When a business is small and gets settled into their way of operating, some strategic decisions are made to make sure these operations run smoothly at the lowest cost possible.
As a business grows, some of these strategies need to be challenged to make sure they still fit with the changed operations. Change being the only constant, you can bet that some of the strategies established a few years ago don’t apply or could be changed for cheaper and better ways.
Strategy is always an input and a constraint to what a planner does. The planner, although sometimes full of new ideas, does not necessarily have access to the management level who makes these strategic decisions. Therefore, the strategic guidelines may become at some point in time an obstacle which may cause higher cost later down the road.
For example, a policy for stand-by duty was established 20 years ago. Stand-by premiums make sure someone is next to a phone available to come in to work at very short notice. This allows the planner to know who to call as soon as someone calls in sick for example. Everyone is set in their ways and the cost associated to stand-by duty is built in the total cost of the workforce.
But in today’s technology and with most people having cell phones, is stand-by still a good idea? The planner can reach all the employees that are not at work with a quick text message to all and the first one to answer gets an extra shift. Is there any need for stand-by anymore? Maybe, maybe not. Some factual data is required and needs to be analyzed for the business, but my point is that it’s easy to stay set in certain ways of operating and it’s important to both keep on open mind for new ideas but also to stay calm in front of new possibilities. Too many companies get excited about a new great software or a new great idea and commit the whole company to it prior to making a complete analysis on the impact it has on daily operations. The devil is often in the details and it always takes time to get to that level: how many hours is a full-time employee? How many hours in a day before paying overtime? What’s the minimum rest for employees? Should we hire on specific hours of work or should all employees work any shift? Should we pay premiums for tough tasks? All these details will have more impact on your bottom line than any new technology. And although these details seem tactical, they are actually very strategic since each answer will drive the employee’s perspective of the company.
Management is keen on numbers and proof of what a planner knows in their gut and sees happen all day long. The key point is to educate higher management by translating daily events into factual data that will have an immediate impact on strategic guidelines established by folks in key positions.