• 19 Aug 2022 7:49 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    This summer, in the UK, has been glorious and packed with sport - Wimbledon, Commonwealth Games, European Championships, It got me thinking about how athletes and sports people prepare for a season in which they want to, or need to, peak several times.

    Sports coaches and sports scientists seems to have developed this ability within elite athletes.

    In business, some types of activity have a similar requirement - event-related companies, for example, need to. be at peak performance for each event.

    How many managers of such companies have been to talk to, or read about, sports coaches to see what they can learn about continually raising the organisation to peak performance?  Very few, I suspect.

    Yet, learning from others in different contexts but with similar issues is an important attribute.

  • 11 Aug 2022 6:22 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    When we think about project management, many people naturally think of large-scale projects - building a new motorway (freeway), a new rail line or a new power station are obvious examples.

    Small projects, however, need project managing in the same way.  The principles and practises are the same. 

    We break the project down into manageable tasks, schedule these tasks so as to create the shortest project duration, make sure we have enough resources, and then we manage the project - probably on a daily basis - to make sure the project goes according to plan.

    if it doesn’t, we adjust resources or adjust sequencing - if all fails we have a longer project than we wanted - and in some cases that can be expensive, embarrassing or both.

    So, forget the size of the project, Manage it as if it were a new motorway.

  • 04 Aug 2022 7:43 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    This year, June 20th was World Productivity Day.

    I only found out about this at the beginning of July.  It had already passed me by - with no impact on me, or, I suspect the rest of the world.

    Those who think about productivity on World Productivity day will only be successful if they also think about productivity on most other days of the year and build it into their regular thinking - and regular activity.

    It cannot be a special event type of thing.  Oh, it’s June - let’s think about our productivity.

    So, if you did recognise, even celebrate, World Productivity Day, take the chance to start that embedding process.  Use the day as ‘the first day of your productivity life’.  

    Learn, Plan, Execute, Repeat.

    Make sure everyone else in the organisation is also thinking productivity - as individuals and as members of teams.  

    Communicate, Train, Mentor.

    No-one is going to do it for you. It’s up to you.  

  • 27 Jul 2022 11:23 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There is plenty of advice on how to start your working day - by establishing priorities, by reviewing your To Do list and so on . However, the other end of the day can be just as important.

    I find a quiet period of reflection can help clear the mind and prepare for a proper night’s rest.

    Think about what went well, what didn’t and why? What could you have done better?  What should you have done differently?  How will this affect what you do tomorrow and how you do it?

    It might help to start a daily journal and record these thoughts so you can re-read them later.

    If nothing else, you should have clarity about your performance - good and bad.  Don’t worry if you feel you have too many ‘bad’ entries.  The aim is not to berate yourself but to improve.

    This is better for your self-development than reading ‘inspiring quotes’.  This is real-world experience and learning.

  • 20 Jul 2022 2:35 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    If you run around all day long, switching from tasks to task, you may end up completing little, achieving less.

    You probably need to think more, act less. Plan more, execute more efficiently.

    This applies to your organisation. Sometimes, your employees may be working very hard but making little progress towards longer-term goals and objectives.   Like you, they need focus and direction, not more action.

    Workers who are not productive are almost always in that position because the ‘system’ lets them down.

    Engage them - and engage with them.  Find out what frustrates  them ,what stops them being more productive.

    Then work out what you can do to remove the barriers and release the energy

  • 14 Jul 2022 7:59 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Sorry about returning to the subjects of 4 day working weeks and remote working. But I continue to see claims that both of these increase productivity.

    Most of these clams seem to arise from surveys of staff who themselves claim they are more productive working from home.

    I am prepared to believe that staff are happier working from home, without the daily commute and I do believe that, in general terms, happier staff are more productive, more engaged staff.

    However, I started my productivity career as a humble work study engineer looking at what people were doing in their work role snd trying to improve it.   I soon realised that what we really needed to study was not work but non-work - the waiting time and waste caused by ‘the system’ or the process. People can work hard and productively but still be part of an inefficient system.

