HOW TO MAKE A QUANTUM LEAP IN YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
The UK is facing a crisis in productivity. Since the 2007 financial crisis, the rest of the G7 have recovered twice as well relative to British performance. This slowdown in productivity (GDP per worker) has been more acutely felt in the UK than almost every other OECD state.
Why is it that the average French worker achieves more in 4 days than a UK worker 5? Why has increased automation and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) not delivered the promised transformation?
It’s time for change.
Traditional solutions to transforming productivity are failing. By disrupting these conventions, and adopting a radical new philosophy of change, we can make a quantum leap in individual, business and national productivity.
Concord holds the key to making that happen.
THE CURRENT ‘SOLUTION’ IS THE PROBLEM
Government agencies have studied this slump in productivity in a search for answers. Within the broader business community, there is a creeping perception that this examination has delivered a lot of talk, but disappointingly scant action. Recommendations have focused on increased adoption of technology and management techniques that perpetuate the root causes of existing inertia. They apply a sticking plaster which works "on", rather than addressing fundamental challenges "in" the business.
These "solutions" are failing to address the source of the problem. At best, they offer incremental change rather than a significant disruption to the collective productivity problems faced by UK industry.
When the looming spectre of Brexit is added to the picture, a natural reaction is to scale-back opportunism and investment, rather than embracing the dynamic uncertainty of this new reality.
These conditions have created a perfect storm of inertia in business.
If we want to lift the UK to meet or exceed productivity of other G7 states, we must transform how we sell, operate, manage, and reward.
HOW CAN WE START A PRODUCTIVITY REVOLUTION
As a business community, we are being pushed into a ‘race to the bottom’ of technology and management methods. Too often, these result in the perpetuation of existing problems and negative impacts on employees.
1.Automating the Workplace
The Automation of the workplace is nothing new. From the steam engines of the industrial revolution to today’s digital workforce using robotic process automation, we have always sought to embrace technology for productivity gains.
However, in many cases, simple automation does not have the desired impact. A steam powered cotton loom, or automated data entry may be quicker, but it does not deliver that quantum leap in productivity. Automating a poor process simply results in a faster poor process – garbage in / garbage out.
Similarly, automation is often a pretext for reducing the number of staff within a business. When people are seen as a problem within the business, it is no surprise that their value, contribution and potential is not recognised.
Automation can play a part in productivity and transforming the working environment, but only as part of a bigger picture of change.
There is no doubt that AI will transform work in ways we cannot yet envision. However, much of what is currently positioned as Artificial Intelligence is a relatively simple rules engine or sensor driven input .
Credit: Karen Hao, “Is this AI? We drew you a flowchart to work it out”, MIT Technology Review, 10 November 2018
Current AI has much potential for increasing the scope and capability of automation. However, for smaller businesses in particular, the cost and complexity of training and deploying even commercially available tools can be a severely limiting factor.
This technology must be on the roadmap of nearly every business, whether as a simple chatbot or wholesale future transformation of the business, but we must be realistic in what can be achieved, at least in the short term.
The push for AI must not obscure the unlimited possibility and creativity of the human brain. Exploring this potential can unlock more significant change than any single technology.
3.Squeezing the Pips ‘til they Squeak
Too often, management techniques can focus on getting the same for less, rather than creating value and delivering growth.
In theory this drives productivity. For example, the zero-hours employment contract is a means of making a fixed cost (labour) variable according to business demand. However, the net result is a transfer of economic benefit from the employee to the employer through reduced wages and increased margin. Inevitably, if there is less money within the broader population to fuel the economy, the economy inevitably shrinks or remains inert.
True productivity gains, economic growth and other changes come when management creates value – delivering more with the same resources, and creating the potential for further gain. However, potential growth is much tougher to measure than hard savings.
Too often, management objectives are driven by unnegotiable numerical targets, creating toxic incentives for behavior. We have seen the results of this in the NHS with the notorious ‘4 hour waiting time’ target for A&E, and the massive increase in the US prison population caused by the ‘War on Drugs’. What could have been achieved if the focus was on tangible outcomes, rather than simple numbers?
So, perhaps there is another way to make a quantum leap in your productivity levels.
TRANSFORMING PRODUCTIVITY – EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS
To effect radical change, we must challenge the norms of conventional thinking. Therefore, when we analyse productivity, it helps to examine the traditional notion and measures - efficiency and effectiveness.
