Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Productivity and innovation for sustainable development

The three factors considered in this writeup seem to contradict each other at the outset. Let us start by thinking that they do contradict each other. We shall proceed and find out whether our Null hypothesis holds good.

Productivity, normally is associated with the rate of production. If we leave the mathematical definition alone and try to spread the petals, we see that it has various layers to it. It is more related to the efficient and effective use of limited resources at our disposal. "Limited" because there is no need of productivity measure for "Unlimited" resources.

Is productivity the conren of only the corporates and the business they run?. No. It is the concern of every living being. It is the tactic of squeezing the last drop from the resource.

Innovation, the desire to see things in a new light, with a new perspective, or invent a whole new way of ding things resulting in improved efficiency and effectiveness. Does innovation(the process of innovating) happen at the cost of productivity? Yes. It happens. That minor glitch has to be borne to result in a qyantum leap. There are industries who have embedded innovation in their "way of work". It is apart of the job, to think, out of the box. The result of innovation, thus is "always" an improvement in the way things are done which indirectly lead to better utilization of resources, which again is nothing but improvement in productivity.

Innovation deals with the creative part of the "improvement in productivity", wherein the present way of doing the job is given a re-thought. Well, well, well, that sounds like BPR.

BPR strategies are normally associated with Big Bang approaches to improvement aimed at matching the "best practises" in the indsutry. This process is not frequent. BPR normally precedes the process of modernizing an existing plant. Like, implementing ERP, changing the business model from traditional to E-commerce.

We have now studied the inter-operability of these two factors and their mutual dependence. Now, let us take up the catch phrase of the century, "Sustainable development"

"Sustainable development" was coined by the bruntland commission in their paper "Our common future" in 1987(No, No, This is not out of my memory, This info is from wikipedia)

Sustainable development is the development/improvement of product/service organizations with the limitations/brakes applied by the development/betterment of the surrounding environment.

While we were on the subject of defining sustainable development, we notice that there is a lot of cross-referencing between the three terms we have taken up already. They cannot exist independently, If they do, we will not be here for long. So, if it is so obvious why are we discussing their relatinship here? The thing is, we neglect/ignore the term  which dont get along with our business plan/strategy. These aspects are not to be forced into the business plan/strategy just to meet the statutory requirements. These three ideas are to be embedded in the business plan, They should be the base to the business plan along with the obvious, "profit"

Sustainable development is an encapsulating term which includes all the optimization techniques like TQM, Lean strategies, EMS, Other statutory laws of democratic nations. If we take up the study of these techniques we will see that they are themselves once again based on innovation, productivity and sustainable development. In a way, the dependency is recursive. The sustainable development function has a limit and it is the status qou of the environment(or its improvement). In summary sustainable development puts a limit switch to the activity of productivity which can be bettered further only by innovation. In the race to better products/services, we should consider the entire environment not just the target market.

It is time we started innovating new products/services or improving existing ones with an onus on Sustainable development and thereby longetivity of mother earth. She is referred to as God, the force(whatever you want to call her), But today, we know she has her limitations. In other ways, strategic development should be taken as the new GOD.

Sustainable development is a relatively new term. Industrial revolution ignored all the relations between the environment and the humans(Since when man is "out" of the environment, I would like to hear from anybody). Before the industrial revolution, mass production concept was not that big. Produce would be made aimed at the "real" customer. Industries catered only to the rich and the military. If we rewind our clock further, man grew whatever he "needed". The first industry stated when human stopped moving(stopped being nomads) and they formed into groups related to the kind of work they are specialized in. Now, people started producing more than they "needed" and in turn exchanged goods produced with similar results. But people honored their environment and took steps to keep their land cultivable.

As people started thinking about new issues like power, prestige, level, the first signs of strained relations among themselves and with the environment started. With the growth of democracy and removal of barriers between people, caste, countries and continents reduced, the market for products/services blew out of proportion by using latest productivity improvement techniques and innovations culminated with the Industrial revolution and capitalism(No money is enough money). To start with the industrial revolution had a generous supply of raw materials at cheaper costs owing to the discovery of fertile countries. The strategy was to produce and produce and produce and ............ owing to the gurantee of them being sold.

As the raw materials started shrinking in supply and competing capitalists entered, industrial revolutionists turned to Production managers to optimize the production time, giving vent to scientific management techniques. These techniques concentrated more on the ability of HR and their dexterity. Never a thought was spared for the environment.

If we come back to the present times, the present businesses are putting up a half hearted attempt at considering the environment in their overall strategy. Normally the attempts are cosmetic and on paper. We, now are staring at a market growing every moment. Every baby born is a potential customer. The productivity as a quantitative measure is passe. Raw materials are ever shrinking, competition is every increasing and environment is getting &^%$#d like anything.

We have realized, rather late, that the resources in this planet are limited unless the renewable resources are made to renew and No-renewable resources are taken very very seriously.

So, How do we produce/service right? Well, by thinking towards development which is sustainable for a long long loooooooooooooong time. DO IT. NOW.