How many people in this world do you trust?
My answer is ‘All of them’ until they suggest to me that they cannot be trusted. If we start from a position of trust, we normally end up approaching discussions and negotiations in a positive and constructive frame of mind. if you trust employees, for example, then ‘industrial relations’ can also be positive and constructive.
This means that – whatever the personal, ethical and social implications, adopting a stance of ‘trust first’ makes good business sense.
Our office is quite small – a few desks … and computers of course. One of our members of staff is a graphic designer (amongst other things, for of course we cannot afford single-specialism staff) and this week I provided him with a graphics tablet.
He was slightly surprised – but very grateful. More importantly it transformed his ability to do (some parts of) his job.
It is good to be reminded of how important it is to:
(a) have the right tools and technology
(b) ensure we allow all our staff to use their talents to the full
A simple review of how well we do these things is a useful exercise. Try it!
Last week I talked about the need to cross organisational boundaries – to avoid creating ‘silo management’ where each department takes decisions on its own information to suit its own ends – resulting in sub-optimal performance for the organisation.
This week I return to boundaries to use very briefly on whether approaches to productivity development are, or should be, different in different geographic regions.
Different regions or nations may have different social, legal, economic, political and technological characteristics. My own view is that these differences may influence the appropriateness of solutions we may devise, but they do not necessitate a different approach to the improvement/development process itself.
I have worked in enough countries of the world – developed and emerging economies – to base this view on personal experience.
We still have to work through a process that consists of the essential stages of diagnosis, development, evaluation, implementation. Throughout this process, we may have to adjust how we communicate and explain, but we have to work through these steps.
Many of us are defined by our academic qualification or professional status – as engineers, managers or whatever.
But most of us have learned that we need to be able to talk to those in other roles … and need to understand their knowledge base, their expectations, their way of thinking.
How to cross those knowledge and functional boundaries is what we learn after our formal education has stopped (or paused) … and is at least as important. It is how we make multi-functional, multi-talented teams work in practice … and how we make business processes effective and efficient.
if your staff cannot cross these boundaries, you end up with ‘silo management’ where each person understands only their role … and not how their role contributes to the whole ….and why, therefore, why what they do is important and must be done well.
If they don’t understand that, it is unlikely that any degree of exhortation will make them perform … so you end up with, at the best, sub-optimal performance.
Communicate, by all means. … but make sure people themselves know how to communicate across role and function boundaries.
Sugar gives you an ‘energy rush’ – very useful when you have a demanding task to perform. That is why we like sugary snacks throughout the day when we’re at work or taking physical exercise. The problem is that these short term fixes do not do us any long-term good; in fact, quite the opposite. We can end up overweight, with health problems such as diabetes and certainly unfit.
What we need is a long-term plan for our diet and our body which gives us the energy we need when we need it but leaves us fit and healthy over the longer term.
This mirrors some approaches to improving productivity. Some organisations use the ‘quick fix’- cost cutting and labour layoffs. But this can take knowledge and skill out of the business and does little to create longer-term good. A better approach is to concentrate on those measures that create added value for customers and improve the longer-term health of the business.
I know that I have presented this as ‘black and white’ and that sometimes immediate cost-cutting is needed to ensure short-term survival. However, the principle still applies. A long term view supporting a long term vision is a better way to secure the future health of the business.
We went through the ‘quality revolution in the 70s/80s – now everyone (well all the big guys) has ISO 9000 and some have been through TQM programmes.
Why is it then that it is so difficult to get good’ service’. Service in the UK has largely been off-shored to India and other places – clearly as a cost-cutting exercise.
Customers hate calling these ‘service centres’ and playing ‘telephone tag’ until they eventually get someone who doesn’t understand the problem and has no authority to do anything about it.
They seem to have forgotten that ‘lean’ organisations start by valuing the voice of the customer (where voice is spelt VOice, not PRice).
So can we have a REAL quality revolution where quality and productivity (which should both be based on adding value) are considered two sides of the same coin and are not traded off against each other.
I want a new guitar. I admit I don’t need one (I have 4)… but I want one.
The problems is that my wife says we don’t have the space. She has initiated a new house rule for guitars – one in, one out. But I’m emotionally attached to my guitars so selling one is difficult. However, I admit we are running out of space.
We all know that what we have to store continually expands to fill the available space. So we end up storing ‘rubbish’, stuff we might need one day when it ‘comes in useful’.
The same is true at work. Most workspaces are full of unused tools, equipment, files, papers – taking up space, getting in the way, making us less productive. This is why the 5S process is so valuable – if we declutter, we work more effectively and more productively.
So, if you take a look at your workspace and declutter it, I promise to think about considering getting rid of one of my guitars.
Marks & Spencer, the large UK retailer has an environmental strategy branded ‘Plan A’ …. “because there is no Plan B. They are trying to get over the message that we HAVE to look after the environment and they are doing what they can
Of course, in business, there has to be a Plan B – except in severe emergencies. We have to have the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances – competition, legislation, technology or whatever.
There is now some concern that if we over-emphasis resource cutting approaches such as lean, we might reduce such flexibility to the point where there is no Plan B.
So, by all mean make yourself lean – but alongside the lean programme carry out a risk assessment and keep a little resource ‘in the bank’ for emergencies.
If you Google the word ‘productivity’, you get lots of results. Many of them relate to ‘personal productivity’, some of them to organisational productivity and a few to national productivity.
So, which is the most important?
One way of looking at it is to assume that collective personal productivity makes up organisational productivity and collective organisational productivity makes up national productivity
However, this is not so. Organisational productivity depends much more on the effectiveness of the systems, processes and procedures involved than it does on the personal effectiveness of the workers … except perhaps for the effectiveness of the few key people who shape policy and strategy.
So, don’t ignore personal productivity …but don’t expect it to transform your business if you don’t pay attention to those other key elements.
I’ve done quite a bit of work with the fishing and seafood sectors recently.
Over the last couple of decades, the seafood sector has been transformed through a change from catching fish to ‘growing’ fish – with aquaculture being a major – and growing – component of the sector.
Can you think how such a revolutionary change could be effected within your own industry.
If so, you could make your name and/or fortune by fundamentally changing the productivity of a whole sector.
(All I ask is a word of thanks when you accept your first major award!)