Time for Turkey

Turkey has been through an economic transformation in recent years.  They have learnt well from incoming Japanese firms and Japanese management teams and have some indigenous companies that now rank as world-class in terms of manufacturing performance.

However, there is an odd situation.  In terms of developing SMEs and creating small-scale entrepreneurs (ready to move into becoming large-scale entrepreneurs), Turkey has done less well.

It has learned well where it has an established model to learn from but significantly less well where it has to develop its own ideas on an appropriate infrastructure and culture to support business start-up and early growth 

If Turkey cannot unlock this puzzle, it stands to enjoy a few years of success before slipping back down the slope to economic mediocrity.

Allow (a little) failure

Being frightened of failure can be a motivating influence.  However it can also be a constraining factor causing people to ‘play safe’ and avoid risks.

Most change involves some risk – that things won’t go to plan or as we expected.  But if we don’t take those risks, we don’t get the change – and the benefits it brings.

So we have to encourage people to take a few risks – but managed risks.  We don’t want  people taking unplanned, unmeasured and unmitigated risks with our resources, our business.  So we have to train them to assess the risk – and to ensure they know how to recognise when all is not going to plan-  and what to do  about it.

Sometimes they will get this wrong – and we get a failure.  But if we have the right mix of risks – and especially the right mix of people – then our successful risks should far outweigh our failures.

As they say…. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”

Its not about the basketball hoops!

We’ve all heard of the kinds of facilities that really forward-looking (and generally rich) companies provide for their employees.

So, have you thought what you might provide for your employees.

Well, I’m here to tell you that if you are considering new staff facilities – standing desks, write-on walls, table-tennis tables, free coffee, basketball hoops, or whatever – you are probably wasting your time.

What really interests and motivates employees is ‘good work’ – work which fully exploits their skills, provides a challenge, has a role in the overall company mission (and a role they understand), has a social dimension – and which gives them satisfaction, pride and personal reward.

If you can’t provide such work, the other ‘add-ons’ aren’t likely to help.

Change in strategy for the UK?

The UK seems to have lost productivity – but gained jobs.  This seems about right.   

Has it done the right thing? 

Well, in the short term governments have to make decisions and adopt strategies to solve a problem, to get out of a crisis.

The UK government seems to have adopted policies that are enabling the UK to climb out of the pit of the financial crisis …. and since competitors are doing less well, the lower productivity is not a problem.

But in the longer-term productivity IS important – it drives competitiveness and it drives wealth-creation, without creating inflation.

So the UK has to find ways of improving productivity but as part of a growing economy so it doesn’t result in job losses. 

Only time will tell whether the next government (after the election in May) can do this.

The Secret to Higher Productivity

Did that title grab you? 

Do you want to know what the secret is?

Sorry to disappoint you … but there isn’t one …. and anyone who says there is is a snake-oil salesman.

The nearest I can get to giving you a ‘secret recipe’ is that you have to consider both processes and people.  Creating ‘efficient’ processes doesn’t work unless you also have a skilled and motivated workforce operating those processes.

My ‘secret’ is that:

Engaged employees with improved skills result in improved productivity.

Sorry if you are underwhelmed.

Has the UK made the right decision?

Recent economic figures show that unemployment has fallen in the UK – there are more people employed than there have been for many years.

Yet, over this period of jobs growth, productivity has fallen.

The UK seems to have chosen jobs over productivity as the way out of the economic crisis.

This might be a sensible short-term approach … but there is a danger that the country ends up as a low cost, low skill economy.

if the rest of Europe starts to pull out of its current poor economic shape the UK might find itself uncompetitive.

It might be too late

We’ve all seen the kinds of things that tech companies do to engage and maintain staff – and to hopefully maintain high creativity levels.  Not all of us can  create high-tech offices with write on walls, supply sports facilities, free coffee or whatever it seems to take.

BUT …. we don’t need to.

What seems to matter is that employees think they are valued, and their contribution is important. They also like to think that their personal values chime with those of the organisation they work for.

These can be signalled in lots of small, inexpensive ways.  Firstly, of course, employees have to know what your values are – what shapes company policy and strategy.

And they are far too smart to take the platitudes you put on your website and in your press releases. Your values are shown in what you do – not what you say.

If your values include the recognition of contributions and the valuing of teamwork, you will already be finding ways to praise, to reward (not necessarily financially) and to recognise what your staff do.  You will create space in which they can be creative and innovative ….. and you will value (and be seen to value) the ideas they put forward.

If you are not doing these things, its too late for the write-on walls and the free coffee to help!

Are you wasting your time?

In a recent paper, the governor of the Central Bank of Barbados said that even though Barbados is relatively prosperous as a Caribbean nation, it will only move up the international ‘league table’ by improving its labour productivity.

He then suggested that this is difficult because only about 30% of the Barbadian workforce feels fully committed to their jobs.

I wondered how you productivity professionals out there felt about this … and whether you agree that that the systems, processes and procedures you put in place can be largely ineffective if workers are not ‘committed to their jobs’.

Less intervention, more success

In small businesses low productivity is rarely the fault of the workers – it is because the owner/manager has not set up production processes properly -or has failed to manage them effectively.

Too many owner/managers want to micro-manage … they see their job as ‘keeping on top of things’.

It is – of course… but they must set up systems of production – and then measure the performance (of the system, not the people) – so that they know whether it is  effective – and improving.  This should not need hourly – or even daily intervention, especially if they have a good production supervisor.

They need to give the supervisor responsibility, authority – and if necessary, training … and let them ‘keep on top of things’.  They should then check progress with the supervisor weekly or ask them for a regular report (brief and quantitative).

The aim is to make the system work – then the owner/manager can plan for improvement and growth.

Productivity or Innovation?

There has been discussion on the Productivity Futures LinkedIn group this week discussing whether productivity and innovation are natural enemies or bedfellows.

Of course I chimed in – well, I can’t resist – and my view is that real productivity development – revolutionary rather than evolutionary – is unlikely without innovation.  Innovation can transform productivity.

Tor Dahl reminded the group that productivity is about doing the right things in the right way 100% of the time.  Innovation can change what we do – and how we do it.  Systematic approaches to improvement – and the standardisation that goes with them – ensure we do the right things ALL the time.

Any of you who want to try to run your organisations without innovation please inform me – I want to stay clear of investing in you.