Productivity and Trump’s Tax Turnoff?

Donald Trump is hailing his tax cutting plans as ‘radical’ and likely to stimulate US growth.How will they affect US productivity?

Well, the way in which productivity responds to trade measures is not clear … but if corporations are paying less tax, they may spend more on capital infrastructure or on R&D – and both of those are generally beneficial to productivity.  However, they take time to show up in the figures – so don’t expect short term productivity gains.  And with long-term investments, often something else (some short term effect or expediency) often intervenes.

So, as ever, we wait and see.  We hope.  And if it all works our, we might have to hail Trump as a visionary.

Should we encourage laziness?

Is laziness helpful in making people more productive? does it encourage them to seek less arduous ways of achieving the same output?

Well, certainly the opposite is not true  Busyness is not a sign of high productivity. Too many people are busy but essentially unproductive – because they are either doing the wrong things or doing them in the wrong way.

Think about people like maintenance engineers – ideally we want them either doing nothing or carrying out planned maintenance – we do not want them working on breakdowns and emergencies.

So, perhaps we should encourage people to create more ‘idle time’ as a reward for improving how they carry out their own tasks

IMF has got it right

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has issued a stark warning that living standards will fall around the world unless governments take urgent action to increase productivity by investing in education, cutting red tape and incentivising research and development.

Whether or not, you agree that her prescription is what is needed to improve productivity – or is complete, it is good that someone so influential is spreading the message about the need for productivity development.

I actually think she has got it mostly right – I would add infrastructure development, and would add training to education … but her summary is pretty effective and ‘chimes’ quite well with the findings of the recent World Productivity Congress.

Well, I declare …

I have just returned from the World Productivity Congress in Bahrain – a fascinating event in a fascinating country.  I anot going to report on te Congress … but the spirit of the event is summed up in the Congress Declaration reproduced here.

Congress logo










We, the members of the global productivity movement, gathered in Bahrain for the World Productivity Congress from 1st to 4th April 2017 have been informed and inspired by three days of discussion, debate and deliberation on the Congress Theme of “New Roads to Innovation and Higher Productivity”.


This theme was in part inspired by the position of Bahrain (like other nations in the Gulf region) as needing to move to become a post-oil economy and needing to identify a range of routes towards economic growth.


As a result of our deliberations, we, the members of the global productivity community affirm the following principles underlining productivity development:


  • improved productivity remains the only effective route to creating secure and sustainable solutions to the provision of energy, food and water to the growing global population;


  • productivity development must be supported by innovative thinking and technological development, which in turn need the establishment of a supportive innovation ecosystem;


  • at the national level, productivity development is supported by the creation of healthy communities (of engaged, empowered and participating citizens;


  • though the overall concepts and philosophy of productivity science remain globally applicable, specific productivity campaigns, approaches, tools and techniques must be applied in ways which are informed by local history and culture;


  • at the organisational level, productivity improvement is supported by an informed, engaged workforce, members of which have their knowledge and skills regularly reviewed and refreshed.


We pledge our individual and collective commitment to:


spreading awareness of these principles to key policy and decision-makers.

ensuring that national and regional productivity development policy and practice is informed by the above principles


We thank the country of Bahrain for creating a rich and rewarding event which led to the formation of these principles and we thank His Highness Shaikh Mohamed bi Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, for his guidance and leadership as patron of the Congress.


I am travelling today from the UK to Bahrain for the World Productivity Congress.

I do not expect world-shattering insights … but I do expect to think  and act a little differently from next week after the presentations and discussions.

When I stop learning – and being able to use that learning to think and act differently – I will really be ‘old’ and I might as well give up.

Life is a journey through experience.  Real journeys – especially to different cultures – add massively to those experiences.  I consider myself lucky to have travelled extensively around the globe.  But I consider myself sensible to have approached that travel with an open mind, to have observed, listened and reflected and built my own ‘world view’.

Those of you who are joining me in Bahrain for the Congress, please stop me and say ‘Hello’.  Those who cannot  .. let’s hope there is another opportunity for our journeys to cross.

Get help.

Most of us will admit that we are not experts in all areas. (Some of us will even admit to not being an expert in any area.)

So, we take advice, help and support from those who know more than we do – or at least we do if we are sensible.

Of course we have to find knowledgeable people who know about our field of operation, or our type of problem.

Some of us use conferences to help us find experts.  We can use sector-based events that offer information and presentations form experts in our sector. Or we can use generic events, recognising that many lessons are transferrable across sectors  and it is the tools, techniques, approaches and methodologies we should be looking at.

I shall be at the World Productivity Congress shortly (April 2-4) to learn, share, discuss, reflect on issues around productivity – at the global,  regional, national and organisational level.  I don’t necessarily expect to learn the ‘great secret to productivity improvement’ – but I do hope to hear about developments that will help me refine my own approach to supporting productivity development.

What have I got to lose?  Very little.

What have I got to gain? Possibly a great deal.

There is (just about) time to join me – what have you got to lose/gain?

Check out for information.

Are you a micromanager?

Lots of management texts and courses tell us about the details of planning, organising and managing.  One problem is that managers can tend to think that they themselves have to immerse themselves in the detail.  They become micromanagers, obsessed about small steps and detail – instead of concentrating on the big picture and trusting others ‘down the chain’ to worry about detail.

Employees see this as a lack of trust – and can often even see the manager doing their job for them.  Naturally, they turn off and disengage

Nobody likes to be micromanaged. So, don’t do it.

Productivity vs Efficiency

These two terms are often used interchangeably – but they are different.  Here I am not concerned with technical differences – but with philosophical or attitudinal differences.

Organisations that pride themselves on being efficient usually strive to achieve the same performance with fewer resources – doing the same with less.

Conversely, organisations that aim to be highly productive usually strive to do more with the same resources -doing more with the same.  They concentrate on the ‘top line’ (of the productivity ratio) – and the ‘bottom line’ takes care of itself.

Reasons for Brexit

No-one is quite sure why the UK voted to leave the EU – but a recent study into the habits of 500 SMEs (small and medium enterprises), commissioned by online printing company instantprint, revealed that dealing with HR compliance forms, pension paperwork and health and safety regulations eats up an average of ten hours of the working week.

These companies took so long complying with regulation that they had  little or no time to focus on business growth.

This is not a recipe for success – and may be a small contributing factor to the Brexit vote.

Certainly we have to hope that Mrs May and her government will be looking to reduce the burden of bureaucracy as the UK leaves the EU.

India’s success – hard or soft?

India is held up as the latest ‘economic miracle’ – transforming its economy over the last 20 years.  It is often suggested that success is down to ‘hard’ factors – such as technical ability, capital investment – and, of course, cheap labour.

But India has recognised the importance of ‘softer’ skills ands factors – such as teamwork, problem-solving and communication.  Young Indians are receptive to modern approaches to organising and managing a workforce and respond positively.

In fact, a study by the University of Michigan, on female garment workers (in Bangalore)  showed that providing training in soft skills raised productivity by 12%.

Sometimes, simple approaches are the best.