Productivity In The UK – Part 3

October 24, 2016


If you’ve been following my last couple of posts you will know that I’ve been talking about the ICAEW report on Productivity in the UK. I wanted to put the findings into simple terms for SME’s but as there was so much to talk about I decided to split it down into 4 parts.

If you want to refresh your memory on the ICAEW’s recommendations you can do so here.

Whilst there are macro-economic and national aspects to the ICAEW’s recommendations I want to focus on what a business owner of an SME could do themselves to improve their own business’ productivity. In this post (part 3) I want to talk to you about…

Closing The Gap By Employer Engagement

productivity in the uk

I’m working with a client – a third generation family business – that has a reasonably stable workforce. There’s less than 30 people in the business and everybody works under the same roof. So you would think that communication and teamwork wouldn’t be an issue.

Unfortunately not. Ask anybody in the business about the main problems they had and communication or engagement were raised as real issues – both from a management and workforce point of view.  That’s not to say people talked about the job in hand. What was happening in reality was that:

  • The workforce thought the Managers were ignoring them and keeping them in the dark, so they just got on with their job, grumbled to each other now and then and in true Yorkshire spirit, “said nought”;
  • Things happened without warning and subsequently things that were supposed to happen didn’t happen as planned;
  • The Managers were too busy dealing with problems, finding new customers, keeping an eye on money, checking up that others were doing the right thing and being asked to make every decision.

There was a sense of the business being in a Catch 22 situation: too busy to engage and communicate: too many time-demanding things being caused by not communicating and engaging.


Since I have got involved with the business we are starting to make changes and team morale and spirit is on the up! In no particular order here are the things we have done:

  1. Set aside some dedicated Management time to set a clear and focussed plan for the next couple of years. – The Managers hadn’t done that sort of thing before so there was lots of talking, going off on occasional tangents and with the occasional differences of opinion;
  2. Talked to the workforce. Often on a 121 basis to understand what they felt. Also just watching how the factory operated, where things were kept, how people did their jobs etc. proved useful;
  3. Encouraged the Managers to do the same “back to the floor” research. Or as the Japanese call it “going to the Gemba”;
  4. The Managers shared the business plan with the staff – and are having regular update sessions on progress;
  5. Drew up a basic flowchart of how a works order progressed through the business, so that we could clarify who did what and when;
  6. Used those progress sessions for slightly-structured business improvement discussions;
  7. Visited a business that has been doing shop floor improvement for about 10 years – getting motivated and taking away ideas;


Ideas Generated So Far…

All this resulted in lots of fresh ideas including a general tidy up of the shop floor, repainting all surfaces; replacing some broken tools; setting up a large white board to show the progress on all works orders; collecting all jigs into one location, colour coding them and adding a list of all jigs to the drawing office inventory.

The Results….

Obviously this is the important part and it has been interesting to see how things have changed. We can now see smiling faces, visitors commenting on the cleanliness of the factory and the start of colleagues talking to each other about how they could make the business run better.

Has turnover immediately jumped up? No, however we have identified several ways to generate more sales including: offering health checks on machines that customers have bought in the last few years; giving the service team a better knowledge of the company’s sales offer should they see any opportunities during their sales visit; regularly reviewing the quote pipeline to trigger follow up calls.

Finally we are having regular Management Team meetings to make sure the team are focussed on making the plan happen. It’s still early days but we’ve started to break the Catch 22 cycle.

If you are thinking that this kind of approach would work for your business, give me a call to have a confidential chat. You can also take the 4 disciplines check to find out where your business needs to improve. It’s FREE and you will be provided with a personalised report outlining areas that you could improve.