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  • 14 Nov 2019 7:37 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I watch quite a bit of sport on TV, including American football. Those of you who know the game will know that each side has virtually 3 teams playing in a match - the offence, the defence and what are called ‘special teams’ who handle kick off, kickoff reception and other isolated events. 


    Each of these teams is very well-drilled to deliver specific, pre-planned moves which are part of a strategy to defeat a specific opposing team by exploiting its weaknesses and containing its strengths. Even in a team with poor results, one of these teams might be the best in the league, motivated by being the best defence or whatever. All sides and all sub-teams are ‘in pursuit of excellence’ in terms of strategy, tactics, fitness, motivation and execution.


    Business leaders have lessons to learn here such as the importance of creating strong, motivated teams who know their job well and are fully motivated to carry it out. Every team is important and though all share the same ultimate goal (winning), each one can simply try to be the best at whatever they do.



  • 08 Nov 2019 7:40 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Recently I got caught up in a great commute ... I had to travel into the city centre at the same time as all the other unfortunates that do so at the sane time every day.


    It is clear (or it should be) that we need a new model of work, of workplaces, of team working, of synchronicity. Technology can offer us a number of possibilities. Yet our cities are swamped by millions of people swarming in at the same time each day on overcrowded roads and overcrowded trains.


    Take a link around your factory, hospital, retail store, office or wherever you work. How many functions and processes are similarly in need of fresh thinking. They work .. but they cause problems. We continue to operate them in the same way because that is how we have always operated them.


    Take a look with fresh eyes. Look at the wastes of time, effort, materials involved. Take a little time to dream up possibilities. Then take more time to develop practical solutions. 


    You might remove your traffic jam.



  • 01 Nov 2019 7:44 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Does your organisation practise 5S? 


    The answer Is probably ‘No’.  It is a much misunderstood and little used approach., regarded by many as ‘mere housekeeping’. It is, of course, housekeeping but absolutely not ‘mere’ housekeeping.


    It improves engagement, productivity and safety ... who doesn’t want to do that?


    As an example, think of your home desk. If you clear away the clutter you don’t need on a daily basis, get rid of cables (by routing them properly and using cable clips or ties), organise your computer and peripherals, use the stationery trays you always meant to get, place things like the stapler, scissors and hole punch somewhere close but out if the way, etc. then you should notice a change in your attitude to the desk,


    It becomes a place for ‘work’ with fewer distractions, fewer delays, fewer frustrations.


    If you maintain that new tidy workspace, your productivity should improve.


    Now imagine doing that to a whole workplace!


  • 25 Oct 2019 7:12 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Healthy workers are productive workers.


    it is hard to argue with that statement.


    However, we might argue about what makes a healthy worker.


    Unlike the darkest day’s of the industrial revolution, nowadays, there are not many jobs - in developed countries-  that are physically damaging or dangerous.


    There are, though, many jobs which create anxiety, stress and other mental problems.


    Luckily, many employers are starting to see the dangers - helped by a general awareness-raising by celebrities including the British royal family - and are starting to address the issues.


    Where they don’t, we tend to get ‘self-medication’ by employees taking energy drinks, alcohol and other drugs to ‘get through the day’.  Such stimulants may give a short-term boost but are very dangerous over longer timescales.  Even worse, the people involved are often so tired at the end of the workday, they fail to exercise and compound their problem.


    Simple guidance - especially when built intro work-rest regimes within the workplace - can help tremendously-  Staff should be encouraged to stay hydrated, avoid stimulants, use stairs instead of lifts, park a short distance away and walk ‘the last mile’, and eat healthy snacks … but it is the job itself that is ‘the crunch’.


    Jobs should be designed to avoid or minimise stress - as should working relationships and organisational structures.


    Managers and supervisors must be trained to recognise signs of stress - and act accordingly.


    If you think this is just pandering to the ’snowflake generation’, you are probably part of the problem … and you probably have lower than optimal productivity!




  • 18 Oct 2019 7:32 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Many companies now encourage staff to get involved in charitable work. Some even organise it and provide resources, especially time. The motivation is usually to improve the company image amongst the local community. 


    However there is a much more important reason for engaging with charitable work.


