If you do what you have always done . . . .

In Uncategorized on July 9, 2010 by Tim Aikens

I got this ‘bon mot’ from a client a number of years ago. ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’!  I don’t know the origin, but it makes good common sense.  When applied to productivity, it makes even more sense.  A lot of organisations think that by acknowledging the productivity issue or talking about it, things will get better, productivity will rise.  However, common sense dictates that you need to do something differently! This is where we come to the next hurdle. What does differently really mean?  In my opinion, if you want to make noticeable change you need to do what you do very differently. Small changes don’t work. Nor does simply cutting something out.  To me this is the difference between cost saving and productivity.  All productivity improvements should lead to cost savings.  Applying a cost saving won’t always lead to an increase in productivity.

For example, a number of years ago the Post Office stopped the second delivery.  This saved quite a bit of money, but did little to improve productivity.  On the other hand the introduction of containers for sea-going vessels has improved cargo handling dramatically.  Vessels can be loaded and unload much faster, spending more time at sea (where they make their money), fewer dock staff are needed and the containers can be loaded much more efficiently at the factory.  Here is an example of doing something very differently leading to massive cost savings.

So the challenge we face is how do we get people firstly to think up the ideas for doing something differently and secondly how do we get them to do it?  My advice on the first – don’t spend a lot of time examining ‘how we do things today’.  The more you consider current reality, the harder it is to break out and generate new ideas.  Agree on the goal and start from scratch.  Getting people to change is a major subject in its own right, but here are a couple of top tips.  If you have done your homework, you will have a clear idea of the benefits. Don’t be shy, tell people how much will be saved – and in some cases be prepared to share it with them! Secondly emphasize that this is all about working smarter not harder! Finally, productivity gains will often (but not always)  mean job losses. Staff don’t like this.  Form the outset you need to be open about the potential outcomes, scrupulously fair with how any redundancies are made and treat people with great honour and respect.

Of course, all of the above comments are easy to make, much harder to implement which is why productivity gains are hard to come by. When were you last really determined to do something very differently?


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