Three New Habits Can Save the Jamaican Economy

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Japan’s economic recovery from World War II was nothing short of miraculous. Is there something that Jamaica could learn from their focus on removing waste from a narrow area of high importance? If we also could find a single point of improvement that could be applied in a wide number of areas could we see the same results?

Three New Habits That Can Save Jamaica’s Economy

Most Jamaicans are wondering “Where will the spark come from that will ignite our economy?” Instead of hoping for foreigners to bail us out, maybe we should be looking at what we are already wasting: individual time.

It may not be the path advocated by the IMF, but it’s one that post World War II Japan would readily recognize. In their recovery, they made unprecedented monumental improvements in their manufacturing operations. They leaped from being a producer of laughable products to being world leaders. Unfortunately, the cost of energy prevents us from taking that particular path, but there is something we can borrow from their approach.

We need to do so urgently. Jamaica’s productivity has been sailing in reverse ever since independence, making us one of the least productive countries in the hemisphere.

Japan had bigger problems. Due to high costs, their customers could not afford their own country’s products. In response, their companies launched an all-out effort to cut waste in order to make products more affordable.

At Toyota, the quality revolution was led by Taiichi Ohno. He declared that there are seven forms of waste which permeate factories: overproduction, motion, inventory, transportation, waiting, defects and over-processing. (Later, others added one more that may apply to us: under-utilized people.)

We also have an opportunity to cut waste, but not in factories. Instead, it resides in the way we waste time as individuals, at every level. Daily experience tells us that something is wrong – our people are under-utilized. But what would it be like to become the country with the most productive employees in the world?

We’d have to think quite differently. The latest research reveals that time itself cannot be managed, and instead we must focus on what is called a “time demand.” It’s defined as an internal, individual commitment to complete an action in the future. An inescapable element of adult life, we all create, manage and complete time demands every single day.

However, my empirical data shows our performance in this area is well below global averages. Here are three wasteful habits that challenge us in the workplace.

1. Tracking Time Demands Using Memory
Early in our teens we learn that once a time demand is created, it forms an essential link between our goals and actions. Keeping each one alive in our memory is a habit we try to teach ourselves and when the number of items is small, it appears to work. However, as we get older the stakes rise. Life becomes more complex and our teenager-taught, memory-based system fails.

Case: A colleague has a habit of making strong, confident promises in meetings, but he never records them.  You notice that once the meeting is over, he disappears along with his promises. Over time, you end up becoming his personal reminder system in order to get what you want.

Recommended: Wean yourself and others off the use of memory for this purpose. See it as a reckless practice. Instead, record all time demands in writing or on a digital device.

2. Recording Time Demands Without Processing Them
Once someone unlearns the habit of using memory and starts capturing time demands safely, a new problem arises. He/she needs to set time aside to process them all, preferably on a daily basis.

Case: If you are someone who arrives at meetings with four notepads filled with an unprocessed backlog of time demands, you are still using memory to decide which ones to execute and when.

Recommended: Go through the backlog of time demands in your notepads, Inboxes and other places of capture and delete obsolete ones. Be aggressive. Move the ones to be saved for later to a long-term home in either your To-Do List or calendar. Once the backlog is gone, develop a regular habit of emptying time demands from these places of capture.

3. Sticking with Paper
Even though you have abundant, inexpensive access to digital resources, you have not upgraded from the use of a paper calendar or To-Do list. This approach is risky.

Case: You create a commitment on behalf of a customer by adding a new task to your paper To-Do list. Later that evening, at bath time, it becomes the raw material for your child’s boat. Surprise! You scramble the next morning to repeat the conversation with your customer, dealing a blow to your reputation.

Recommended: Become as comfortable with digital devices and redundant storage as you are with paper. With the right tools and proper backups to the cloud, you will never, ever lose anything.

Today, these wasteful behaviours are common but they are not insurmountable. If the island archipelago of Japan can reverse its fortunes with focused effort on cutting waste, then maybe we can also. The time is right for each of us to undertake a personal productivity revolution.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free summary of links to all his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read the article on the Gleaner’s website.

