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‘Getting and Staying Productive’

12 April 2012

The article at a glance

New book reveals a fundamental re-thinking of what it takes to become productive Professor Roger Schmenner, an academic visitor at Cambridge Judge …

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New book reveals a fundamental re-thinking of what it takes to become productive
Getting and Staying ProductiveProfessor Roger Schmenner, an academic visitor at Cambridge Judge Business School, has recently published a book which focuses on the importance of productivity within an organisation.

In the book, Getting and Staying Productive, Professor Schmenner looks at different kinds of processes – those that make things, deliver services or operate companies – and how they can be made more productive.

He introduces the concept of ‘swift even flow’, which teaches managers to take on the point of view of the materials or information being worked on and actually become the product, so they can flow through the process quickly and with as little variation as possible. This method also shows how ‘swift even flow’ can lead to deep strategic insights and fresh ideas.

The book uses many examples, both contemporary and historic, and 16 case studies from all sorts of business situations to demonstrate how ‘swift even flow’ can be applied.

Professor Schmenner commented:

When productivity increases, when we can get more output from the same resources, incomes can rise with no worries about inflation. Generations can live better than their predecessors and poverty can be reduced. When productivity stalls, this march of progress comes to a halt.

In the current economic climate, there have been several companies that have been ‘game-changers’ for their industries that exhibit this trait. Think of Southwest Airlines, which has been copied by EasyJet and Ryanair; Benetton, which has been both copied and eclipsed by Zara; and perhaps most famously, Toyota, as its Toyota Production System has been copied by numerous manufacturers. They all boast swiftness in their processes, reduced variation and therefore have benefited from this fundamental re-thinking of what it takes to become productive.”

Professor Schmenner joined Cambridge Judge Business School’s Centre for Process Excellence & Innovation (CPEI) following a distinguished career as the Randall L. Tobias Chair at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and as a visiting professor at IMD. He is one of the leading figures in Operations Management, and is particularly renowned for his seminal work on service operations management.