Power of Productivity – Last Section

Yesterday, Senge group met.  We welcomed a new member and then went on to discuss the conclusion of William Lewis’ book The Power of Productivity.  Colin lead and as usual did an amazing job.  He started by having posed these questions to the group in advance.

  1. What has struck you  in reading the book? or How has it  changed your thinking?
  2. The Globe and Mail stated that Canda in Global competitiveness was 5th in1990 and in 2005 Canada  was 15th. Also in productivity as  measured by GDP in 1970 USA & Canada were the same in 20004 there  was a difference of 8,338 dollars.  What do you think best explains these factors?
    On p 296   Lewis lists  what prevents  development perhaps this willl help explain these differences
  3. Some people claim we should measure the quality of life  such as hapiness not GNP as the yardstick? What do we think?
  4. If competition is so important for creativity and efficiency should government privatize Health severs, educatin, security,  infrastructure as roads, water??
  5. What Social security obligations does the state have as to; the poor sick those out of work  old age for doesn’t this limit global competition?

We started the discussion talking about Transition Economies and where they fit and do they actually achieve the stepping stone effect (India and Brazil as examples). 

  • We talked about the level and quality of the living conditions in the remote villages vs the shanties that are built in the cities.
  • Level and quality of education available and it’s effect, though later in the discussion it was noted that in the automotive examples education is not the key to higher productivity – a myth we all believed.

We then went into Colin’s questions and generally talked about our reaction to the book.

  • How building productivity is such an indicator of country productivity. (unique vs mass produce, standardization, happiness)
  • Government’s role in productivity (it is often a hinderence to
    this evolution due to regulation and control put in place by special
    interest groups that would be affected).  Canada got a mention in here
    about our reduction in Government, but as I pointed out most of our top
    100 companies (bankingm insurance, telco, utilities, services) are or
    have been regulated in terms of outside competition and their ability
    to compete with themselves.  We did not say that these were all wrong
    in a sweeping brush, but did point out that though there are reasons
    valid to the audience the following have a major influence on our
    • Bank mergers
    • Bank / Insurance cross pilar mergers
    • CRTC regulation
    • Energy regulation
    • Farm subsidies
    • and so forth
  • The fact that service industries make up so much of the economy
    (60%) – we discussed how Sam Walton changed the game with his
    re-organization of the system.
  • A great observation was the idea of living in the minute vs
    planning.  It was observed that in some of the lower productive
    countries, whether it is religious impact of God will look after us or
    just the need to survive from one minute to another and therefore live
    in the now only.  Change for everyone is tough and would be toughtest
    for these folks as they would not understand the impact of their change
    in 40 years.  And maybe they shouldn’t care?
  • The role of the World Bank and a learning of how it can be
    involved or how competition can help is also part if the above comment.
  • It is a conscious choice.
  • The book lacked the social side of the effects of the actions and the people effected.
  • We even addressed is productivity an appropriate measure or
    should it be happiness.  As Colin mentioned, if the US is so good even
    against Canada why are we not there.  Oh the conversation was good here.

In general everyone got something from the book.  Maybe me more than
the others, not sure.  All said they liked the book in the setting of
the sharing process of Senge and therefore got value.  I think we all
felt challenged in being able to move as quickly as William Lewis can
in his thinking.  The book reminded me of Engineering class where a
professor would be working on a proof on the board and then jump to an
answer saying "it is evident using first principles" or something like
that and skip a whole step and you would go… did I miss that day?

As a personal observation this is an amazing book and should be a
forced read/session for all people in politics for them to see the
effects of their actions past this election cycle.  It also has
immediate relevance in business activities in changing perspective on

The Next Book is going to be Chasing Daylight, by Gene O’Kelly former Chairman of KPMG

  1. Jim Reply

    The review of our session was excellent. The thing that I learnt from the book was how important service industries are to the overall productivity. I think service industries employ over 80% of a countries work force. In that context, retailing and building contruction are really big. An area the author admitted where we all fail is productivity in health care. No good model to encourage productivity has been found. Japan, one of the heathiest nations, has a very low productivity in health care because of some of the rules for doctors and hospitals.
    Great book. Would not likely have read it without Senge Circle.

  2. mip Reply

    Interesting book you’ve selected as your next read. I’ve read Chasing Daylight and found it to be an average book. It does make you pause and stop and think about the importance of living a balanced life, which is always core to my approach to life as well. The thing I didn’t like was it was more of a recap on his career and less a deep relfection on life itself which was what I thought it would be like.

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