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  • 22 Mar 2023 10:25 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I remember once walking past an office and the staff in there were obviously enjoying themselves.  They were laughing - at what, I know not.  My first thought was ‘How odd. Shouldn’t they be taking their work more seriously?  We pay them to work, not to play. “

    But, of course, first thoughts are quite often wrong thoughts.  This is why you should always pause and reflect before firing off angry emails or taking important decisions.

    Luckily, I had read something fairly recently about the effects that laughter can have on your body- releasing a cocktail of chemicals that can prove to be quite positive for many..  

    I also recalled a recent brainstorming session when the flow of ideas was definitely enhanced by the presence of a joker in the pack. His flow of jokes, quips and anecdotes was matched by a flow of ideas aimed squarely at the problem under review.

    So, I walked on, thinking I had witnessed a positive rather than negative experience.

    Laughter provides us with obvious benefits - a reduction in stress, an increase in camaraderie and team-bonding … but it also improves creativity. 

    So, encourage the jokers and pranksters … let’s build fun into the working day, and innovation into the organisation.

  • 16 Mar 2023 10:58 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    In this world where many workers are still workings from home - or hybrid working - some managers find it hard to assess the performance  of their staff.  

    There has been a sharp increase in the use of employee monitoring software - often seen as intrusive and unfair by the employees themselves.

    Yet we know that the best way to get good results out of your staff is to train then, empower them, and trust them.  The vast majority respond well to such treatment.  Of course  it is useful to set targets for the employees and verify that they have reached those targets and made their full contribution.  This does not need sophisticated or expensive software, more an interaction between manager and employee - which should be happening anyway.

    So, don’t complicate what is a simple matter - keep it simple, but effective - based on a core of mutual trust.

  • 08 Mar 2023 7:55 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    A very simple way of thinking about productivity is to identify the things that block or slow down throughput and eliminate them.  

    I know this is an oversimplification because in some case, removing a bottleneck just creates another one further down the process …. but you will almost certainly have made some impact by removing the first one…. and now you have another target.

    These bottlenecks or productivity blocks may be unnecessary process steps, ineffective meetings, excessive equipment breakdowns or many other things. If you can’t easily identify such blocks, ask your employees.   They should know.  Chart the process and ask them which steps they would eliminate or improve first to make life easier.

    You might not see the scale of improvement that comes from a more structured, technique -driven approach to productivity improvement …. but all gains are worth having. 

  • 01 Mar 2023 9:57 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I get concerned when I see famous people in all sort of fields (‘celebrities’?) give advice to youngsters  saying something like “You can be anything you want to be, do anything you want to do. You just need a goal and to work very hard.”

    Now positivism is good - and encouraging youngsters to work hard is also good.  But this advice is based on a falsehood. Not everyone can achieve their dream. Think of all the kids who want to be football or basketball stars or ballet dancers or movie or rock stars or …….   There are nowhere near enough ‘vacancies’ to accommodate all those dreams.

    Some who dream and work (very) hard may make it … usually with a bit, or a lot, of luck. Some who dream and work very hard may almost make it - perhaps enough to give them a career. Many who dream and work very hard will fail. It is inevitable.

    We cannot control everything with hard work.  Some of us will fail and may have missed opportunities along the way to change direction and carve out a successful career in a different field. Those who persist in chasing the dream may suffer from burnout and exhaustion - and disappointment.  They will feel they didn’t work hard enough to achieve their dream.

    We’ve need to get youngsters to build pauses, reflection, mindfulness into their dream-chasing.  They need to re-evaluate their dream based on the evidence of progress made - and perhaps change tack or lower expectations.  They need to stop worrying, reduce the demands they make on themself and live in the present not in some probably unachievable future.

    Ironically they will almost certainly become more productive, and a more balanced approach to their work may even lead to greater success.

  • 15 Feb 2023 12:14 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Someone once told me if you want innovation in engineering, don’t ask an engineer.  They’ll give you accepted (and workable) engineering solutions but they won’t give you groundbreaking, innovative or creative solutions.

    What you need is to ask a non-engineer to give you ideas for new ways of addressing your problem - and then ask an engineer how to make those ideas work.  Together they  might produce an innovative - but still workable - solution.