    We want our employees to engage with us, to work hard, to give good service to our customers, to give of themselves over and above the bare requirements of the job role. What better way to introduce the habit of engagement and giving than by engaging with local charitable work for a cause or causes that mean something to the workforce. We are presenting a role model, an engagement strategy and a reward policy all wrapped up neatly in a charitable endeavour.


    If we can get this to work, we sew the seeds for that more general engagement and giving that boosts our productivity. Truly win-win.



  • 11 Oct 2019 7:42 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I am not immune from careless or overhasty thinking. Recently I read a report on new developments for air conditioning making devices more energy efficient.


    My immediate thought was that we should just get rid of air conditioning and, for example, stop living in places where cooling is necessary.  (Apologies to those of you who live in Phoenix.)


    Of course, at the time, I was reading that report on my iPad and it’s associated data centres consume a lot of air conditioning.


    So, be wary of first thoughts. They often lead to hasty conclusions, poor decisions and inappropriate action.


    Sometimes, we just need to stop and think - again. Think through the consequences. Think what others are saying about the issue. Then start to form our view. Our view might not change but it will be clearer and more robust.


    It is not often we are in situations where a short pause would do a lot of harm.



  • 04 Oct 2019 7:23 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    There are great hopes for autonomous vehicles - though some worry about whether the technology is ‘up to the job’. There are some driving situations and conditions where autonomy is relatively easy and others (driving in busy high streets for example) where problems are greater and the autonomy mire difficult to achieve.


    Goods vehicles, though, can exploit these differences.


    Future goods carriers could operate autonomously on freeways and motorways where the technology can do its job relatively easily, and then switch to driver control for the ‘local loop’. This can avoid the problem of excessive driver hours but maintain current levels of performance.


    The problem is that the word ‘autonomy' tends to be a ‘one size fits all’ concept with few thinking through practical and flexible approaches to autonomous driving and improved productivity.


  • 27 Sep 2019 4:53 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have been doing quite a bit of work with Lean approaches and techniques recently.


    I like Lean ... not because of the tools and techniques (which are excellent on the whole) ... but because it is based on clear and firm principles. To practise Lean it is much more important to be guided by the principles than to remember the tools and techniques.


    For those of you who might have forgotten, I summarise these principles as :


    Make the work flow

    Eliminate waste 

    Respect the People (and especially front line workers.


    If a management team ensures that they keep these principles firmly in their minds and allow them to shape all their actions, decisions and behaviours, they will find themselves managing a Lean operation with a positive and productive organisational  culture.



  • 20 Sep 2019 7:50 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The benefits of workforce diversity are well documented. Usually, however, these relate to diversity in race, gender and sexuality. There are also benefits in an age-diverse workforce where the different attitudes and skills that come at different life stages can be used to create balanced, ‘superteams’.


    In Western developed countries, this is well known and many older people remain in the workforce well into their ‘mature’ years.


    In many developing and emerging economies, things are different. Though many countries in this category revere the wisdom and experience of age, the pressure to provide jobs for the growing younger population often drives older workers out of employment. 


    This has to be resisted if the benefits of experience are to be retained.


    This in turn requires governments to implement non-discriminatory legislation and employment policies. But it also requires a change in attitude from the young. They often assume that because older people  are often technically illiterate and do not have mobile phones grafted onto their bodies, that they are uninformed and even uneducated.


    Similarly, older people should stop seeing the young as ill-disciplined and unreliable. 


    If we can get these different age groups to ‘meet in the middle’, we might create the potential for mutual respect, greater cooperation and higher productivity,


  • 13 Sep 2019 7:35 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    It is difficult to change the behaviour of a child who is a fussy eater.


    If you try to punish, you reinforce the negative associations of the food they don’t like.


    If you try to reward, you remind them that the reward is so much better than the food they don’t like.


    Sometimes, motivation is difficult. You seem to be forever reinforcing the behaviour you don’t want.


    The same can be true of a workforce. You have to think very carefully about ways to successfully change - and maintain - behaviours you want to see.


    I’m not giving answers here. The answer depends so much on history and context. I’m just asking you to think before you act, reflect after you have acted and make no assumptions.



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