Spring 2008


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No Time?


Today’s labour market is very tight. One look at the classifieds section and online workplace sites shows that human resources are at a premium. Some companies have even resorted to bidding wars and a number of perks to secure and retain employees. The booming economy and expanding sales are supporting this inflation in salary but this cannot sustain indefinitely. What are managers to do? Without hiring more people, they are preventing growth and taxing themselves and their employees. If they hire more staff, they increase overhead that may need to be cut as soon as a downturn hits. In the mean time, managers are working long hours, running a treadmill to keep up but eventually falling behind. Customer satisfaction, employee morale and workplace safety all suffer. Not a pretty picture, is it?


Fortunately, there is another way to deal with all these demands without breaking the bank. The main idea is this: instead of growing the human resource to fit the work, shrink the work to fit to the people. This can be done in the following steps: evaluate, eliminate, transfer, automate and fire.


Step 1: Evaluate


Many companies start out with a simple mission statement and do a good job of serving customers. As time goes on, these companies bring on more products and services in order to grow sales. Eventually, this trends towards bloated inventories and lackluster customer satisfaction. Sales tapers off and complexity and effort continue to increase. At this point, a strategic evaluation of what the company or department’s reason to exist is in order. This entails evaluating or writing a mission statement that clearly states the purpose of the department. A clear definition of all stakeholders – customers, suppliers, employees, managers and the general public is needed along with the needs of each stakeholder group of the organization. Once the mission and stakeholders are determined, the organization is ready for Step 2.


Step 2: Eliminate


This step can be the most difficult and benefits from outside help. Organizations tend to pick up work easily but have a hard time eliminating work. Conscientious employees want to stay busy and will invent activities to keep them working throughout the day. Sometimes, an urgent request comes from a stakeholder and the group takes up the task. The problem is that the product or service is often still provided long after it was needed or wanted. The result is an overworked, understaffed organization that doesn’t have a good sense of priority of work.
The work in this step is to inventory all the functions of the organization along with the amount of time/money allotted to it. Once all tasks are inventoried, the fun begins. This part of the exercise benefits from having outside help because of impartiality. Each task will be subjected to the question: What happens if we stop doing this? If there is not a significant impact on the mission or the stakeholders of the organization, stop doing it. It’s as simple as that. “We’ve always done it that way” has nothing to do with how you will do work in the future. This is where the outside help comes in. The outside participant makes the employees communicate the value of a task. The difficulty comes in eliminating things that have become part of an established routine. This change can cause stress as employees are shaken out of their routines. After the first round of elimination, the organization is left with the tasks that need to be completed to satisfy the mission and the stakeholders. For many organizations, this step is sufficient to free up enough resources to meet present challenges. There are much more benefits to be gained with the other steps.


Step 3: Transfer


This is the classic “make or buy” decision. In the past there were only a few functions and products that were available for outsourcing. Now, with advances in shipping, the internet-->


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