A productivity initiative Australia needs

The launch of Productivity Spectator opens up a new way of thinking about productivity, with a wealth of ideas to lift revenue and market share and improve business and government service.

Alan Kohler and I believe we can help many corporate and government executives and other employees, plus enterprise owners, gain better rewards. And in the process the enterprises and organisations will have a much better chance of lifting revenue and market share.

And we will do this with a weekly practical short video containing an idea that we believe could improve your businesses, organisation or career – most of the ideas will apply to both small and large enterprises or organisations.

Our first one, which I will discuss later, is both simple and powerful, but for some executives, frightening. Had it been available a decade or two ago it would have prevented many business disasters. The weekly short video is part of one of Australia’s most important national media initiatives – the launch of Productivity Spectator.

The word ‘productivity’ is often a fear word because it is associated with possible job losses. Many business people naively believe productivity is mainly the responsibility of governments via industrial relations legislation, tax rates and infrastructure.

But we now have clear evidence that those enterprises and government organisations that seriously think about what they are doing in the productivity space are more likely to prosper or provide better service (Australian CEOs don't measure up, March 20).

Accordingly, we have started Productivity Spectator as a forum of ideas to improve enterprises and government organisations and in the process lift revenue and market share and/or provide better service. You may not embrace every idea but the ideas may set you thinking about other ways to improve your business or government environment.

So how do we know that better productivity is likely to lift your revenue or market share and improve your service? Obviously there are no guarantees but according to the 2012 Telstra Productivity Survey, those that measure productivity are much more likely to lift market share or revenue and provide a better customer experience.

Our productivity editor, Columbia MBA Jackson Hewett (we think he is the first productivity editor in the world), believes that if there is greater staff engagement in a service business, profits rise and services improve. So the first bracket of ideas will be around staff engagement.

I well remember in the last decade talking to staff at BlueScope’s Port Kembla plant plus the old Myer and Coles enterprises. Staff were unhappy, and it was not just union rabble rousing. Had the boards known about the depth of the problems then the difficulties that later emerged might have been avoided.

On a smaller scale, for almost 20 years, I ran the BRW magazine group for Fairfax. Our staff were very talented and the business was extremely profitable. But with 100 staff, when something went wrong you always seemed to find out about it after the problems had escalated. If I could have found a way to discover staff problems early and nip them in the bud our productivity would have been greatly improved.

Now I believe that we have found a possible way for many enterprises and government organisations to discover early both small and deep problems. You will be amazed how simple this idea is and how easy to institute. I am not going to tell you what it is – you will have to watch the video – but it opens up entirely new applications for iPads.

But first, a warning. The Atlassian group that developed this concept is well managed and has excellent staff relations. If this technique had been used a decade ago at Port Kembla, or at the old Coles or Myer, there would have been such a flood of anger that executives would have felt very uneasy. Their boards would have learned something that management could too easily ignore until it was too late. The deep problems at those firms would have been uncovered in a far more timely manner. The position those companies are in now could have been very different.

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