issues for Trump

Donald Trump aims to ‘make America great again’ by re-patriating manufacturing and putting Americans back to work.

Laudable aims – but practical?

The second can’t happen without the former …. but if he does succeed in bringing outsourced manufacturing back onshore, in the  short term at least, the US is likely to need more labour hours. Evidence of he last 10 years suggests this may come from immigrants rather than the deskilled, dispirited native workforce.

This conflicts with other elements of Trump’s avowed policies.

Perhaps Donald will find it isn’t as easy as he thought it was.

Welcome to the real world, President Trump!


Some of you will have made New year’s resolutions.

Well, don’t make specific resolutions relating to work and productivity – unless itb is one to revert to ‘first principles’ and review:

your mission and vision

your critical success factors

your key performance indicators.

So, no quick fixes, magic bullets or panaceas.  Improving productivity takes thought and effort, not the application of some latest fad.

Is the NHS the key?

I make no apology for my continued focus on the UK.

Any government should be looking to increase national productivity – by identifying key areas and key levers they can ‘pull’.

In the case of the UK, the National Health Service is such a large part of government spending, that driving efficiency here is essential.  Governments have tried but the NHS is such a behemoth, that it is a difficult exercise.  Changes to one part of the NHS cause difficulties (and unforeseen problems) elsewhere in ‘the system’.

So, the secret is to go for a change in attitude and motivation – and let the NHS change itself.

Setting targets can help – but setting a lower budget is politically unacceptable … the NHS is virtually untouchable – an icon of UK life.  However without some radical changes (such as small charges at the point of use), real change cannot happen,

If we ‘grasp the nettle’ and manage to make the NHS more productive, we can make a massive impact on GDP and on national productivity.

We cannot afford not to try.

UK continues

Further to last week’s comments on the new UK Productivity Council, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond used the Autumn Statement to pledge new funding for fibre broadband and 5G technologies.

The £400 million investment in fibre, called the Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, will be given to broadband providers to expand their networks,

What does this do for UK productivity?

Well, like most infrastructure investments, it creates potential.

Whether organisations build on that potential is up to them – but they can’t complain about lack of government support and then refuse to exploit support that is given.

So, in 5 year’s we’ll return to his subject and see if we can determine a return on this investment – at the national productivity level.

UK Productivity Initiative

The UK Government is set to fund a business-led initiative designed to improve management skills and business productivity, after Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement within the Autumn Statement 2016.

The new UK Productivity Council will help narrow the “long-standing productivity gap” between the UK and Germany, the USA, France and Italy and encourage start-ups and small businesses to play a key role in improving the UK’s productivity rate.

It’s thought that, should the Council prove successful, the initiative could unlock up to £100bn of gross value added (GVA) each year.

Backed by £13m worth of Government seed funding, phased over three years, the new council was proposed following discussions among UK business leaders, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD).

The council will feature an advisory board, a chief executive and a five-strong leadership team, supported by up to 15 staff, drawing on the industry expertise of the business leaders that have contributed to date.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman, John Lewis Partnership, said: “For many ‘productivity’ is the language of economists, but it’s also critical to a healthy heartbeat for the economy, for wages and for competitiveness.

“While Government has a key role to play in creating the conditions for growth, businesses have to be the prime movers in boosting Britain’s productivity.

“I welcome the Government’s support for a UK Productivity Council which will encourage and support businesses.”

The plans discussed for the Council include:

  • Creating a single point of contact for businesses requiring productivity assistance
  • Building a range of benchmarking tools, in conjunction with the Council’s development partners, to improve productivity overview
  • Creating ‘productivity hubs’ to connect businesses with industry leaders in their area and see what measures work best for other firms
  • Regional employer-driven hubs to promote business productivity through professionals
  • Use of data and analytics to create evidence-based legislation

Greg Clark, Business Secretary, said: “Boosting productivity is a key part of this government’s industrial strategy, making sure the UK economy is fit for the future.

“That’s why last week we announced the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, including £13m for the new UK Productivity Council.

Productivity hacks are a watse of time.

There are lots of blogs and magazine articles offering ‘productivity hacks’.

What impact do these have on the productivity of an organisation?

Well, most of them are aimed at personal productivity.  They may help some people be marginally more efficient. But their impact on the organisation is almost non-existent since they don’t address organisational systems, processes and procedures

So, ignore them – unless you find them interesting on a personal level.

instead, take a systematic look t your organisation, what it does and how it does it.  In there lies the ‘secret’ of improved productivity.  Look for waste, opportunities for change, things that should be measured †o show what is happening.

Create your own, organisational ‘hacks’ – more effective and much more rewarding.

pos†-Brexit UK productivity

How will Brexit affect UK productivity?

Well, it looks as though tax revenues will be lower.  But employment looks to be holding steady.

The uncertainty will lead to slower investment by some firms.

But the real answer is … no-one knows.  The UK has been struggling to reach pre-financial crisis levels of productivity.  Post- Brexit, there may be a fresh confidence that moves things forward.   Bu† there may not be.

So, don’t ask me.

Drones bad?

Just last week there was a near collision between a passenger jet and a drone. Drones have, in fact, had quite a bad press.  Yet their potential is immense. There are all sorts of ways in which drones can be used †o improve productivity.

Just think of farmers keeping an eye on stock or on weather conditions, on soil condition on water sources, on predators.

And that is just agricultural productivity.  There are similar opportunities in other sectors.

So, don’t blame the technology when you see ‘bad drone’ stories.  Drones need regulating and controlling but they will prove to be helpful in many areas.

Frontier Companies

Frontier companies are those who operate at the technology frontier – early and effective adopters.  Unfortunately in the UK, there are few such companies and far too many laggards who adopt technology late and often reluctantly.

We need to convince these laggards to evaluate technology as an opportunity, not perceive it as a threat.  At the moment we seem to be simply waiting for the technology-literate generation Z to grow into positions of responsibility and authority.

Industry leaders and advisers have a responsibility to lead their sector down the technology road.  The rest of us need to walk that road, keep an open mind and look for all the benefits – in terms of improved customer response as well as in terms of cost.