From the dawn of civilization, the one benchmark for marking progress has been productivity improvement. Over time, things such as simple hand tools, communal farming, simple machines, skills development, manufacturing, specialty materials, communication and technology have each led to step change in basic productivity improvement (getting more with less). While it’s important to understand what’s happening at the macro-level, its equally important, if not more so, for organizations to constantly focus on what can be done to get more out of their scarce resources. The adage “standing still means your falling behind” could never be more true.
“…those organizations capable of getting the greatest productivity from its Knowledge Workers shall win in the 21st century”
Drucker, one of the pioneers of Modern Management Theory, saw decades ago the dilemma that many organizations find themselves in today; competitive pressures forcing difficult trade-off decisions between having the right resources for driving value creation versus support resources that don’t drive value creation. So, what is productivity? It’s both the efficiency and effectiveness by which input (resources) are converted to output (value). THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! It’s the gut instinct managers get when they sense priorities are out of whack. Keeping it simple, there have been four basic levers used moving productivity to the next level. Each individual lever has had a unique impact on the evolution of productivity:
- Materials – From wood, to stone, metals, simple alloys, plastic, advanced polymers and exotic alloys.
- Knowledge – Learning from trial and error, to experimentation, training, skills development, advanced education, online knowledge centers, innovation, collaboration.
- Tools – From early sticks and stone implements, to simple hand tools, simple machines, complex machines, advanced technologies.
- Process – The means by which materials, knowledge, tools are combined to achieve desired results.
Which lever to pull depends on the amount of time and energy already committed to staying ahead of the curve. Most larger businesses with healthy balance sheets have invested in the tools, training, and processes needed to successfully contend. Their focus remains with finding the next incremental improvements. Smaller, resource thin businesses have, until recently, been denied access to the benefits of recent innovation due the investment that was required. Cloud computing, flexible and skilled workforce, easy access to on-line knowledge and best practice processes all make it possible to improve productivity without significant investment. It comes down to committing to the change required to succeed. In the final analysis, competition is always looking for an advantage. Deciding to do nothing can never be an option.
Ron Albright – VProA Founder and CEO