Productivity Improvement and Business Economy

America’s seriously declining productivity at last is receiving the broad attention and concern it deserves. Labor, business and government leaders have become convinced that without improved productivity our country as we now know it will not survive.

But recognition alone is not enough where a problem of this magnitude exists. We are like a giant ship in the open seas. Once a decision is made to change course, it is many miles and minutes before any results become apparent.

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I have studied productivity intensely for more than two decades, comparing our efforts with those of other countries and assessing the potential value of their approaches in America. It has become staggeringly clear that extensive changes are needed in labor, business and government, as well as in our historical ways of interfacing between each of these sectors.

Rather than expound on these vast needs, let it suffice to say that a common denominator does exist. This is the point at which the ship actually begins to change course after the captain has issued the orders. That common denominator is the trainer.

During the time I have been en¬gaged with specific study of productivity, I have seen several major evolutions occur in companies. Two of them bear special attention by the trainer:

• Major colleges have dropped productivity related courses from their studies.
• Corporate CEO slots have gone to financial or marketing executives, rather than to those with production backgrounds as in the past.

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The emphasis now is cycling back toward the supply side of the supply/demand equation. Companies are directing their attention toward productivity within their own organi¬zations (getting more out of their slice of the pie), rather than penetrating new markets or expanding market share (building a bigger pie). Cer-tainly that is not applied absolutely.

Companies are continuing to expand and penetrate new markets. The dif¬ference is that while doing so, they are making the most of their current resources.

As the cycle nears completion, management and scholars are directing their efforts toward improving productivity and improving productivity improvement skills, respectively. Until their efforts begin to change our cumbersome economic course, trainers very likely will provide the transition. They may do so by directing their programs toward pro¬ductivity improvement skills.

It would seem prudent, then, for trainers to ensure their competence in productivity improvement. We at The American Productivity Center already are seeing positive responses by trainers. Many are visiting the Cen¬ter to learn all they can about productivity, then applying these prin¬ciples to their own organizations.

By scaling our national efforts at the Center to your own organization, you—the trainer—may come up with the following suggested list of initial steps toward changing our economic course:

• Create awareness. Use your com¬pany communications of all sorts, from newsletters to bulletin boards, to make your fellow workers aware of the problem of declining productivity.

• Research. Learn all you can about the subject. Seek to separate reality from myth about productivity, to identify sources of productivity and obstacles.

• Measurement. Learn how to mea¬sure productivity as a total factor. The Center’s Total Factor Productivity Index recently was inaugurated to help companies assess their productivity in light of industry averages.

• Appraisal. Learn how to appraise the productivity potential of a firm or industry so as to identify strengths and weaknesses.
• Take action. Devise formal pro¬grams to enable your organization to work constructively toward positive productivity goals.

• Promote cooperation. Help allay fears and concerns between labor and management so the very real rewards of increased productivity are mutu-ally realized.

• Provide support. Find and make available tools, methods, ideas and experiences that may help people become more productive.

The road to productivity improvement is strewn with obstacles in the form of fear, misunderstanding, suspicion and adversarial relationships. Those of you at the vanguard very likely will face a thankless task, a role most trainers tell me is not unfamiliar. But this time, for sure, the stakes make the effort well worthwhile.

By : Jackson Grayson, Jr. Training Magazine.

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