Let's talk productivity and technology management ...

Technology should be an integral part of any productivity strategy.  But why do some organisations struggle to develop effective technology strategies?  This was a question we put to the leadership team we were working with on a technology strategy some years ago.  They identified 6 distinct barriers:

  • Lack of aspiration … there was no clear ambition
  • Lack of a technology strategy … resulted in a random approach to technology
  • Lack of awareness … little knowledge of the external possibilities
  • Risk aversion … doing nothing seemed less risky than doing something
  • Lack of capability … lack of structures to effectively engage in the strategy
  • Lack of execution … folklore around poor technology implementation (over budget/over time/under delivered)

How does your technology strategy stack up?    

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Leadership Lessons from Dockers' coach Ross Lyons

In the early 90’s Paul Keating remarked that every parrot in the pet shop was squawking micro-economic reform.  Today those same parrots would be squawking productivity.  While this is a multi-dimensional challenge, leadership plays a fundamental role. 

And so I thought I’d highlight a leadership lesson from Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon.  He recently observed his team needed a vast improvement if they were to maintain their position on top of the ladder.  He questioned their decision making following a ‘grinding’ 7 point win over Collingwood, highlighting some specific areas: some shocking turnovers; repeatedly slipping. 

What did he say next?  “At the end of the day that starts and finishes with me, so clearly our football program needs to improve because they should be able to do it instinctively under pressure”. Wow.  How many of our leaders today adopt this perspective?  We often lose sight of the fundamental truth: we are accountable for the performance of our teams.  So if their productivity is low, you are underperforming. 

Ouch.  That puts a different slant on it.  Try looking through this prism next time your team disappoint.  

Against the flow - removing robots

In a reversal of an increasing trend toward use of robotics as a productivity tool in the auto industry over the last two decades, Toyota has deliberately displaced robots to reinstall humans.  Why?  Because over time the workforce skills will deteriorate, leading to too many average workers and not enough craftsmen.  In turn, the robots can only do what humans program them to do: if humans lose the skills, then the robots ultimately work sub-optimally. 

This has resonance with strategic choices in mining 25 years ago when contract mining was first emerging.  One of the major mining companies held firm against the trend and deliberately rejected contract mining.  Why?  Because they were concerned that if they lost a core competence around mining over time they would lose the ability to make judgements around investment decisions in future mines.

Few firms are likely to be facing this issue with respect to use of robots perhaps.  But it does raise a core strategic question:  when was the last time you explicitly discussed core competencies in your business?  Is there agreement across the executive at to what really are core competencies?