Working more efficiently means doing the right things, and working more effectively means doing those things right. A skilled craftsperson has a very clear idea of the result that is wanted. They think smart and focus on getting the job done with the minimum effort and cost.
The D4 Difference
The D4 method of business transformation practised by Concord, achieves greater returns in shorter timescales, fundamentally transforming the productivity of a business. It disrupts convention, approaching business objectives and project management from a scientific perspective.
The method identifies new and innovative ways of exploring business processes and working behaviours to optimise effectiveness and efficiency. Alan Fowler, developer of the D4 method, puts it this way:
“Efficiency and effectiveness is all about sharing a vivid and tangible picture of what the end result is to be and then constantly re-planning to achieve it. Does anyone doubt that Christmas will come? Does anyone doubt that the Olympic Games will open on its scheduled date? When faced with immovable goals, people will come up with radical ways to meet them.”
A DIFFERENT WAY OF PLANNING
The traditional notion of change management suggests that you work forwards in time – planning from the start. A traditional business plan works from left to right - you analyse and plan change against the individual processes that contribute towards the whole. This is a ‘bottom-up’ approach which too often gets mired in excessive short-term detail, to the detriment of the end objective.
The D4 method subverts this by starting from the outcome, and working back to the causes of change - from the future, backwards, from right-to-left. Rejecting the notion of measurement that focuses solely on numbers and statistics, the D4 method is more outcome-centric. It delivers both qualitative change in the form of business change, as well as financial and numerical outcomes.
Working more effectively requires us to evaluate processes from the perspective of avoiding waste – eliminating needless effort and costs. A future-focused person prioritises only the things that contribute to achieving what is needed. Those things that hindsight will identify as an ineffective use of time. Effort and financial resource are eliminated and you optimize the productive use of resources.
The efficiency and effectiveness of a workforce can be influenced by changing its behaviour. However, behaviours are stubbornly immovable and resistant to change.
The D4 approach engages everyone on an equal level, regardless of their position and seniority. Gaining that buy-in shifts the perception of a transformation from something being done to the workforce, to something done with them. Everyone becomes aware of their role in the big picture, and embedded support mechanisms ensure that the entire team works in unison.
When teams can see the future and understand how their role specifically influences the end objective, they are more willing and able to contribute ideas and options. Objections can be more readily addressed and overcome. Those with the strongest opinions often become the strongest advocates when the outcomes and benefits are clear.
Transforming workforce productivity by changing behaviours will mean new ways of thinking and developing new habits. However, the costs of doing this are low and it is less disruptive than implementing new technologies in the hope of gaining a productivity advantage.
For example, automating an existing assembly line or digitizing a business process will always require extensive investment in time and money. Payback is not immediate and the opportunity cost may rule out more profitable growth opportunities, especially in a struggling economic environment.
The D4 approach practiced within Concord makes the whole process and mission of the workforce transparent; enabling and valuing function in the context of the overall outcome.
Now we’re getting somewhere
Of course, automation, artificial intelligence and business process changes drive productivity, but at huge cost, which has an effect on bottom line profits.
Having the right people, with the right skills, who understand how they contribute to the objectives of the business is the key to increasing both efficiency and effectiveness, and therefore productivity.
A skilled person who is focused on an outcome, takes 10% of the time, effort, and cost of someone who is incorrectly employed. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available. The reverse is also true; work contracts to fit into the time we give it. As every project manager knows, in an eight hour day, you have twice as long to fall twice as far behind as you might otherwise do in a four hour day!
Commercially, this means that by changing the behavior of our individuals and whole communities, we multiply productivity; not by a few percent, but 10 to 100-fold.
CONCORD – A QUANTUM LEAP IN PRODUCTIVITY
Concord provides a real solution to the productivity problem. It offers a trainable approach for permanently instilling more efficient and effective behaviours which have a radical impact on cash-valued results – all with reduced costs.
In the words of one user of the method:
"This system has transformed the way we work within the first few weeks. The whole team is now working together. The momentum is extraordinary. I have never seen the team more motivated and single-minded in achieving the goals of the business."
In comparison to traditional solutions to the productivity gap, implementing Concord costs relatively little. Payback on investment is typically within the same financial year, based on case studies dating back through 2002. When long term financial outcomes are considered, there is simply no comparison – results are achieved faster, exceeding expectations and defying the odds of success.
HOW CAN YOU ACHIEVE THIS FOR YOUR COMPANY
Concord is here to help you make that quantum leap in productivity, and is already contributing to the broader recovery of the struggling UK economy.
Contact us today to hear what Concord can do for you.