Archive for the 'productivity' Category

“That’s ruined MY day”

Most of my time is spent working with team managers to make their teams more efficient and productive. It’s work that gives me huge satisfaction and enjoyment. The process generally starts with a meeting where the team leader explains the problem/s. Then I’m asked what training, changes and so on I can deliver to “change the team around”.

Someone else’s fault
I comes as a huge surprise that often I’ll say “I’m not sure I can do anything to help them but I can do something to help you”. My reasoning is that it’s not unusual for team leaders to take poor team performance and people problems as someone else’s fault but with the results affecting them personally.

For example:Take the team leader who heard last week that a key member of staff was leaving, “That’s ruined my day, I’m getting a headache and going to take the rest of the day off!”
the team leader who’s heard that the team failed to meet target. “All the training and time I’ve given them and they do this to me!”

A lesson to be learned
One of the first lessons that team leaders need to understand is that the team hasn’t underperformed nor decided to leave to intentionally upset the leader. However, having said that the phrase “people don’t leave the company, they leave the boss” is true and underperformed teams is often due to poor resource being available.

That’s why I enjoy mentoring team leaders. 

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Queen’s Jubilee…better in 1952 or at the end?

As the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee approaches we are likely to be bombarded with comparisons of the “then and now”. Commentators will be lecturing us saying how much better off we all are than in 1952!

People worked harder
Doubtless they will mention that people worked harder in 1952. Yet in reality communication and technology mean that we work faster and more effectively now than sixty years ago.

There will be statistics showing that more women are employed than ever before and regrets that “company loyalty” has disappeared. Forced redundancies, company closures and so on have meant that people are prepared, often out of necessity, to change jobs and careers more often than sixty years ago.

Is comparison pointless?
Yet comparisons are rather pointless. During the past sixty years the world has changed beyond recognition for most in the UK and the USA and it’s undeniable that the general standard of living of Briton’s has improved.

The real issue
The real issue for discussion with commentators, politicians, business leaders and bankers should be not whether things are better now than in 1952 but instead if things will be better at the end of the reign than they are now?



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“Policies” can damage a reputation

Over the last week I’ve had some correspondence with the Automobile Association (UK) which has demonstrated to me, once again, that too many companies make process and policy decisions that are harmful to their reputation and income. In this particular instance there’s a happy ending but it’s not always the case.

In December my Mother died with eight months on her AA membership paid for on an annual contract. Rather than waste the subscription I thought it would be a nice idea to have the membership transferred to a younger cousin so that they could benefit from the eight months of her subscription.

An expensive policy
On phoning the call centre I was told that “Your Mother’s account account is closed and it’s our policy that no refunds are made by the AA”. I asked to be transferred to discuss the issue with a manager to be told that “the call centre can’t transfer calls”. At this point I was annoyed believing that the policy of “no transfer” under these circumstances was unfair and, in reality, poor business practice.  I even pointed out that this policy decision was damaging to the AA because as well as losing my Mother’s subscription, the AA was now likely to lose mine (on renewal) and possibly my sister’s future subscriptions. Three subscriptions for the cost of administering a slight change. An expensive policy!

The power of social media
After a tweet in frustration (re-tweeted by some) the AA contacted me by direct tweet message asking me to detail my grievance in an email. After a couple of emails the issue is resolved and the AA will provide eight months membership to a person of our choice. The organisation now has the potential of a new long-term member. A good result for them and satisfactory conclusion for myself and shows the power of multimedia.

But my question is this:
Having a policy of “No refund” if fine under most circumstances and I can think of lots of reasons why the policy is in place but those that design such policies need to also think through the possible damage it could do under certain situations. The potential to the AA for lost opportunities and lost income over many years could have been costly!

When making policy rules…think of the exceptions that might be beneficial to the corporate reputation and create policies for dealing with exceptions.

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The gap between expectation and delivery

I read with interest in People Management that
of the changes that leaders and managers think are most important for
success are currently not being delivered by their organisations.

In a survey by the Centre for Educational Leadership
at the University of Manchester delegates at the latest CIPD Conference were asked their opinions on the importance of
various aspects of business performance. They were then asked which
aspects their organisations were currently delivering effectively. The
gaps between expectation and delivery were marked.

  • Effective
    HR business partnering was identified by 65 per cent as important to
    achieve, yet only 33 per cent said they had it in place
  • Harnessing the
    ideas of employees was cited as a priority for 69 per cent, but only 35
    per cent said they already did it well
  • Performance management processes
    were seen as important by 62 per cent, but just 21 per cent were
    confident with what they had in place.
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A revolution in the making

I was interested to read that two leading academics have predicted a revolution at work over the next ten years. Alison
Maitland and Peter Thomson, visiting fellows at Cass Business School and
Henley Business School respectively, are predicting that employees will soon be deciding when, where and how they do their jobs and that in future workers will be paid by results and not by the hours worked.

Revolution will help boost output
Reported in People Management, the pair maintain that such a
radical change in working practices will help businesses boost output,
cut costs, speed access to new markets and afford employees greater

They highlight the Clothing
retailer Gap that is said to have halved the turnover rate of employees
when it introduced a ‘Results-Only Work Environment’ in the production
and design department of their outlet division in California.

A flawed prediction.

I see there being a flaw in their argument. Can you imagine shops, banks, and other places where staffing is needed during opening hours, allowing complete flexibility in how, when and where the job is done?

