Leaning toward Greater Productivity

By Clements, John | New Zealand Management, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Leaning toward Greater Productivity


Clements, John, New Zealand Management


New Zealand faces a significant challenge--how do we boost a productivity rate that is currently just 79 percent of the OECD average?

Past economic growth has relied on sopping up spare employment capacity and, as NZ Institute director David Skilling recently pointed out, that is not a sustainable recipe for the future. Meanwhile the rapid growth in global development is a two-edged sword--while consumers can enjoy cheaper imports, local manufacturers face more competition across a wider range of sectors.

It's no longer possible to compete on price when you have countries who pay people a dollar a day--you have to give quality and service. To ensure New Zealand business can successfully compete in international markets, we must look for ways to increase our productivity.

Productivity drivers identified by the Department of Labour in its Workplace Productivity Challenge report include building better leadership and management; organising work; networking/collaboration; investing in people and skills; encouraging innovation and using technology to get ahead; creating a productive workplace culture; and, measuring what matters.

These need to be organised within a workable, easy-to-implement framework focused on productivity. Lean manufacturing provides that--it is about delivering products and services better, cheaper and faster and is therefore the essence of productivity improvement. Its 20 'keys to workplace improvement' provide a measurable set of steps for organisations to follow.

These incorporate training opportunities for employers and employees and emphasise a bottom-up approach that fully utilises workers' knowledge and creativity. …

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