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World XII Productivity Congress

Hong Kong/Beijing 5th-10th November 01

Every two years the World Productivity Congress provides a great international networking opportunity for delegates to learn, share and gain inspiring insights from a distinguished group of world-class speakers and world-wide delegates. The congress addresses contemporary strategies, innovative approaches, new principles and best practices in productivity development for enhancing individual, organisational, national regional and global competitiveness.

John Heap (who is a member of the World Confederation of Productivity Science WCPS - and the webmaster for this site) and Harry Downes (Chairman of the Institute of Management Services in the UK) have produced..... . this paper (not a complete 'review' or 'report') as a collection of thoughts, issues and observations stimulated by both the formal content of the Congress and the informal contact with fellow delegates.

Hong Kong and Beijing, jointly representing the People's Republic of China, (PRC) had the honour of being the local hosts in organising the first World Productivity Congress of the 21st century. This is of special significance since the PRC was admitted to the WTO as the Congress was being held.

This year's Congress theme - "Creating Wealth in the Connected Economy" was an appropriate theme, for, we are at the beginning of an era, when the world sees rapid and significant changes in the ways of doing business, and providing services, in the conditions for international trade, in the application of new technologies and in approaches to sustainable development and growth, both locally and globally.

The China connection is important - in terms of setting the context of much of the Congress. China is determined to show that it can claim its rightful place in the 21st Century. It was clear from some of the presentations by government officials that China is learning fast. China is highly aspirational and is investing heavily. Now it has joined the World Trade Organisation, it knows that it is competing on a more equal footing - at home and abroad - with truly competitive nations. The government knows that it needs more than exhortation to transform itself into a high productivity nation - it needs reform and reconstruction, Listening to the talks, it seemed to us that perhaps the recent history of rigid, central planning together with this new awareness of 'the real world' (and the eagerness to learn) WILL enable them to make the massive changes necessary.

Hong Kong is an autonomous territory or Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China - since July 1997. It's a thriving community with its heart and people devoted to business. Hong Kong has for a long been a capitalist's dreamland: a diligent labour energy, state-of-the-art technology, leading infrastructure and convenient access to the booming China market. The SAR, relative to its size, plays a disproportionately large role on the Asian and International stage. Visitors to Hong Kong - including us - will never forget the intriguing blend of East and West, old and new that makes the city one of the most exciting and popular destinations of the world.

The population of Hong Kong stands at 6.9 million people, 98% of whom are native Chinese. Many Hong Kong Chinese practise a mixture of ancestor worship, Buddhism, Taoism and Animism as well as the worship of traditional Gods.

Beijing - The Capital City of the People's Republic of China, is a city rich in cultural heritage. 34 emperors ruled from here in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The long history has left numerous historical sites of great aesthetic and cultural values. The Forbidden City is the largest ancient architectural complex in existence today. The Great Wall, winding through mountains for hundreds of kilometres in the region of Beijing, offers stunning views into one of humankind's greatest ancient engineering achievements. Beijing is also a modern metropolis full of vitality. You can join in the people playing chess or practising Peking Opera, or doing a morning exercise of taichi, cleansing yourself after a hectic night in a nightclub or disco.

The opening ceremony address came from Tung Chee Hwa the Chief Executive of the HKSAR. His theme was that productivity holds the key to business success in a highly competitive global economy, and that Hong Kong is no exception to this. HK needs to improve its economic and corporate performance through productivity enhancement - and he looked forward to the Congress as an opportunity to benefit from the experience, aspirations and expertise of the world business leaders, academics and productivity experts participating in the Congress.

Day one of the Congress comprised six plenary sessions:

  • The Role of Innovation
  • Facilitating Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Development - Green Strategies
  • Restructuring for Development - The Macro/Policy Planning Agenda
  • Rethinking Strategy; Exploiting Innovation and Technology
  • Achieving World-Class Competitiveness; Systems, Processes & Practices

The day ended with an Award Presentation Dinner - (best Small Companies Award) followed by the Congress VIP Keynote Address by Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi Director - General Designate of the WTO and former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand.

Day two comprised Concurrent Sessions in 5 Tracks covering 5 themes: Cultivating Innovation e-Enterprise Transformation Green Productivity (Productivity issues for sustainable development) WOW@China.nat (buisness opportunities and challenges in China) Best around the World (productivity and quality awards and award winners from around the globe).

During the lunchtime session Dr. Tor Dahl (Chairman Emeritus of WCPS) presented the James L Rigg's Memorial Lecture "A Blueprint for the Productivity Revolution". This was followed by the presentation of the Award of Fellowship to newly elected Fellows of the World Academy of Productivity Sciences (WAPS). Harry was one of the recipients of Fellowship and both he, and the Institute, should be very proud of the achievement.

