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Why does Productivity make us uneasy?

Maybe I’ve already mentioned it, but when giving an ‘introduction to Lean’ presentation a few weeks ago, my mention of a ‘time-based approach’ led to one of the participants commenting that “you should be careful about mentioning that, it could scare people”.

Scared by taking less time to get something done. Well, it got me thinking, and concluding that there is a probably a link between this type of point of view and the difficulties we have in France is driving ‘Lean’ thinking. It’s all to do with the culture!!

A post a few months ago made a reference to the government’s plan for industry, in which ’subsidies’ was the buzzword, ‘productivity’ hardly mentioned (apart from wondering why the Germans are so much better at it) and ‘Lean’ not at all.

In the past 30 years, the price of petrol has been divided by 2, steak by 3, oranges by 4 and electric light bulbs by 5. All thanks to skilled industrial engineers making the changes required to drive ‘productivity’. Consumers have therefore benefitted greatly from the progress made, but have as a result interpreted productivity in only one of two possible ways – producing as much using less resources… and in most people’s minds, the resources in question are the people themselves.

Very few people see productivity as an opportunity to make more with the same resources. Therefore, productivity has become linked to social recession. In the same way, using time as the unit of measure induces concern and maybe even stress, rather than joy and excitement as the potential of being able to make and sell so much more.

France is and always has been a very creative and innovative country. Information systems is the current thing to be in. I saw an article this morning in which it is reported that over the first half of this year, national results for the big IT companies are far better than the international averages. The French love creating things.

However, growth cannot feed on creativity and innovation alone. Production and productivity make our daily bread. Innovation and productivity feed off each other. And it is time for us all to stop worrying whenever we hear the P word.

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