Four steps to better productivity

An initiative led by the heads of some of the UK’s most successful businesses,  has just announced a challenge to SMEs across the UK to respond to its call for productivity improvement, Be The Business. What’s more, it identifies Leadership as central to the programme, as one of its four key benchmarks, alongside Digital, Future Planning and Talent Management.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, of John Lewis, who Chairs the Productivity Leadership Group, describes their purpose as being to “support businesses in three principal ways. By inspiring leaders with actionable insight that helps businesses to set goals and measure progress. By providing modern tools that enable businesses to work out how good they are compared to others they choose. By encouraging sharing of best practice within communities of businesses across the UK as a catalyst to enable people to find out what’s worked best for others seeking the same improvement.”

Of course, calls to improve productivity in UK business aren’t new. Relatively poor productivity, compared to our major competitors, has been identified as the principal factor limiting economic growth for several decades. It’s not that productivity hasn’t improved, but that others have also been improving. Productivity is one of those areas where, if you aren’t moving forward you are going backwards. And Brexit exacerbates the need for the UK to offer market leading products and services at prices that make us the first choice as supplier to the world.

What holds us back? As Be The Business argues, and as previous similar reports have pointed out, it’s leadership and management that is ultimately to blame. In part this is down to the large number of family owned businesses that dominate the SME sector, mainly because these business are least likely to recognise the need for the people at the top to have proper leadership and management skills. Their founders believe that, as they have been successful in founding the business without such training, that it isn’t needed, at least for those at the top of the business. Unfortunately, being the son or daughter of an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily make you good at building a successful business in the longer term.

Many of the skills needed to enable leaders to develop and improve their businesses are central to both Introducing Leadership and Building and Leading Teams, detail of which are on!