I’m in Mauritius – working!
This is a beautiful place, of course. But when we look at such island paradises, we sometimes forget they too have to build an economy to look after their citizens. Of course, tourism is a major focus of economic activity but it isn’t enough. They need other sectors to be productive and contribute to the economy. This means they also need the infrastructure and support services that other nations have to ensure high productivity.
But, of course, Mauritius is small. Building a full transport and telecommunications infrastructure is a heavy capital expense. But bit has to be done. What small countries need to sustain them through the pains ands trials of difficult economic times is a vision – a shared vision that all key stakeholders have signed up to … to ensure momentum keeps the plan going through the difficult times.
I am trying to help Mauritius build this shared vision of a highly productive nation – working with the excellent staff of the National Productivity & Competitiveness Council. My discussions here on this my second visit give me confidence for the future … but I know there will be plenty of slips along the way to a brighter future. It is the vision that will keep the plans on track – and the collective efforts of lots of people who share, and believe in, that vision.
I am hoping that in subsequent visits, I see the seeds we have planted starting to sprout and grow … and that Mauritius has a future as bright as its sunshine.
We want our staff to participate … to take part in improvement projects and initiatives – even to initiate them.
But we have to first engage them – we have to make them see why we want to improve , why it is in their interests, and why they should become involved.
If we don’t get their interest and support, they won’t participate willingly.
So, think about what motivates them, what might encourage them and offer them reward …. understand their concerns, hopes and fears … and then find ways to engage them – on their terms, not yours..
On the LinkedIn group which I moderate (Productivity Futures) we have recently had a discussion about which come first – motivation or productivity.
One side of the argument (conventional wisdom) suggests that we motivate staff (with exhortation. encouragement, rewards or whatever) and that motivation results in higher productivity and higher satisfaction for the workforce
The counter argument is that workers work hard – perhaps because they are well-organised and well-managed…. and that performance results in them being rewarded and satisfied, creating motivation for future performance.
In some respects, the argument is irrelevant. As a business manger or owner, you need to work on the motivation of staff, setting achievable targets and goals (which are understood and agreed by those responsible for achieving them). This is something which should be ongoing and regular – not an occasional one-off intervention or initiative.
Then we end up with satisfied, highly productive workers – completing the cycle of motivation, productivity, motivation…. wherever it starts.
In the measurement field.there seems to be an assumption that, if you set targets, people will – by default – be motivated to achieve them.
However, clearly you need also to have a plan … a sequence of activities that move you ever closer towards the target.
The target is the easy bit. Establishing an effective plan is much harder. So you should spend your effort in proportion to this difficulty … and focus on the plan.
But even this is not enough.
When you have the plan you have to marshall the resources to make it happen … and motivate people to make them want to achieve it.
In most situations, whether you reach your targets will depend on people not plans. Focus your people – and make sure they have the knowledge and skills to help you move towards your targets.
Now you have a chance of success.
We often see statements that such and such an issue cost so many millions of money. The latest case was the US government ‘shutdown’. I have seen various estimates of the cost to the economy.
Almost certainly all are wrong.
When there is, say, an industrial dispute at a small factory, ‘losses’ are often based on average daily revenues. However, when the factory is shut down, the organisation saves costs and products may continue to ship from stock. Any losses are hard to estimate.
Think how much more difficult it is to do this when considering: (a) a complex organisation like the US government; (b) an organisation in the public sector.
Sure, the shutdown cost – but how much we’ll never know.
And, perhaps the greatest cost was to the US’ reputation and the degree of confidence in the US from potential foreign investors and purchasers.
This week I have been at an event organised by RKW in Germany and involving representatives of the European Association of National Productivity Centres (EANPC) and the European Management Association (EMA).
We have been discussing the current state of SMEs in Europe … and what can be done to improve their contribution to the European economy – important as Europe continues its attempt to climb out of recession.
My own view is that governments often have too many policies and programmes aimed at helping SMEs. My experience is that SMEs are flexible and adaptive … and therefore will adapt to take advantage of, and funding from, government initiatives…. but the strong ones will survive anyway … and the weak ones are unlikely to thrive and grow even with such interventions.
Governments should establish the necessary infrastructure (especially the macroeconomic and regulatory framework – where regulation should be minimal and supportive – but crucially also the education and training – for skills – infrastructure, the transport and communications infrastructures). Note that this framework applies just as much to large companies as to SMEs.
Government’s job, then, is to get out of the way and let flexible, dynamic, innovative SMEs build their businesses within that supportive environment.
So we need fewer initiatives but a stronger, more appropriate infrastructure. Then we let the strong survive and thrive.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are becoming fashionable.
The World Confederation of Productivity Science can put an online course on our website and make it available to all free of charge. (and perhaps we should!)
Is that a MOOC?
Unlikely, because it might be found and accessed by a small number of people … but that does not make it ‘massive’.
The essential attribute of a true MOOC is that lots of students take it at the same time and create a large (massive) peer support network. Learning takes place as much through student interaction as it does from the content.
So, unless we have what it takes to attract large numbers of simultaneous learners (the right name, mostly …. and we don’t ….we have a small, influential readership!), we can’t create a MOOC!
U.K. labour productivity rose for the first time in two years in the second quarter, led by manufacturing industry.
Productivity measured by output per hour increased 0.5 percent from the first quarter according to the Office for National Statistics - the first growth since the second quarter of 2011. Manufacturing productivity rose 0.7 percent and services was up 0.1 percent.
Is this a great recovery? Its too early to tell … but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction. Of course we need the rest of the world to improve as well – so that markets recover.
In the meantime, we are thankful for ‘small mercies’ … and the first signs of recovery.
How much can you improve the productivity of a process without changing the underlying technology?
Sometimes we look for the major changes that major process change can bring about. However, real gains can often be achieved by simple changes to the way we plan, organise and control the process and the resources it consumes.
Measure and understand the process … and where it might be improved. Then, improve it – simply.
Success comes from being clear about what you are aiming for … and then single-mindedly executing the strategy to get you there.
What you don’t need are distractions – the little problems along the way … but also the little side projects that crop up and you ‘fit in’ alongside the main project.
You need to be ruthless in eliminating these distractions ….. they constitute ‘wasted effort’.
Organise your work and the work of those around you is that it is absolutely clear where the focus lies…. and what constitutes success. Then remove all the distractions, leaving the team to focus completely on this main focus.