How To SEE Your Way To Excellent Productivity

Copyright Alan C Cark

Copyright Alan C Cark

The Visual Management of Improvement

Say Hello! to Hughie

The idea of Hughie is to help you make a connection with looking at a bigger picture and as well as the detail to improve productivity, i.e. the way work gets done at every level in your business or other organisation.

Question: Are you seriously interested in working towards excellent productivity? If “Yes!” you have much in common with many UK businesses and other organisations, including the public sector. The thing is it’s about taking a thinking and learning approach, which can be difficult when you’re buried in the detail.

OK. In a previous blog I took a swipe at cost-cutting. I guess if you know no better it’s what you have to do to survive. Unfortunately arbitrary, across the board cuts are not the answer. The most effective way to increase productivity is to “get down and dirty” because the devil IS in the detail!

Devil red line.jpg

BUT having said that, somewhat surprisingly, whilst the devil is in the detail, it pays to understand the wider situation in which work is being done, i.e. more than the immediate detail, You’ve go to be able to “hover above” your problem situations to better see what is actually happening and, especially, why.

Why bother? Well because

Everything is connected to everything else

As the great Leonardo Da Vinci once said.

You might ask, “So how does this affect me and improving productivity?” Let’s just take a simple example of an everyday problem using the classic 5 Whys method from my ebook Simple Manage.

Why is the report late? - There was no paper in the printer.

Why was there no paper in the printer? - There was no paper in the stock cupboard.

Why was there no paper in the stock cupboard? - The delivery of stationery items had not arrived.

Why had the stationery delivery not arrived? - The new low-cost supplier’s van had broken down.

Why did the new low-cost supplier van breakdown? - Their van broke down because they had missed a service to save money resulting in a blocked fuel filter.

The all too frequent reaction of someone in “authority” might be to “shoot the messenger”. Instead it would be better to get into Hughie to “hover above” to get a bigger picture of the whole situation, eg. use 5 Whys. This would help you to better see cause and effect relationships.

Looking into the situation further one might ask, Was price the only consideration for selecting a new stationery supplier? What were the selection criteria? Was risk considered? and so on. If you are aiming for excellence then there must be greater rigour in every aspect of the organisation’s workings.

Hover Above - Look at a Bigger Picture

Since I’m talking about SEEING and Visual Management I’d like to help you do this by introducing you to the Flow & Feedback (2F) diagram below. It helps you to “Hover Above” and see more , i.e. put a situation in context. I’m not going through it in detail now, just look at some critical features and how they help you work towards excellent productivity.

Copyright Alan C Clark, Terry Peterson, Steve Pitt

Copyright Alan C Clark, Terry Peterson, Steve Pitt

First there’s an element present throughout the whole of the 2F diagram. Although not stated, people are present throughout every stage of the diagram.

You and Your People

Whether it’s a cast of thousands or just you working in your business, people are the heart of it. “Hover Above” or, if you prefer, step back to appreciate your people and yourself. It is only when everyone is working in the same direction that you will be able to really push the boundaries on productivity.

Two key elements for releasing people potential are:

♥ Respect people, especially yourself

♥ Continual personal development

These may sound obvious, although possibly not for those with their noses stuck purely in the detail (especially when that’s just the bottom line). There are multiple influences on productivity. However, by showing respect and encouraging ongoing personal development you have two powerful keys to begin to unlock greater productivity.


Customers are the people who are actually shown in the 2F Diagram. They are the critical part of your business, they are your COMPASS. Without customers, consumers, service users, clients, patients, etc. you don’t have a business or a reason for existence for any other type of organisation.

⮙ EVERYONE in your organisation must focus CUSTOMERS - Are they? Are you?

⮙ Focus on delivering VALUE to customers

⮙ Value helps customers with their JOBS TO BE DONE

Imagine getting in a helicopter without a compass. Sure you may be able to follow familiar landscape features. But what happens when the landscape - or market place - changes or is unfamiliar? You’ll easily get lost if you are not looking at your compass, i.e. guidance from your customers and their needs at that moment and in the future.

Your Purpose: Meeting Customer Needs

So what is it that you actually DO for customers? Forget fancy mission statements. How do you help customers with their ‘jobs to be done’? This enables you to be very clear about the business you are in. This in turn helps you to minimise distractions and dead ends.

Excellent Productivity

At this point you may be asking, What does all this have to do with excellent productivity?

To which my reply is productivity of what for who? We’re back to customers again. And here’s a really important question that everyone in the organisation should be asking themselves ALL OF THE TIME,

‘Is what I am doing right now adding value for the customer or helping someone else to add value for the customer?

This is the secret key to excellent productivity.

Value-Add & Support Processes

Know very clearly which of your activites add value (those are the ones customers are willing to pay for, given the choice) and those that support them. Whilst eliminating waste is useful, I suggest it is even more powerful to really focus attention on whether activities or processes really and truly add value for customers.

“Busy-ness is not good for business”

Use Feedback to Improve

How can you find the driving force to continually improve the business processes that create value and support the delivery of that value in the form of your your products and services? The answer is look for your customers’ PAIN!

What’s working and what is not? What can you learn from both what’s working and what’s not? And you guessed it, ask the customers! When speaking to your customers ask for feedback without denial.

How many cases do we see in the media where organisations, particularly bureacracies, have been in denial, trying to bury bad news, internal challenges or customer problems? How much better might they be today if they had acted at the time?

Productive Helicopter View Takeaways

Look, whilst there are any number of methods, techniques and tools for improving productivity, the most powerful keys to excellent productivity are you having a thinking and learning mindset and can imagine getting into Hughie to “hover above” the situation to SEE a bigger picture of the influences at play on your problem.

Whilst you are doing that:

♥ Take care of you & yours

⮙ Focus on your customers

⮙ Be clear about your Purpose: meet your customer needs

£ Be clear whether activites truly add value or support adding value

+ Use feedback to improve

If you would like to develop your company’s productivity improvement skills talk to me about my project-based A3 Business Improvement Training. It’s highly practical and at the end issues in your business will have been tackled at the same time as building knowledge and skills in improvement.

If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment to discuss my 1-2-1 A3 Coaching Six-Pack do contact me via the button below. Please do include your email address, which I will only use to send information to you relevant to your inquiry.

Thank you for reading this blog. Hope you have enjoyed it and found it useful. If you have any other questions do please use the button above. Also do please share this blog with your friends, colleagues and connections. Looking forward to sharing my next blog with you.

PS I offer a FREE 45 minute Discovery Session if you personally want to change things and might like me to coach you through solvable problems. [Solvable problems are those where everyone involved understands that they will have to make changes to resolve problems.]