The Productivity Problem

The Productivity Council recently issued a report saying, in brief, that the productivity of leading companies in New Zealand is on average less than half that found in the top companies in other small advanced economies.

And we can quite believe them!  And that conclusion is not simply based on the amount of wasted time spent decorating our roadside with orange cones, or the amount  of wasted time we spend  calling, emailing  and sending smoke signals to elicit a response from many businesses.

We interact with a wide variety of industries. In our naivete and eagerness to learn we often ask the question  “Why do you do this in this way?“  Regrettably too often the answer is some variation on "because we have always done it that way”. And very often the way it has always been done is not necessarily the most productive way.

In our simplistic view, improved productivity comes from a combination of working smarter, and using technology and tools. In a simple example, by  stacking goods on a pallet, and then using a forklift to lift the pallet on to a truck, we achieve greater productivity than loading the goods by hand.

Similarly, instead of digging up a street to lay a watermain, then re-instating it, then 2 weeks later digging it up again to lay fibre, and then re-instating it again, if we were a little smarter and did both jobs at once, then we would achieve greater productivity.  (Note that this example is abbreviated. In fact the street close to my house was dug up four times for various reasons – actually closing the whole street to traffic for weeks on one occasion )

So, too, by using  spreadsheets, accounting software and the like, rather than longhand methods -  we can achieve increased productivity. Believe it or not – there are still many businesses hand writing invoices.

For many businesses, the greatest productivity increases can come simply from thinking about what they are doing and why. Unfortunately  there are plenty of simply dumb things done in every industry because people don’t take the time to think about how they could do the job smarter – and in some cases whether the job needs to be done at all.  The Real Estate industry is not exempt from that criticism. There are ample opportunities for productivity gains. Very often agents could increase their productivity substantially, simply by asking more questions at an earlier stage in the process. That one action alone would elicit information enough to reduce a massive amount of wasted time and energy.