Productivity Improvement Survey

By Symes, Paul | Management Services, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Productivity Improvement Survey


Symes, Paul, Management Services


At the Institute's Council Meeting on 9 January 1998 it was decided to seek research assistance for the introduction of a regular productivity survey. In the following article the Director General, Paul Symes, describes the background to this decision.

The Institute of Management Services' Body of Knowledge (see opposite) illustrates the range of techniques used by members in the profession. The range is diverse and always changing, at least in title if not in nature, to meet the needs of our business and service community. Other professional bodies claim to represent those working in particular areas of the profession in the UK, typically those in Methods Time Management, Business Process Re-engineering and in quality management and benchmarking, but no other body represents the full range of these techniques. As we often state, improving productivity, efficiency, quality and competitiveness is our business.

Over the next two years the Institute will be prominently involved in one of its core techniques - 'productivity'. The Institute is hosting the 11th World Productivity Congress in October 1999 - and very appropriately too. After all, the Institute of Management Services was instrumental in the foundation of the World Confederation of Productivity Science (WCPS) in London in 1969 and the European Federation of Productivity Services in 1972. The Institute is the UK Chapter for both organisations and the sole route for membership of, for example, the European Institute of Industrial Engineering. Hosting the World Productivity Congress will enable the Institute to strengthen contacts with many other national chapters and productivity centres and enhance our profile.

No doubt, this prominence will reopen the arguments about the meaning of 'productivity'. For some productivity is associated solely with the manufacturing sector, stop watches and job cuts. For others productivity has a much wider meaning and applies equally to improving efficiency in a bank or government agency, or making a business more competitive, as it does to improving output from the individual work station. Lord Younger, Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and President for the 11th Productivity Congress, speaking at the initial press briefing in Edinburgh in November picked up this theme by saying:

Today, 'productivity' means much more than the application of time-saving techniques in the manufacturing sector - techniques which were often associated with job losses. Productivity now embraces work measurement techniques, fundamental to benchmarking; it includes process re-engineering, quality and systems management and adopting best-practice. Productivity techniques enable all sectors of business to improve their performance, efficiency, quality standards and competitiveness. Businesses which use productivity techniques grow and provide employment. It is that interpretation which underpins the WCPS claim "productivity creates new wealth" and is "the key to the quality of life".

Our involvement with the Congress will provide an opportunity to give emphasis to this wider interpretation and demonstrate, to those in Government and in the manufacturing and service sectors, the value of the techniques used by our members.

One product which Council felt would help to draw attention to this message is a regular survey of measured productivity improvement. There is a demand for such information, as demonstrated when the President of the Board of Trade, The Right Honourable Margaret Beckett MP, committed the Government to help improve the competitiveness of British business. The launch in November 1997 of the report 'A Benchmark for Business' set the foundations for this initiative and is to be followed in 1998 by a Competitiveness UK White Paper. Supporting material for these reports is provided, for example, by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). …

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