Improving Productivity-Opening the Black Box

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Ken Mayhew

Ken Mayhew

University of Oxford - Department of Economics

Andy Neely

University of Cambridge; London Business School

Date Written: 2006


Hourly productivity levels in the UK still remain behind those in some competitor countries. The government devotes much policy attention to enhancing productivity and continues to emphasise its five drivers-investment, innovation, skills, enterprise, and competition. This article argues that it is investment broadly defined that is the key to sustained productivity improvement. The emphasis should be on improving productivity simultaneously with improving the quality of production. Only thus will the gains be widely shared. In achieving these aims there are two prerequisites for policy-makers. The first is to ensure better coordination of policy than appears to be currently achieved by the present departmental structures in Whitehall. The second is to recognize fully the long and complex chain of causation that can be triggered by pulling on one policy lever. Such complexity can only be fully understood by more research on what actually goes on inside the black box of the organization.

Suggested Citation

Mayhew, Ken and Neely, Andy D., Improving Productivity-Opening the Black Box ( 2006). Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Vol. 22, Issue 4, pp. 445-456, 2006, Available at SSRN: or

Ken Mayhew (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

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Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3BJ
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Andy D. Neely

University of Cambridge ( email )

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Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom


London Business School ( email )

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Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

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