Then there’s their proposal of paying for results. Now that sounds like a great idea and would have much support from people all over Europe that would love to propose that we start by paying Bankers, politicians, Estate agents (Realtors) and civil servants purely on their quantifiable results. I can see there being thousands of applications to be “Productivity assessors”
Now there’s a revolution! 

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Unproductive workers rights

What a storm the report proposing change the rules regarding unfair dismissal has had. This is despite the fact that any changes, in the current climate, are unlikely.

Unproductive workers should lose rights
As reported by the BBC The report, commissioned by the prime minister, argues that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal”. The Daily Telegraph
quotes the report as saying that under the current rules workers are
allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack.

Sarah Veale head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC said that there were less than a million unfair dismissal claims last
year which was “absolutely nothing” out of a large workforce. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The clue is in
the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair
dismissals”. I find myself agreeing with Mr Barber! The only problem is that almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence.

Informal discussions
I believe that employers should have the right to informally discuss with their staff issues surrounding employment, such as retirement plans, production and productivity without the fear of having to face an industrial tribunal. To do so would allows the employer to plan staffing needs, recruitment and other issues that make a business profitable.

In fact, if done properly, can’t an employer have these discussions already?

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You can’t be caught working if you’re in a meeting

A great friend of mine, John Donnelly, always says about team meetings that “You can’t be caught working if you’re in a team meeting” and of course he’s right. It amazes me how many people still flit from one meeting to another, particularly in public services, that actually believe they are doing something! The problem is that when they attend the next meeting to discuss actions from the previous meeting they often haven’t had time to do the work because they’ve been too busy attending meetings!

Three hours a day in internal meetings
According to the figures, almost a quarter of employees spend up to
three hours a day in internal meetings.
Answering emails is another time waster with the average number of internal emails received being 32 – although
nearly one in five say they get up to 50 a day, which works out as one
email every eight-and-a-half minutes.

Internal meetings a colossal waste of time
Management today have an article that suggests that UK businesses waste
£255m a day on internal meetings and emails. And that’s not just on
multi-packs of chocolate Hobnobs: The refreshing thing is that those attending meetings often see them as a
colossal waste of time, that is except those that spend their days in meetings rather than be seen working.

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More Change for Insurance Companies

Having just paid my car insurance fee that, despite having nine years no claims bonus, rose once again I was delighted to hear that referral fees are to be outlawed and that The Office of Fair Trading is putting motor
insurance under the spotlight after premiums rose by
40% on average in a year.

First step in tackling dysfunctional compensation system

The Association of British Insurers – said it welcomed the announcement. As reported by the BBC, Director General Otto Thoresen
said: “We are very pleased that the government has listened to the
insurance industry’s campaign for a ban on referral fees.

“Banning referral fees is an important first step in tackling
our dysfunctional compensation system, and needs to be accompanied by a
reduction in legal costs and action to tackle whiplash if honest
customers are to benefit from these reforms.”

Change in culture and teams
Insurance companies, law firms, garages and other interested parties in the referral system merry-go-round will have to change their systems and their teams to reflect these changes.  That either means redundancy or allocation to other jobs (on the basis that the entire system doesn’t move underground).

Reduced bills

It’s interesting how there is expectation that once the system is outlawed and the teams that manage the current the system are disbanded, saving employment costs, and the huge compensation costs reduced that insurance premiums will fall.

I will await next year’s policy renewal notice with interest!

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“Healthy growth next year but…”

One of my best friends popped in for dinner last night. Over drinks we talked about how his business was managing with the financial downturn. Increases in unemployment, London riots and business difficulties were all discussed but I was delighted when he told me that his business was “Doing better than expected”. I heard about the new business plan that I expect will generate a healthy growth for the next year.

“What keeps me awake at night”
He’s managed to avoid laying people off work and whilst he wasn’t hiring people he was intending to restructure his team. The thing that was keeping him awake at night was that the restructure might cause some of his good people to leave. “I know jobs are hard to find right now but good people are still able to move quite easily” he explained.

5 Point Plan solution
After discussing much of the content of an article I wrote some months ago HERE for IQPC we talked about strategies for retaining his good people. In the end we settled on a five point plan. It would be specific to detail in this blog post but if you’d like to hear how we arrived at the solution then email me at and we can arrange a SKYPE call and I can fill you in. 

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Some INfrequently Asked Questions

Yesterday I blogged on Simon Swan’s article in the latest edition of Management Today and got quite a reaction. A whole load of people, shocked at the costs to their business, contacted me with questions and to discuss team restructures. They ranged from large businesses with a number of teams to a small company of four considering expanding to a team of just five people.

Not so boring stats
All of them were shocked to hear the answers to the “INfrequently asked questions”.
that business never asks*:

  • What percentage of new hires fail within two years of appointment?
    A: 40%
  • What % or restructured teams fail to meet objectives?
    A: 42%
  • What % of projects are completed to time, budget and specification?
    A: 28%

But it doesn’t have to be like this and I talked through my callers an eighteen minute SKYPE call when I explained how to reduce the risks of new hire and team failure…easily.
They’ve urged me to offer the same eighteen minutes to my SKYPE contacts (stephenharvarddavis) and I thought I would offer this to my blog readers and at no charge.

If you want to take me up on this then email me at so that we can arrange a mutually convenient time for a SKYPE call.
For the moment I’m restricting this to the first ten respondents and during the next seven days so don’t let time pass if you want to take me up on the offer

* Stats from various sources including Fortune Magazine and HBR

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