Does specialisation help productivity?

In Productivity mindset, UK productivity, Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Well I am back from three weeks of vacation in India and France.  Whilst away I was struck by two things. Firstly how you could still get a good three course meal in France cheaply (despite the exchange rate) and secondly by a specialist heart hospital in India.

On our first night in France we went out to a restaurant for supper.  We took the 11 Euro meal (about £9.60).  The meal was three proper courses and whilst not Michelin star rated was more than fit for purpose.  How do they do it?  The meal was undoubtedly more for less.  You would find it hard to match the quality of meal at the same price in the UK.  This was not a chain, but probably a family run business.  A little thought on the beach came up with this:

Keep it simple: Not only was the menu short, is was also fairly simple.  This meant that quality was easy to replicate and that repetition supported the adage of ‘practice makes perfect’.
Commitment: There was quite a bit of competition as well as plenty of custom.  Everyone worked hard and they were committed to providing not just a good meal, but as the Americans would say ‘a good restaurant experience’.  In order to achieve this, everyone needs to be fully committed to deliver.
Hard work: Everyone was busy – all the time. No space for slacking and if your tables were quiet you went and gave someone else a hand.

I bet no one had given them the productivity 101 lecture, it just came naturally to them.  This is a simple recipe for high productivity.  A lot of sophisticated businesses should take note!

David Cameron came to India when I was there (only a coincidence).  One of the trips the health minister made was to a specialist heart hospital.  This hospital did nothing except heart surgery – and often very complex surgery.  The standards and quality were every bit as high as you would expect in Europe or the USA.  However they were delivering the outcomes for about 50 to 60% of the cost!  Then I noticed the similarities with the French restaurant.  All three principles applied.  This hospital only did heart surgery. They had economies of scale as well as the ability to perfect what they did through repetition.  You could almost feel the commitment of the surgeons and nursing staff.  They really wanted to deliver.  And whilst they were not short of staff, everyone worked hard.

Move back to the UK and you see the same principles in action in many highly productive organisations.  Not surprisingly the principles sit behind much of the outsourcing done in the UK and other countries.

So today’s message for high productivity is keep it simple,commit and work hard. Sounds obvious, looks easy, then why don’t more organisations do it?


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