Boosting Productivity

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Boosting Productivity Official UK government data shows that there has been little to no increase in productivity in the UK since the recession started in 2008.

On the radio, in the media and in the news there is a lot of speculation as to the cause of productivity stagnation. Without an understanding of the root cause it is not possible to implement any kind of remedy or corrective action.

Simple Answers

Complex problems require detailed analysis and this often leads to a complex solution. We all want a simple solution, so when there is a complex solution, we look to those who can provide us by simple answer. Typically, it doesn’t matter if the simple solution is bogus. What really matters is that the solution was simple. This means we can implemented quickly, understand it and move on.

Now, to the case at hand. Are there simple solutions to the productivity problem? I believe there are. The simple answer is lack of investment.

Look About

Let’s start with an easy example, examine the tools you use in your everyday work. The processes and procedures that you use all day, when were they updated last? The software that makes your life easier, is that the latest version? The computers, and that enable everything, how old are they? These are the essential tools of your business, because they are the essential tools of all businesses. If the tools are old, then more than likely you’re wasting time, losing the benefits from new systems.

Since the beginning of the recession in 2007/8 productivity has stagnated, at the same time companies are “mend and make do”. This translates directly into not investing in the tools of business.

A computer in itself, like the one sitting on your desk, is a huge productivity enhancer. However, an outdated computer, with obsolete software, without the training to use it correctly and the processes and procedures to back it up might actually be a barrier to getting work done.

None of these things are insurmountable barriers. It only takes an understanding of the problem and recognition that it can change for real progress to be made.

The Solutions

While a simple solution to this problem is investment, it might not be so simple to actually do. To that end, a plan must be put in place which has the full and unreserved backing of senior management. The elements that must be included encompass the following:

  • Processes
  • Procedures
  • Computers
  • Software
  • Training
  • Machines
  • Plant
  • And, of course the people.


Now let’s consider an example, while what we’re about to consider is fictional, it is representative of many actual companies. Picture the following:

A medium sized company, to all appearances successful and what they do. Their operations are spread over several different sites in different parts of the country. They decide to modernise their existing it infrastructure. This means that the existing eight year old computers will be replaced with new systems. The networking and servers, which were running Windows Server 2003, must also be upgraded. This has a knock on effect to the other software they are currently using. The new systems are implemented and the company now moves on to the next problem. Even though the hardware and software has all changed, there is no thought given to how this will change the processes and procedures or for staff training on the new software.

In this situation, we would expect that the company would provide training on the new software, on all the changes that have been necessary during the upgrade and of course the updating of the processes and procedures. Now consider the knock on effect of this, how do staff effectively do their job, without all the correct tools. What are the effects on staff morale? How about productivity? The list goes on and on.

Nothing we have discussed so far leverages the advantages of the new system. Other new ways of working that are possible with the new hardware and software? What about collaboration, the cloud and new ways of being productive. It is quite clear, but simply have a new tools is not the whole answer. The new tools require a holistic approach in which the needs of the business are considered in totality. It is only with a under stick approach, considering all of the business needs that the maximum benefit can be gained from the investment.


We identified that the real cause of the lack of productivity is in fact under investment. In itself, this is simple to fix. It only requires investing in the business.

While the fix a simple, its implementation requires strong support from senior management to ensure the maximum benefit from the investment. The investment is not simply in buying new hardware or software, it is in a holistic approach to improving productivity within the business. This means processes and procedures, hardware and software, training and perhaps most importantly an understanding of how the new systems can add real value to the business. If your competitors are now beginning to feel the pain from their under investment, how long can you afford to wait?

Will you lead or will you follow?