We expect modern managers to be numerate and analytical. We educate and train them to be so.
Yet when we look at entrepreneurs we see something else. We see creativity and passion.
Which of these are the best qualities to have?
Of course, I have given you a false dilemma. The answer is that really successful business leaders have both analytical and creative skills: they also have passion. They care about what they do; they care deeply about what they achieve. They will make errors and misjudgements but their inner belief, their passion will drive them on to rectify their mistakes, to improve their judgement and their results.
Think about what you do. If you don’t care about what you do, you are unlikely to succeed. If you don’t have the passion, you are in the wrong job – or the wrong organisation.
I read a comment the other day suggesting that increased private investment in (private) education would improve its productivity.
I think this is debatable.
As in many other areas, it depends on how you define and measure productivity. We all know that productivity is quite different than production or output: fundamentally it involves the incorporation of resources consumed … mirroring the judgement we all face daily on assessing ‘value’ for goods and services we consume.
More investment would certainly raise the numbers of students coming out of private education …. but, as we have just said, that is not a measure of productivity….. nor, importantly, of that very elusive factor ‘quality’.
Take India as an example. Lots of private colleges and universities output thousands of students each year. Yet, there is some doubt about whether many of them are fit for the workplace. They know lots of stuff … but they can’t do very much. Their employability skills are lacking.
Even in admittedly strong areas like engineering, India’s education is limited. Their engineering graduates are excellent at solving ‘standard’ engineering problems .., but when faced with a problem that requires ingenuity and innovation, they lack the problem-solving and creativity skills to take the next step.
So, let’s define what we mean by ‘productivity’ in relation to education, let’s determine our aims, objectives and aspirations … and then try to assess whether more investment from the private sector can help us deliver.
It possibly can …. but if we don’t know what we want to happen, we can’t bring it about.
Toyota has had its fair share of problems recently – and has certainly been knocked off the plinth it has been on for some time… held up as a beacon of efficiency and productivity,
So, what does this do for the reputation of the Toyota production system – must we now all try to forget those few Japanese words we learned – like kata, kaizen, gemba and so on.
No, it does not! Conditions may not currently be favourable for Toyota but the principles that underly the Toyota Production System are still valid – as are the tools and techniques. There are still countless firms benefitting from the lessons learned – and continuing to thrive in unstable, highly competitive markets.
The future will one day teach us why Toyota has had its ‘blips’ – whether this is due to them forgetting their own principles and practices, or whether there is some other unknown factor.
I suspect that before too long, they will be back on their plinth. In the meantime, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater … keep the faith, aim for ‘lean’, maintain your focus.
You will have often heard a phrase like … Success is a marathon, not a sprint … indicating that the activity in hand must be addressed with focus and concentration over the longer- term.
Well, Productivity is certainly a marathon.
You need a good start, then a keen ongoing focus and finally a strong finish.
Tools and techniques are very useful but attitude and execution are what really matter. Productivity improvement is best achieved within a supportive culture that expects, receives and values contributions from across and throughout the organisation.
Productivity leadership is not about having the best ideas but about creating that culture in which all ideas for improvement are considered, evaluated and rewarded.
Switching off destroys the culture; the focus must be continual. Leaders must continually relate to, and report on, Productivity … reinforcing the culture, maintaining the focus and demonstrating their commitment.
Effective leaders lead from the front and the back … and all points in between.
Many organisations make some attempt to treat employees well – with recognition and reward systems, flexible approaches to leave, healthcare and so on. The trouble with such ‘benefits’ is that they quickly get absorbed into ‘the expected’ rather than being regarded as an ‘extra’.
If you want something to have a longer-term effect on employee well-being – and even more importantly, on employee productivity – then you need to select’ benefits’ that have a more direct effect on employee performance.
For example, why not institute a transport system to get employees to work – saving them the hassle and stress of doing it for themselves. You can make it part of your environmental strategy since any form of shared transport is almost certain to be less resource intensive than lots of cars arriving with one individual.
