Inbox: Letters to the editor

I read with interest your story in the March edition of NZ Management magazine – “Parched Planet”. I agree with you about water. It is undoubtedly the precious resource of the future. To that end I set up small private investment company some years ago and one of the investments we made was in water purification technology that treated waste water streams without chemical intervention.
There is no doubt that water, whether it is the contamination of water in the globe’s lakes and rivers or whether it be the need for the human body to consume quality water, is the challenge of the future. The rapid industrialisation of the modern world has caused many of our waterways to be contaminated by industrial waste. In New Zealand the adverse effects caused by our primary industry have seen rapid deterioration in the lakes and rivers.
In recent times we have seen the establishment of the Waikato River Authority (WRA), statutory body charged with the responsibility of cleaning up the Waikato River. long-term funding commitment from the Government is the beginning of raft of government initiatives aimed at cleaning up our fresh water environment.
Iwi have significant role to play in the restoration process and, significantly, they hold key positions in the WRA. I am sure that they will be searching for technologies that can improve water quality without chemical intervention.
The future of our waterways is dependent on the ability to treat waterways in way that does not add to the problem and can see to the survival of wildlife and natural habitats for they are the true barometer of ecological balance where all stakeholders can find comfort in the solution; industry, statutory bodies and the people of the land.
– Brian Rankin, chairman, Converging Capital Limited (CCL) and
Converging Equities Limited (CEL)

I read with interest Reg Birchfield’s February and March 2012 issue commentaries: “Solving NZ’s productivity puzzle”, “Simply productive… but needs managing”, and “How to boost productivity”.
It’s great to see the conversation opening up. Here’s hoping plenty of managers read these articles and even more importantly – do something.
Both Reg and the contributors to these articles make valuable points about increasing productivity. Yet I’m not sure if the biggest challenge has been overcome: that is, explaining what productivity is to the people who need to be involved with it (ie, everyone down to the new recruit) and how it can be achieved.
The rhetoric that ‘we need to increase productivity’ continues to send the signal to the workforce that they aren’t working hard enough and that in every business/sector increased productivity has no upper limit.
While you, your contributors and I understand that is not necessarily the case, that message is not getting through. We are therefore missing the opportunity to get everyone engaged and enabled.
As organisations and as nation we will fail to realise the gains urgently needed unless we (1) stop the blame-game of whose fault low productivity is, (2) there is serious education of the marketplace of what productivity is (which the Commission says is not its job) and (3) do something.
Policy advice (the commission’s role according to Murray Sherwin) is the why and the what. At higher level this is understood. But organisations and managers are looking for basic understanding of how productivity affects them and how they do it.
In wanting to throw some practical (how) exposure into the frame, here at Lincoln, since 2011, we have been researching the link between Organisational Social Capital (OSC – the amalgam of communication, commitment, influence, trust and social relations), and increasing productivity in the service sector. We’ve been looking at hotels in particular.
The service sector is victim of the Baumol Effect, which basically says in some areas you cannot exponentially increase productivity without changing the activity’s intent.
As everyone is part of NZ Inc we need to accept that some industries can’t grow productivity at the same rate of others, and that’s okay. But this is not the message that is being presented.
I’m not suggesting that the service-economy (or any other Baumol-effected industry) should receive special dispensation and can’t increase productivity, but rather we have to accept that the rate of improvement and different productivity enhancers will be different in different sectors. Yet again, this message is not getting out there.
Our research set out to benchmark where the industry is at so that it knows where it can lift from. It focuses on soft-productivity-enhancers – humans. This enabler is harder to engage (the how) than those sectors where technology can be mainstay of productivity enhancement, for example agriculture.
It shows that there is considerable room for productivity enhancement if hotels could improve their overall OSC level, but use all other enhancers as well including technology where appropriate. We are now in the middle of highlighting the how – the enablers that industry is looking for, yet we accept that it will be up to individual organisations to take these on board as they see fit.
I’m all for policy advice and ongoing discussion about productivity but time is marching on. If NZ Inc is to make contribution to the nation’s economy soon we have to start educating and benchmarking, and use our resources to develop tools that will help organisations lift their productivity – less talk and more action is urgently needed.
Again, thanks for keeping this topic in the managerial space. I look forward to reading your next commentary of this very important topic.
– Dr Anthony Brien, senior lecturer business management, Department of Business Management, Law and Marketing, Faculty of Commerce, Lincoln University

I was interested to browse your July 2011 magazine. “The looming crisis” caught my attention, as did the whole tone of your magazine.
I recommend you all read “Start-up nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle” (by Dan Senor and Saul Singer).
The authors investigate the how and why Israel has been able to create very many more start-up businesses than any other nation/country. And they investigate the context (political and social) in which it happens.
There is much food for thought in that book.
Happy reading.
– JA Yager, Gisborne

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