“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you the path to take” – Proverbs 3:5-6

A few weeks ago, I received the following message from a reader: “I am enjoying reading your articles; I am interesting in hearing your views on productivity in Barbados. I am always hearing that Barbados needs to become more productive but the average man does not understand that statement. I would venture to say that the politicians do not understand the statement. How would we measure productivity in the service sector, for example how can we measure the productivity level of a doctor at the QEH.  As you are aware, professional services are very difficult to measure”.

The Barbados National Productivity Council is a Tripartite Council comprising representatives from employees and employers’ organisations as well as the Government of Barbados; the Social Partnership.

The Productivity Council was established by an Act of Parliament on August 31, 1993 to further the objectives of the Protocol for the Implementation of a Prices and Incomes Policy which was signed by Government, employers and workers’ representatives. Many would agree that the recovery and stabilisation of the economy of Barbados from the depths of gloom and doom in 1991 was due to the blessing of a series of leadership teams which were responsible for implementing this Protocol coupled with successive Protocols leading to the sixth Protocol which was signed in early May 2011.  It is instructive to note that the Vision of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation “Barbados – the #1 Global Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020″ has been unequivocally adopted in the Sixth Protocol of the Barbados Social Partnership.

The Productivity Council is an agency designed to: (1) Create and develop methodologies for productivity measurement, management and improvement in the public and private sector; (2) Provide technical advice and assistance for devising productivity-related payment schemes; (3) Engage in consultations with any fact-finding body or arbitration tribunal on any matter relating to the functions of The Productivity Council; (4) Promote and monitor all aspects of productivity growth; (5) Assist in the development of improved methods of work organisation geared to the enhancement of productivity levels; (6) Design, advise on, and conduct educational programmes on productivity; and (7) Disseminate information to stimulate public awareness and promote understanding of the need to improve the quality of work performance nationally and in the context of international trends and standards.

I would therefore conclude that the politicians understand the statement that Barbados needs to become more productive and have put a mechanism in place to address the issue.

Professor Andrew Downes was the first Chairman of the Productivity Council and I succeeded him for a period of six years beginning 1996. It was during this period that I became very familiar and was very involved with the activities of the Productivity Council. It is with this background that I am attempting to respond to my reader’s request.

In the event that the “average man” does not understand the statement that Barbados needs to become more productive, I hereby attempt to throw some light on the subject.

Economic growth is achieved through the collective impact of production output whether the output is achieved through a good or a service.  The production system utilises inputs in order to produce a unit of output. If two production systems each produce the same quantum of output, but the first production system achieves this using fewer inputs than the second, the first production system is said to be more productive than the other.

If each production system achieves the same output, with fewer inputs, over a period of time then the production system is said to have increased its productivity with time.

If productivity is increased for each component of the management of an enterprise (corporate governance, marketing, operations, human resources and finance) then, the collective positive impact on the enterprise will redound to the benefit of sustainable economic growth. The above, simply said, embodies the concepts of productivity.

The measurement of productivity may be easier if the units of production are goods than if we are in the services sector but the principle is the same. Let us illustrate it by answering the question posed “How can we measure the productivity level of a doctor at the QEH?” My response would be that we identify the tasks that a hospital doctor is required to perform.  Let us simplify it by saying that the doctor must visit patients in the hospital ward and determine what the average length of time per patient visit is. Determine the number of hours that the doctor is contracted to work per week, say. Simple arithmetic will give you the expected number of patient visits the doctor is   expected to make per week.

If over a period of time, say, six months, the actual visits made per week are fewer than the expected number, one would say that the doctor had underperformed; and if the actual visits made per week are greater than the expected number, one would say that the doctor had exceeded expectations. The doctor who has exceeded expectations would be deemed to have a higher productivity than the doctor who had underperformed.

Do not depend on your own understanding; it is the job of the Productivity Council to lead the country along the optimal productivity path.