You may feel this is no time to be harping on American productivity again, what with a first quarter that actually showed a productivity gain for the first time since 1978. However, it was only 0.6 percent, with farming growth seen as offsetting drops in nonfarm business and manufacturing.
The net results are not likely to stop the rise of those new executive specialists, the productivity managers, who are to be welcomed on the corporate scene if they can help make up for the recent decline in worker output per hour in the face of such problems as outdated equipment.
Very few companies had productivity managers five years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now there are enough to start forming a national professional society. They are concerned with various factors affecting productivity -- research, technology, energy efficiency, "quality of working life."
Isn't there something here rather profoundly in keeping with what is happening among Americans who may never think of a jaw-breaking world like productivity? Confronted by inflation, recession, energy problems, they are in effect striving to improve "productivity" throughout their lives -- cutting waste, enhancing efficiency, stressing quality over quantity, finding that the quality of working life and of homelife, for that matter, has a mutually beneficial relationship with productivity.
Productivity managers, whether at the factory or in the kitchen, will have to expect their own productivity to be measured, of course. We suspect it is already rising by more than 0.6 percent.