The following day we awoke to a very strict security cordon - we had three Congress Keynote addresses; which attracted full media coverage (national T.V. and journalists) The overall keynote address was given by Mr. George H W Bush, former President of the USA and he was supported by Yu You Jun, the Mayor of Shenzhen, PRC and by the Honorable Fidel Ramos former President of the Republic of the Philippines.

A central theme of the Congress was the overlapping nature of innovation and productivity. Like innovation, high productivity grows out of a supportive, encouraging, facilitating culture - but it must be managed. It is easy to lose the potential of innovation and of productivity - in small components of incompetence, inefficiency and waste. Sometimes the words 'innovation' and 'technology' were interchanged too freely - technology can be a form of innovation, but it can also be a stifling influence. Technological change may be necessary - but it is rarely sufficient. Relying on it is the lazy man's innovation - and the lazy man is likely to be beaten by the industrious.

The second phase of the Congress opened in Beijing (yes, we did have to a three hour flight to move between phases 1 and 2!) with a meeting with Vice Premier Wen Jiabao, of the PRC who welcomed delegates to Beijing and opened this phase of the Congress. The pattern followed that of Hong Kong, whereby the first day comprised plenary sessions, and day 2 comprised 6 concurrent track sessions. Models of Successful Enterprises Economic Globalisation Development of Western China Traditional Industries - Upgrading Green Productivity

A number of the plenary sessions were given by government officials and it is clear that China realises the difficulties involved in making the transition it knows it faces. Currently China is becoming the world's factory, supplying labour for a range of (often joint venture) manufacturing industries, with the textile industry the most important. There is some debate about the wisdom of taking on this role and whether this simply locks China into a kind of second-class status. China does have an advantage over other countries in a similar position since it has access to the high-tech industries of the special administrative region of Hong Kong, thought it realises that it does not - yet - have the infrastructure and workforce to extend such technology to mainstream, mainland industries. Thus for some time it must concentrate on "traditional", low value-added work.

This recognition of an appropriate level of technology also extends to the level of sophistication of management systems and of productivity improvement techniques. Thus the concept of the balanced scorecard seems very advanced and generated some interest. However, the readiness of Chinese enterprises to adopt such a multi-factored approach is questionable. Much more important - at this stage of organisational development for most Chinese enterprises - is for them to accept the fundamental, underlying message that : (a) if you can't (or more often won't) measure it, you can't manage it (b) you need more than one simple measure to assess the performance of complex systems (such as businesses). Financial results measure past performance : other measures are needed to assess current well-being and future potential.

Innovation is seen as important in providing new businesses. About 80% of the population live in rural areas: many of these will have to be industrialised. The industrialisation of traditional Chinese herbal medicines is seen as one area of possible area of development.

There was some - inconclusive - debate about the role of culture in determining productivity. A number of speakers suggested that the Chinese culture is one reason for the current state of China and its place in the world economy - and is the key to its growth and success in the next couple of decades. Yet, as was pointed out by other speakers, Toyota has exported its production methods, and its legendary quality standards, to other countries with fundamentally different cultures. Does this suggest that a strong, effective corporate culture transcends the underlying national culture?

Each World Productivity congress is summed up in 'a declaration'. For this XIIth Congress, the Declaration reads :

We, the members of the WCPS and the WAPS, meeting in plenum of the X11th WPC in Hong Kong and Beijing declare our intention;

  • to spark the creation and distribution of wealth in our increasingly connected Global Economy through the application of productivity science
  • to continue to go to the highest thought about ourselves and those around us in the spirit of one humanity living together to create common good.
  • to have our thoughts, words, and deeds aligned to greatest good hence promoting Peace, Prosperity and Productivity
  • to indulge in the arts while developing our strengths in the sciences to continue to create value for all in our World.
  • to enjoy the camaraderie of other knowledge creators and to utilize this Congress as a unique opportunity to spark innovation

The Blueprint to capitalise on this opportunity has been laid out in this Congress. On behalf of WCPS HKPC and CAPS we sign this declaration as a formal indication of our revitalised commitment to peace and prosperity through the creation of ever more value in our World.

Of course, the event was not all hard work - we also found a but of time to explore both HK and Beijing - both fascinating in their own way. It was interesting to observe the differences, and to recognize that these are likely to be eroded over the next decade. If China can manage to absorb the entrepreneurial spirit of HK and can extend it to the mainland - the rest of the world will have a truly awesome competitor.

On a lighter note, it seems as though the exchange of business cards is of almost religious significance. Cards are always exchanged on a first meeting - offered politely in both hands - and I was glad I had taken enough of mine.

One last thought (which came from Carl Thor, the President of the World Academy of Productivity Science) &. the Internet allows us to talk to one billion people - what do we have to say?

John Heap
Harry Downes

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