Why Executives Now Need to Challenge Their Direct Reports

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Many Caribbean executives simply don’t ask enough of their direct reports. Instead, they try to protect them from harsh realities, often before it’s too late to call for an “all hands on deck” approach.

Here’s what they should do instead: Why Executives Need to Challenge Their Direct Reports.

The full text is provided below.


Why Executives Now Need to Challenge Their Direct Reports

While top executives are known for their unearthly ability to push themselves, it often isn’t enough. They also need to demand high performance from their direct reports to prevent their organizations from drifting into sorry mediocrity. Why, at this time, has their ability to direct their subordinates become so important?

In some ways, this recession has been good for Jamaicans. It is pushing us to work longer, harder and smarter in our need to do more with less. When there’s less revenue available, our companies (like our individuals) are learning to operate in a leaner fashion in order to do things they have never done before.

This may sound good in theory but how does this translate into actual, on-the-ground behaviours? If you are an executive, how should you relate to your direct reports?

1. Never Allow Coasting

In the local corporate setup, even if you found yourself in a job with a steep learning curve, there was always a point at the top where you could stop pushing yourself. You could relax and enjoy the fruits of your initial hard work. However, in today’s recessionary environment, savvy executives realize that there is no such place. That is, no-one should expect that there will ever again (in our lifetime) be a time to coast along, with spare time to smell the roses.

Today, it’s all curve. At the “top,” you should expect another curve. And then another.

As an executive, it’s your job to create challenges (i.e. new curves) for your people – much in the same way that a coach motivates a team. Good sales executives are expert at this task, but now every other manager must do the same with their direct reports.

They may hate you for it, but it’s not personal. The recession is hitting every business in Jamaica hard, especially those who earn no foreign exchange and have no overseas customers. All you are doing by asking for more is aligning your subordinates with reality. It’s a difficult task to accomplish, but you cannot wait. Your company must stretch itself to achieve the seemingly impossible long before things start to break.

2. Removing Protection

Entrepreneurs face the relentless pressure of bi-weekly payroll, monthly tax obligations, and daily cash-flow crunches. By contrast, your company’s employees are traditionally protected from these stresses if they work for medium to large enterprises. It’s been clear.  In exchange for a long-term, regular salary, they have gotten by with few responsibilities, standard hours of work and only vague requests to learn new skills.

In times past, this was the accepted status quo. In response to a global recession, your direct reports need to strip this protection away so that your company can compete.

Case in point: A Florida-based contractor explained to me that “He stopped hiring fellow Jamaicans long ago.” According to him, his new Mexican employees work all day taking only a single, ten-minute break for lunch. He couldn’t find enough Jamaicans with that work ethic to employ them.

In like manner, the recession has brought global pressures on local companies that none can avoid. Top managers must expose employees to these outside factors which demand greater individual production. The fact that these improvements must take place without the benefit of additional tools, training or remuneration is not unfair – it’s just life.

3. On-boarding People Who Demand More of Themselves

Usain Bolt has set a good example in publicly asking more of himself. In his commitment to break the 200-meter world record, he admits that he’s now older and more injury-prone.

Unfortunately, most employees aren’t like Usain – they don’t set such difficult goals for themselves. It’s up to your direct reports to recruit the rare people who have this mindset. One shortcut is to borrow the HR best-practice used to weed out the ones who aren’t up to the challenge.

It’s easy – just walk them through the worst possible day they could have if they accept the new role. This simulation provides them with a reality check that tells you, by their reaction, if they have what it takes.

If you believe that you are already hiring the right people, here’s one way to see if they are being challenged appropriately. Form an internal focus group of your most recent hires from full-time tertiary institutions. Ask them to be honest: “In order to fit in, have you scaled back your initial drive and effort since joining the company?” Allow them to share their shock at how little actual work gets done.

A company which creates the right culture must energize newcomers and employees alike to increase productivity. As a top executive, the only way to get that done is through your direct reports who must translate a continuous pressure for high performance into practical action. It’s the only way to assure your company’s survival.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free summary of links to his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com