In many instances, especially in periods of economic downturn, the board of directors mandates the chief executive officer (CEO) to implement measures to make their organisation more productive and competitive. Quite often, the CEO’s first response is to lay off workers. However, this might be a suboptimal response, because in the event of an economic upswing, the company may experience shortage of quality people.
This article suggests that a good starting point for the CEO to begin his productivity-improvement journey is to place emphasis on one or all of the four Ps of the organisation – people, products, processes and policies.
People, it is often said, are the most important assets of any organisation. This means that most businesses can substantially improve productivity by introducing incremental or radical changes that raise the efficiency and effectiveness of its human resources.
A straightforward intervention is for the CEO to invest in training, which leads to, among other things, better customer service. In the context of Jamaican businesses, poor customer service is a massive hindrance to company-level productivity.
Another high-payoff company intervention is to focus on activities that cultivate high levels of trust between workers and management. For instance, managers should find tangible ways to demonstrate to employees that their contribution to enhancing the productivity of the organisation is valued. In this regard, introduction of performance-based compensation systems is gaining popularity.
Products refer to goods and/or services the business produces to satisfy customer demand. Two important attributes of goods or services that the CEO should consider changing are quality and responsiveness.
As consumers become more sophisticated, they will demand better quality and responsiveness. These are particularly important for exporting firms – the tourism product comes immediately to mind. Furthermore, quality and responsiveness are solid foundations on which a business can establish a competitive advantage.
A simple exercise with potential high payoff is to conduct a customer-satisfaction survey about the product or service, with special emphasis on quality and responsiveness.
Process-improvement interventions allow companies to plan, design, produce and distribute goods or services more efficiently and effectively to customers. For example, in many hardware and auto parts stores, it is very easy to place an order and make payment, but the painful part of the transaction is the waiting time because of the inefficient delivery process.
These companies might want to critically examine their delivery systems with a view to re-engineering them.
Policy changes at the firm level have been shown to have significant positive impact on a company’s productivity. For example, a policy from the CEO mandating all managers and team leaders to measure, report on and learn from key performance indicators is expected to have large and enduring impact on productivity growth.
So CEOs, managers and team leaders, why not try using the four Ps to kick-start your productivity improvement journey? The reward from your board of directors might more than compensate for the effort.
– Dr Charles Douglas, PhD, is executive director of the Jamaica Productivity Centre