But more importantly, your employees should arrive fresher, less-stressed and ready to go. They should be more productive, more content, more engaged with the organisation.
So you can treat your employees well, help the planet and raise productivity. Win-win-win. What’s not to like?
Certainly in the UK, drones have had a bad press recently – with the disruption caused at London’s Gatwick airport.
However, the sensible ones among us (and I do – perhaps rather arrogantly – include myself in that category) know that throughout history, technologies have been used for good and bad purposes.
Drones are also used to improve agricultural productivity by giving farmers a view of their fields and crops they could not afford to get in other ways. They are used in law enforcement and in the military, by sports broadcasters, and so on.
So, don’t blame the drones: they are just pieces of technology. Blame their operators
But remember, if the ‘bad’ users (or their impact on society) outnumber the ‘good’, technology cannot be uninvented. Once it is ‘out there’, it stays out there – even if made illegal.
So, society must get used to drones – and their misuse. Be prepared to deal with mischievous or criminal drone use – it is not going to go away.
And, of course, continue to apply the technology to society’s advantage. Make the beneficial impact outweigh the harmful.
My father, who unfortunately died early at the age of only 54, was, like me, a technophile.
I often say on seeing or using some new piece of technology .. “My dad would have been amazed by this”.
Of course it’s not only technology that has changed since he was around. The would is a different place in many ways and he would have been surprised at many of them.
I was reflecting on this the other day and thought about what might have surprised him the most. Certainly the internet/web he would have loved … but in the end I settled on Ted talks; the fact that so much knowledge/learning is available at your fingertips – and for free – with some of the World’ greatest minds available in your living room – is truly astonishing.
We are such a lucky generation!
The top one per cent of UK firms grew on average by eight per cent each year between 2004 and 2014, while the lower 99 per cent experienced annual productivity growth of less than one per cent over the same period. This is the long tail of UK business productivity which has to be shortened if national productivity is to rise significantly.
But how do we cut this tail.
Well, many of these ‘tail companies’ are small businesses.
The UK government, like most governments, often expresses its commitment to, and support for, small businesses. But they throw these businesses small ‘bones’ of support or comfort occasionally; they rarely construct, much less execute, a coherent and sustained programme of support.
Small businesses rarely ask for much – a favourable tax regime, an absence of bureaucracy and access to finance are their most common requests. Government responds with more regulation and legislation – because that is the business of government.
Governments often seems to want to stifle productivity development. Over the last decade, many have been supporting ‘ailing businesses’, creating ‘zombie’ firms that should have gone to the wall.
All they need to do is to create an environment in which well-run firms can thrive and prosper. Then they need to get out of the way and let those firms get on with it. Some won’t make it – but that is the law of the (business) jungle. It will see the tail reduce.
We are all under pressure to multitask – to deal with emails, messages and reminders whilst also doing our ‘real job’
Even when not under this avalanche of inputs, many of us choose to listen to music as we work. We eat lunch at our desks as we work.
Students update their facebook pages (and more) whilst they listen to lectures
All this means our productivity is increasing, right?
For most of us it means our performance dips.
A recent research study shows students who multitasked on their laptops during lectures scored consistently lower in tests (by about 17%) than their non-multitasking peers.
We seem to have difficulty balancing priorities among all the tasks – dealing with trivial rather than important issues because they require less concentration and thus fit well in a multitasking scenario.
But failing to concentrate on, and effectively deal with, the important items on your agenda is not a recipe for success.
On a recent business class flight, the guy next to me got out his laptop and worked on if for most of the flight. I ate the meal, a drink, snoozed a little and did a crossword.
Who was the most productive?
Well of course, he would claim he was. He got some work done.
But that is like people who confuse productivity with production. Doing more is not necessarily being more productive.
In my relaxed time onboard, I was not doing nothing. I was contemplating, thinking and reflecting. I went into meetings later that week much better prepared and I am convinced the decisions I took that week were ‘better’.
We get so little time to consider and reflect, it is worth taking the time to stop and do so when you can. In the broader sense, you might get less done … but your productivity will increase.