Articles

Productivity culture?

In Productivity mindset, UK productivity, Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Is there such a thing as a productivity culture?  Imagine an organisation where everyone spent time every day thinking about how their operation could be done more productively.  Think about teams set up to brainstorm ideas, or perhaps teams set up to drive changes through and achieve higher productivity.  Sound familiar?  Those who were around in the 1980’s will remember Quality Circles, Total Quality Management (TQM), self managing teams and many other ideas to engage everyone in delivering productive change. Yet for the most part they have all fallen by the wayside, seen as management or consulting fads that never really had a lasting impact.  In the Thatcher era, thousands of jobs were lost as miners and others – steel for example realised the need to modernise or die.  But in a heavily unionised nation where jobs come first and profits second, productivity was anathema to them.  Unions have changed somewhat but not much.  How about management? A more popular solution at the moment seems to be offshoring. Moving the jobs overseas where costs are lower, but actual productivity may be no different or even lower.  This is fine until wage inflation in the offshoring nation catches up with the UK and the jobs need to be moved again!

So do leaders and workers alike simply not want to increase productivity, either because it is ‘too difficult’ or because it simply cuts jobs?  There is, of course, no simple answer.  Some management teams see the need very clearly and get on with it.  Some work forces equally see the need and engage enthusiastically.  But if there was a real productivity culture then major interventions for change would not be needed.  Instead there would be a steady gain in productivity year on year.  As noted in earlier blogs some countries have significantly higher productivity than the UK and the gap has remained despite efforts by UK plc to catch up.  The organisations in the other countries must be doing something right.

To improve requires all sorts of things – well-trained staff, good technology, effective management, low levels of government imposed bureaucracy to name a few.  But if there is no constant drive to improve continuously  – the productivity culture, then little gain will be made.  So what and where is this productivity culture?  I believe it is endemic in the business.  It stems from a core belief that if productivity is not high and improving, not only is the business being robbed of profit, but survival is at risk.  It’s taken that seriously.  Do you as a manager or worker have that mindset?

In my next blog, I will start to get into more detail about what a productivity culture looks like – at various levels in the organisation. Then perhaps we can move on to talk about how (or if) an organisation can create such a culture where it has been missing in the past.

Does your organisation or business have a productivity culture?

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