    This ‘principle’ (of asking those outside of the current field of knowledge) can pay dividends in many situations.

    Similarly, ideas which seem intuitive and obvious often limit your spread of thinking and your range of ideas.  They are obvious often because they are well-established and entirely logical.

    So you have to force yourself out of the straitjacket of accepted wisdom and current technologies. 

    Build a multi-disciplined team snd let them play ideas off against each other.  Encourage them to think freely and give them training in creative thinking techniques.

    You have nothing to lose except your boundaries!

  • 08 Feb 2023 3:49 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is touted as ‘the next big thing’ in productivity improvement - and there is little doubt that we will see lots of examples of AI taking over relatively menial, snd some more sophisticated, tasks over the next couple of decades.

    However, many of us have already seen quite a few examples of non-intelligent devices claiming to act intelligently.   These could be regarded as experimental or prototype devices (though why they are released commercially is a question that needs to be asked).  

    The mistakes made by AI devices, of course, reflect mistakes or omissions of those programming the ‘intelligence’ into the device - and those that have not been picked up in the testing process.  (We consumers are getting increasingly used to being the group that carries out user testing.)

    Their other significant problem is that most AI devices try to replicate and replace existing devices.  

    What we need is real, human intelligence and creativity, working on devices with improved functionality and design, building better products - rather than replicating current ones with their existing, inherent flaws.

    (This is  rather like the early days  of automation when firms automated their existing, imperfect and inefficient  processes snd systems instead of perfecting,  or at least improving, the process before adding automation.)

    Step up to the plate, you intelligent and creative humans.  We need you!

  • 01 Feb 2023 7:47 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Most people assume that some people are more productive than others - and for some jobs, that is clearly true.  But for many people, their productivity is determined by ‘the system’, the technology and the productivity or performance of the people around them - at the previous workstation, for example.

    So, should we worry about individual performance or concentrate our attention on that system.

    Well, it’s not necessarily a simple question to answer.

    The reason that in some jobs or roles, people are more productive is due to a number of possible factors - experience, skill, attitude, motivation, etc.  it would be foolish not to pay attention to skill levels - to make sure our employees (all our employees) have the tools, equipment and skills they need.

    If they all have those factors provides, the ‘system’ is likely to be more effective.

    So, work at the system level and the individual level to improve productivity.

  • 25 Jan 2023 7:49 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many firms put in systems to improve productivity, by monitoring what is going on and how hard people are working.  They manage - or micro-manage - the time of their employees and how it is filled.

    But they’ve forgotten something.

    Employees don’t work well when they are micro-managed.   They work well when they know their role in the overall work system, when they have the correct tools and equipment to do their job, when they are fully and properly trained for their job.

    Too many firms fail to address all of these factors.

    “But what about motivation, what about rewards?” I hear you ask.

    I am not ignoring these but, for me, motivation comes  from employees knowing their role - their purpose.  What do they do that helps the organisation achieve, succeed and grow?

    So, forget time management of your employees.  Concentrate on managing their purpose and their understanding of that purpose.

  • 18 Jan 2023 7:51 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Do you have a dog?

    If so, you know that, above all else, dogs value ... food, yes, but consistent behaviour from their owner.  That is how you train your dog - by applying consistent behaviour tied to small rewards and giving praise when they do something you perceive as good. You make it clear how you want them to behave and reward them when they do so.

    People are not very different.

    If you make it clear to employees how you want them to behave and praise or reward them for good behaviour - and do so consistently - they will respond with their loyalty - and with their productivity.

  • 12 Jan 2023 9:45 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Last week I suggested that technology might be useful in helping drive productivity forward.

    This week, I am changing mat view after further reflection.

    Yes, over time firms have used technology to improve their business performance.  But there is some evidence to suggest the pattern is now somewhat changed.  It seems as though well-performing firms are using investment in technology to increase the performance advantage they already have.  In effect, they are realising some of the value they have crated to fund the next stage of development - a virtuous circle of improvement.

    Firms who cannot realise that funding stream have to work much harder or take greater risks to fund their development - and may spend some time playing ‘catchup’ before they can break into the circle.

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