Productivity

by Tor Dahl

The Star Tribune discovered productivity this morning! There is no alternative to productivity in today's economy! They were alerted by a report from a conservative think tank, the Center of the American Experiment. For those who have worked with productivity and high performance, the report was old news. Two erstwhile friends and colleagues of mine, former state demographer Tom Stinson and former demographer Tom Gillaspy have warned against the falling productivity trend in our state for years. Most economists seem to have accepted this development as "the new normal". I very much oppose this conclusion. 

I guarantee that the Republican leaning Center of the American Experiment can increase their own productivity by 300% in one year. Why? Because that was the average for some 500 plus CEOs that I had the privilege of working with at the Carlson School and The Executive Program over 27 years, and I think the think tank employees will be up to the task.

In 1943 Minnesotans increased their annual productivity by 22%. In 1984 Norway launched a nation wide productivity improvement campaign where I had the pleasure of working with a country the size of the state of Minnesota. Each dollar spent on the campaign produced an increase of $750 in GDP above trend. Norway became the most productive country in the world.

Productivity improvement does not favor ideology. I know, because I have worked with Sweden, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, South Africa and a number of other countries, and with companies bigger than many nations. The results were always the same: Dramatic increases in GDP and growth rates, lower stress at work (2/3 of work stress comes from being unproductive), greater satisfaction at work (more productive workers foster pride and better quality), higher wages, better benefits, more leisure, improved health and shorter work days followed.

There is indeed no alternative to productivity in today's economy. Our work force will shrink as the baby boomers retire, and productivity becomes the only option for improved economic growth. Labor becomes scarce, wages will have to increase, but without productivity improvement inflation will take a toll on our economy. 

We know how to do this. We have done it before. And when we do it again, we'll do it even better.