    I think these happy WFH employees are doing this. Their personal productivity may have risen but the overall system and organisational productivity suffers from the silo working and lack of idea building that results from people locked in their homes instead of sharing information and ideas in the office.

    I promise not to return to this topic for a while. It seems to have become a mini-obsession but I don’t like people claiming productivity increases when they are not measuring it.

  • 06 Jul 2022 10:29 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Various companies are experimenting with a 4 day working week.  There seems to be  a general belief ‘in the air’ that productivity will remain the same or even increase.

    I have expressed my doubts about this in the past but my real observation is that these companies seem to be forgetting that the world, more generally, is moving to a 7 day working week.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that people should work 7 days a week, but to reduce the number of days does not make much sense to me.  In many cases, it is office workers who are making this change to their week while others, because of the nature of their work they do, are prevented from making the change.

    What do you think this does to the morale of front-line 5 day workers?

    Those office and admin staff are supposed to be there to support the front line troops and probably already have lower working hours, better vacation allowance and even better pension arrangements. Now they are going to get a four day working week!

    And we expect the productivity of the organisation to stay the same or improve!

  • 29 Jun 2022 11:41 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Especially in difficult times (and current times certainly count as ‘difficult’ for most businesses), business asks for help from government. 

    Yet in the good times (and they will come again), they want government to stop ‘interfering’.

    They can’t expect to have it whichever way they like.

    The role of government in improving productivity is simple.  They should establish a supportive infrastructure - microeconomic climate, policy framework ,technology infrastructure, physical infrastructure (airports, ports ,roads and so on).  They should set overall direction - directing how productivity and economic success should shape social and environmental objectives.

    They should then  get out of the way and allow business to build on the supportive infrastructure, building successful trade and making their contribution to societal well-being by providing employment and paying ‘fair’ taxes.

    Government is not there to apply sticking plasters or medicine. Businesses have to address their own issues, solve their own problems and develop their own productivity.  Otherwise, governments provide aid and support - normally at great expense - and load the economy with too many rules, regulations - and taxes.

    Government should let businesses grow into ‘big boys’ or ‘big girls’ who can look after themselves.  Tools are available. Advice too.  Buts free handouts should not be necessary.  Unfortunately, in hard times, some businesses will ‘go to the wall’ but those that are left will be leaner, tougher and more productive.

  • 22 Jun 2022 10:23 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Leaders, and especially entrepreneurs, are hard-wired to seize opportunities and follow leads.

    This is only effective, however, when those leads and opportunities help you move forward in your existing strategy towards your agreed mission and vision.

    Otherwise they are a distraction and they suck energy out of you and your organisation.

    Always judge potential opportunities against your existing goals and priorities.  Otherwise productivity drops.  

    Productivity is like a  reputation. Its hard to acquire but easy to lose!

  • 15 Jun 2022 10:24 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Very few organisations improve productivity  by accident.  They may do so as a ’by-product’ of some other initiative (such as installing new technology or establishing a new workforce development programme) but productivity doesn’t just come along unbidden.

    This means that you have to seek it out. You have to plan for it. You have to examine your business and work out what can be improved. You have to ask questions about what you do now - and how you do those things. 

    A good, but simple, approach is just to walk the business occasionally looking for signs that things are wrong or could be improved.  Piles of waste or piles of work-in-progress might indicate you could benefit from process change.

    Talk to the workers on the shop floor.  What don’t they like about what they do.  What do they think needs changing.

    Then talk to the supervisors. Do they identify the same potential problems as the workers?

    Go back to the office and check the data. Are there any trends in output levels, quality levels, labour costs, customer satisfaction levels?

    When you find something that doesn’t seem quite right, start an investigation to understand the problem or potential improvement? What might happen if you change various factors of the situation? What unintended consequences might there be?

    Then start to plan the changes you think will bring benefits.  Prepare for any changes you intend to make - especially to job roles and working methods. Support your workforce through the change.

    Don’t wait for productivity to come about. Seek it out and plan for it!

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