Bye, bye Blackberry

So, Blackberry seems to have gone. 

A few years ago, business executives were addicted to the mobile email platform … for that is what it was. 

Then Apple – and Google via Android – showed what else could be done by a mobile device… and Blackberry was left behind.    

Remember, however good your product is, however dominant you are in the market. some young upstart (startup!) will be trying to overtake you.  if you rest on your laurels, you get left by the roadside.

This is one occasion where productivity cannot help.  if you are selling the wrong product, it doesn’t matter how efficiently you make it.

We’re in this together

Many organisations are thinking through their ‘corporate social responsibilities’.  They see this as either a good means of getting positive PR (the cynical ones) or as a means of making their contribution to the communities they touch with their operations (the good guys) … or perhaps for many, somewhere in the middle (the majority).

Unfortunately, for too many, CSR translates as environmentalism .. with little regard paid to ‘social’ issues.

The World Confederation of Productivity Science is committed to the promotion of social, environmental and economic (SEE) productivity – believing that a focus on all three is needed to achieve longer-term sustainability and success.  However, it is sometimes difficult and expensive to act alone 

This is something that needs concerted, committed and, above all, shared effort.  That is why WCPS supports the UN Global Compact and its commitment to social justice within business operations.

Together we can make a difference – and create successful, sustainable, thriving, productive  businesses.

How’s my health

One by one the BRIC countries seem to be losing their lustre.  Most of them are growing at a considerably slower rate than they were a few years ago … some are really struggling.

Is this merely the result of the world recession taking away their markets .. or is there something more fundamentally wrong.

We know that many businesses fail because they grow too quickly .. and run out of working  capital.  Are we seeing a business failure on a grand scale… or will BRIC Inc. recover?

My personal observations from my travels is that China has used its largesse to beef up its infrastructure, wisely investing the fruits of its success. India has not.  Russia has been sidetracked by internal political in-fighting.  Brazil has failed to return rewards to its population.

The BRIC economies are all quite different.  They were only grouped because they were doing well at the same time… but they all have different lessons to learn … as do we all!

Diagnosis

On one of the forums (groups) on LinkedIn there has been  a very interesting discussion recently about the relationship of productivity to profitability.  The relationship is certainly there but it is not necessarily direct or obvious.

One of the reasons that I encourage companies to measure their productivity as well as their profitability is that profitability is a very good measure of how well the company is doing… but productivity is a much better indicator of the future health of the company.

The profitability measure is like taking the temperature; the productivity measure is like a blood test … it tells you far more, if you have the expertise to interpret it.

Skills for Success

I’ve just returned from India – one of the world’s economic success stories over the last decade. Yet it doesn’t feel like that.

Partly because the rupee is in free fall.

Partly because the government is focusing only on the next (forthcoming) election.

Partly because though wealth is being created, much of it remains in the hands of a small number of people. There is still a vast underclass who has yet to se the fruits of economic success.

The WCPS espouses SEE (social, environmental and economic) productivity. If India wishes to see long-term, sustainable success it needs to start including all stakeholders in its wealth distribution.

The best way it can do this is to invest heavily in skills development and to use those skills to drive further economic success and as a way of ensuring more of the (vast) population can participate in, and benefit from, success.

Absent without leave

I read some data the other day on the level of absence in the Australian public sector.  It was astonishingly high.

Why is this … it seems to be a pattern in public sector employment the world over.

There are a number of possibilities.  One is that public sector organisations work their employees so hard or treat them so badly that they suffer stress. Another is that the nature of the work is so unfulfilling that workers lose motivation.

Whatever the reason, something has to be done …  but that ‘something’ must be based on a clear understanding of the problem.  And we don’t have that yet.

We need some research – something beyond asking workers how they ‘feel’ – to determine how we can create work that is satisfying and engaging and does not result in excessive absenteeism.

Office Knowledge

Increasingly our workplaces are filled with ‘knowledge workers’. The way in which they work differs from the working patterns of ‘traditional’ office workers – much more participative, team-based and relying on research and discovery.

How does the way in which you design and build your office space recognise these different working patterns.  Probably not at all.  An office is an office is an office seems to be the design mantra.

Design for the work they do, not the place they sit at should be the new philosophy.  Observe, record, ask – then start to think about space and the way in can be configured…. and, of course, make it flexible.

Your staff will thank you for it .. and they are likely to be more productive.

Public or private?

There is a number of things we, collectively, have to improve over the next 10 or 20 years. Food supply, energy supply, waste disposal, and so on.

Governments have a role to play … but how much is real change driven by the private sector via the profit motive?

Some argue that the private sector comes in too late when crisis has changed the economics of investment … but oil companies have been investing vast sums in alterative energy sources for many years. Of course it is in their interest …. but their long-term interest. They can play the long game.

With issues like carbon taxation, governments have shown an understanding of the fact that macroeconomic policy can drive change … but, overall, the results of such initiatives have been disappointing. Governments have pulled our of their long-term commitments to address shorter-term issues brought on by the global recession.

It seems perhaps the intuition is wrong … the private sector is capable of taking a longer-term view than the public sector which caves in to short-term pressures.

Acts of Faith

The IMF recently called on Sri Lanka to increase government spending on education and healthcare saying it would lead to increased labour productivity.

However for a government under real pressure, increasing public spending is a brave decision…. and a signifiant act of faith.

Will it really increase productivity? And when? And by how much? And is this a better investment than spending or, say, infrastructure or technology?

Who would be a public policy director? The best you can do is to get it ‘least wrong’.

Its too late to bring manufacturing home

Both the US and the UK are experiencing a mini-revival in manufacturing with firms re-locating manufacturing processes from offshore to back home.

Well, that’s what the media – and the companies involved – would have us believe.

However in most cases, ‘manufacturing’ means ‘assembly’. The production – or sourcing – of components is still outsourced … only final assembly takes place at ‘home’.

Take the position of a firm making complex, engineered products. If they need a new type or size of screw for a new product , then in Shenhzen, China they can get a prototype made within 24 hours and production ramped up into the thousands within a few days. Back ‘home’, those support services went when manufacturing was outsourced. It takes many years to build up this kind of supply chain flexibility but a very short time to destroy it. So acquisition of components is almost bound to remain outsourced.

The horse has not only bolted. We have locked the stable and thrown away the key.

Of course it is good to see the current moves to home assembly (even if in some cases, it seems to be as much about PR as operational efficiency). But don’t expect either the UK or the US to suddenly revert to the manufacturing powerhouses they once were.