There are a number of elements required to achieve a productive economy and the benefits that affords us as a country. These include:

  • Collaboration between business, government, and educational institutions
  • Access to best practice knowledge
  • Access to funding to support trial and learning
  • Examples, beachheads and benchmarks

For those business leaders contemplating adopting best practice’s to transform their performance, there are a few key questions to answer:

  • What is involved?
  • Who else has done this?
  • What does it cost in terms of dollars, resources?
  • What can be achieved, and is it worth it?
  • How long will it take?

On the face of it these questions might appear to be simple enough, however the ways in which to answer them accurately, and to then use those answers to develop a plan for productivity improvement, are complex and highly specialised.

For context, the body of knowledge around applying best practice to business is over 100 years’ worth of industry experience and learnings. Yet I still meet business owners who decide to give it a go themselves in true NZ style, only to waste years and countless dollars going down blind alleys, learning what is already known, through a process of self-inflicted trial and error.

The roadmap to world class will vary depending on the business, process type, size, and structure. Not everyone has an assembly process like Toyota, but some elements might be applicable.

The key to navigating your way through the task of developing a roadmap for your organisation is to engage an expert to help you. By doing so you are making the most diligent use of resources and giving yourself the best chance of success.

You wouldn’t attempt to climb Everest without a guide, someone experienced, who knows the terrain and has successfully helped many others to the top.

Why would you waste your time and money, or expose yourself to unnecessary risk? Choose an expert who knows your industry, understands your processes, and has a track record of helping companies achieve world class performance.

Once you have a roadmap you can break down what is required into bite sized chunks, inevitably it will include learning new skills, developing leaders and competency, and staying the course.

For these things you will need a mentor to guide and train your teams and support the development of competency.

Our government supports this process through lean funding via the Callaghan Institute, offering assistance to help business adopt best practice through co-funding agreements. This has been an effective program in getting a number of businesses off the starting grid.

Until last year there was also funding available via TTAF (targeted training and apprenticeship fund) funding through TEC (Tertiary Education Commission). Unfortunately, this has now been discontinued.

There is fees-free funding for some relevant courses but the eligibility criteria eliminates anyone who has done any tertiary education previously, so the managers who need upskilling typically are not eligible. This is disappointing and I would suggest this needs a serious review from government.

As a comparison the UK has invested heavily in a ground-breaking government scheme to boost the productivity and future growth of the country’s business community. The management scheme offers business leaders 50 hours of leadership and management training across 12 weeks, backed by £220 million of government funding, which covers 90% of the costs involved.

The scheme offers development opportunities for leaders and their staff, boosting productivity and growing their companies which can lead to more high-skill, high-wage jobs. This is part of the UK government’s commitment to grow their economy to address the cost of living crisis, and level-up opportunities across the country.

Alongside this they are supporting businesses by cutting fuel duty and raising the Employment Allowance. Businesses with 10 or more employees will be eligible to have up to 2 participants join the scheme.

The availability of courses/learning opportunities is the next hurdle, and again while we have some courses in some areas, a quick google search on industrial engineering NZ, versus industrial engineering USA reveals the extent of the difference.

We are clearly not as focussed on delivering high quality industrial engineering candidates to business as many countries overseas with whom we compete.

While we do not have all the elements in place, this is not a reason to wait, we can’t afford to sit back and watch the overseas competition eat our lunch. It just means we are making the journey harder than it needs be. We must work to align our objectives, remove the barriers to adoption of best practices from businesses striving to improve performance, and in turn enhance all our outcomes.

As I noted above; government, business, and educational institutions must work together, the time is now.

Ian Walsh

Partner, New Zealand

[email protected]

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