I used to ask myself the question…
What have you done today to improve the organisation?
Now I am older and wiser, I ask …
What have you done today to improve your life?
After all, work is part of life and we are understandably being asked to think about work-life balance.
Too many people don’t think about their non-work life … yet there is quite a bit of evidence to show that those who do – and have an active, balanced life – are more effective during work time,
Remember also, that life is what happens whilst you are waiting for something to happen. If you don’t take control of your life, you are left at the mercy of ….. fate.
So, regularly ask yourself …
What have I done today to improve my life?
What am I planning to improve my life?
You and your organisation will be better for it!
UK productivity has been bad for quite a long time and productivity growth is currently low.
What impact will BREXIT (the departure of the UK from the European Union) have?
Well, we don’t know all the implications but here is one scenario.
The UK is currently a high employment, low wage economy with lots of people working part-time. This means that for some time it has often been easier for firms to expand production by hiring new staff than by investing in capital equipment.
When the free movement of labour from EU countries ends, there may, in certain industries, be a shortage of the right people with the right skills. This will create problems …. but in the medium term, it will make capital investment seem more attractive and more financially viable. So, in the longer term, we may see a gradual move to a higher wage but more capital-intensive economy … with an associated productivity rise.
Its an ill wind …..
Do you use a task manager to help you schedule tasks and activities? Many people do. There are many apps out there to help you.
Do you wake each morning, look at your list of outstanding tasks and feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you should achieve that day.
You are setting yourself up for failure.
At the end of the day, you probably look at the list again and find you are carrying over quite a few of those tasks until the next day. You therefore feel you have ‘failed’.
This is repeated each day, increasing the sense of frustration, of pressure, of failure.
This is no way to become productive.
What you should do is to determine which of the tasks should be done by you – and which by others. You should maintain 3 or 4 important tasks to be done each day – others should be eliminated, automated or delegated. You can then complete those tasks, tick them off and feel a sense of achievement, Your morale will rise, your stress lower – and you will become more productive
You can also, then, throw the task manager away.
What is the most important thing to be done in a business?
Is it creating the vision?
Is it setting strategy?
Is it managing people?
Is it building a supply chain?
Well, all of these are important – but perhaps the biggest single thing to be done is to build relationships – with all stakeholders – other managers, investors, employees, customers, and people in the local communities affected by the organisation’s activities. All of these have an interest in what the company does – and how it does it; some have the ability to influence the outcomes. We need to share information with them, understand their concerns, recognise the contributions they have to make and listen to them when making decisions – especially those decisions that affect them. We should treat them as a valuable resource – able to improve the decisions we take and increase our chances of success. We need to recognise when conflict may occur – and take steps to avoid or minimise it. If we build positive relationships, we do indeed maximise the chances of success – and we build trust and confidence.
If you are unsure of the quality of the relationships you have with your stakeholders, or not confident in your ability to build positive relationships, then you owe it to yourself – and your business – to seek out support, training or other forms of help that can transform your ability to build those positive snd supportive relationships.
It might be the most important thing you ever do!
We are often asked to reflect on ‘what we think’. But, rarely, on how we think.
Many of us are charged with making improvements, with innovation, with important planning and decision-making. How we think – and how well we think – is therefore important.
Yet most of us don’t know. We think how we think – how we have always thought. We haven’t had thinking lessons. We developed our thinking processes based on our education – but, even there, there were no lessons on thinking.
So, we may think illogically, with bias, with pre-conceived (perhaps out-of-date) notions and on the basis of insufficient or imperfect information. If we have the occasional ‘flash of brilliance’, we congratulate ourselves – forgetting that the rest – the majority – of our thinking is far less than perfect.
So, perhaps it is time to do some basic research (reading) about critical and creative thinking – and start to think about how you think, why you think like you do – which leads to why you behave like you do. It might change what you do (because you’ve changed why you do it).
“Our people are our greatest assert:”. So say most companies. Yet few of them behave as if they really believe it.
They fail to involve, empower – even train and develop – their employees and then are surprised when those employees fail to maximise their contribution – if they stay at all … they are much more likely to seek an employer who will look after them.
So, treating your employees well makes all kinds of sense – especially financial. The costs of poor performance coupled with the costs of high labour turnover might break your business. they will certainly make you less competitive.
So, take the time to think about how you might improve the participation and performance of your employees. It makes sense!
I have spent much of my life urging companies to become more efficient – and helping them to do do.
But, of course, I know that some do not go far enough.
Becoming more efficient should not be an end in itself.
Becoming efficient creates capacity – it gives an organisation the headroom to start thinking about doing different things, adding more value, innovating.
So, regard your journey to greater efficiency as a stepping stone. Refine your business to create that capacity to transform it in the longer term.
Recruitment is perhaps the most important function you ever undertake
If you don’t recruit talented, skilled, flexible staff, you can’t expect your staff to exhibit talent, skill and flexibility.
But you also have to create an organisation in which that talent, skills and flexibility can thrive and grow.
You have to impose your will ,your way of thinking, your values … but leave ‘room’ for your staff to demonstrate their own values, their own commitment, their own drive.
Then, think about what you are trying to achieve, communicate this strongly (and often) to the team, set them goals and targets – and hold them accountable for their performance in achieving those goals and targets.
Your job is to identify barriers to high performance – and remove them; to engage and motivate the staff, to reward good performance – and deal appropriately with underperformance. Not forgetting the importance of recruiting the right staff in the first place, of course.
All of this is not easy … but it is necessary.
If you run an organisation – and run it well, how do you manage to keep it running well when you are not there. This can certainly be a problem for small, startups and growing organisations that do not have an established management structure.
First of all, let’s hope you have recruited well – employing trustworthy, conscientious staff.
Secondly, let’s hope you have trained your staff well – in the basics and in the less common tasks that can emerge as difficulties.
Thirdly, let’s hope that your staff show initiative and have problem-solving skills, so they can deal with the unexpected (back to a combination of recruitment and training – and an atmosphere in which they feel they have the freedom to exercise their discretion.
And finally, let’s hope you have created an organisation that has a culture based on shared, core values – which can be used to shape decisions and actions.
So as you can see, how the business runs in your absence depends entirely on you – and the way you have built the organisation, its structure and its culture. if you are not sure all of these are in place, you’d better start thinking and acting now to ensure these basic building blocks of a high productivity organisation are in place.
Should we focus our improvement efforts on improving the quality of what we do … or in improving the productivity
It doesn’t matter.
Productivity and Quality are inextricably linked. Improving quality adds value to goods or services which adds to the top line of the productivity ratio.
Improving quality through systematic analysis and investigation of both product and process also throws up productivity improvements.
Improving quality and productivity both require fresh thinking and innovation.
An organisation that commits to quality, of necessity, commits to productivity. One might even consider that one (a focus on improving quality) means improving the quality of what we do. The other (a focus on improving productivity) means improving the quality of how we do things.
So, go ahead. Do one or do both. You will end up improving your productivity.