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French Version

Can Present Productivity levels meet future requirements ?

There is no doubt that many organizations are making superhuman efforts to bridge the gap between the past and the future and some have already succeeded in making incredibly successful leaps into the future.

Those are the organizations who have had the wisdom to understand where we are heading as a result of technological, economic and political developments in the region and the world. They are also the kind of organizations whose leaders look very critically at new concepts and ask were they will lead in the long run.

For example, 'globalization' is a reality which is already upon us in many ways, the most obvious being the World Wide Web and the Internet.

Are these developments bad? Are they good? In themselves such developments are neither good nor bad. Goodness and badness come from the way in which they are used and the impact they have on the lives of individual persons, organizations and nations. No doubt, any development that gives a competitive advantage to an individual, group, company or nation will by definition result in a disadvantage to others. So where does that put us here in Lebanon? Definitely not among those who have the competitive edge yet, although as individuals we have probably contributed, in proportion to our size, as much as anyone else to the advancement of the contemporary world. What concerns me in this discussion is our general level of productivity in our organizations and its consequences on our ability to compete successfully and, in some instances, survive.

Looking first at the productivity pattern of the year, we see that the average working adult gets a minimum of 9 to 13 days off in official national holidays, another 15 working days as annual leave, another 12 days for sick leave if needed. There are around 290 working days for organizations that work 6-day weeks. It is perfectly possible that the average working adult delivers only around 255 working days. Now if the working person lives at a location that offers the obstacle of traffic, and he or she arrives about 15 minutes late one-third of the time, then there is a loss of another 3 working days. Another three working days would also be lost if the person leaves 15 minutes early one-third of the time. This leaves us with around 250 real working days. But what about the content of those days? How effectively is that time used and what results are delivered?

Enter in the morning, say "hi and hello" to friends and acquaintances, chat with best friend concerning events of past day or week-end, have a cup of coffee, look over the newspaper, then settle down to work (subtract 20 minutes).
Between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. take a break for a cup of coffee and a brief visit to a colleague with whom you exchange plans for the evening or week-end or discuss where to get good bargains on certain items or gossip about in-house politics (subtract 30 minutes).
At 1:00 p.m. stop for lunch (subtract 45 minutes).
Total visible time spent on recreational activities = 1 hour and 35 minutes. Certainly the relative value of this time depends on how it is used and what issues are discussed. Employees need time to disconnect and recharge batteries for better productivity when they return to the task at hand. Employees need to communicate in constructive, productive and supportive ways, the informal channel is often the best way to achieve these goals. But what if this time is not productively spent? What if half a company's employees are not productive?

What about the low productivity during the summer months? What about low productivity during the various fasting periods? What about low productivity because so much of a person's time is wasted in traffic congestion? What about the time wasted because it is so hard to get hold of people through poor communication systems, both human and electronic? What about the time wasted because people like to keep information to themselves? And what about the time wasted because people still don't believe in the concept of giving a job to the right person; or the worse dilemma of not knowing the difference between the right person and the wrong person?

I have been so busy trying to catch up with the productivity level necessary to be ready for the challenges the future will certainly offer that I haven't had the time to make accurate calculations on how productive we are. On a purely experiential and intuitive level, however, I would be stunned if our productivity level was more than six effective months per year. I am also not sure what the efficiency level would be within those six months. I do know, however, that we have got to change our concept of work and our attitude to work. It might not be so easy to achieve acceptable profit margins if we don't have the necessary 'know-how', technology and ability to produce within highly organized and efficient work-groups.

The complexity of most types of businesses has become so great and the time and efficiency factors so critical that the days when one person, working alone, could be effective have gone. Those who accept this reality and act accordingly have everything to gain in the future.

Readiness for the future means first and foremost the readiness to adapt to new systems very quickly, learn on a continuous basis, be prepared to consult with others regularly, temper your decisions by using a multidisciplinary perspective. Think strategically when it comes to time scales. Work on yourself to improve all your skills according to a systematic program and never loose your belief in the greatness of the human spirit and your will to achieve.

Beirut 23-06-2003
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