Let’s Learn From The Past, Please!
Author: Stewart Hill
Last week, I was returning from a regular business trip abroad and noticed the casual, but smartly dressed, passenger in the aircraft seat next to mine. Usually while we go through the pre-flight routines, I fall asleep and miss everything, and then the next thing I know, we are high above the clouds. But this day was different. Something was keeping me awake, so I took the rare step of actually being sociable to the accompanying passenger. And I am glad I did.
The conversation went along the usual business lines; “What do you do?”, “Who do you work for?”, and “How’s business during these tough times?” The latter question sparked interest in service chain optimization. By this stage of the conversation, my new “best friend” revealed that he was a Financial Controller for a medium-sized service business that provides a contracted maintenance workforce to unspecified commercial equipment manufacturers in the United States.
We discussed scheduling and optimization albeit briefly, and then the conversation turned to resource capacity planning (employing the right number of crews and people, with the right skills, and in the right places, to accommodate an anticipated workload) and my soon-to-be “ex-friend” was casually dismissing the idea as irrelevant in today’s economic environment.
When challenged, it became clear that the abundance of cheap labor on the job market currently gives his business the utmost flexibility to respond to a peak in workload without planning or really being prepared. But I argued that many Western economies are showing initial signs of a potential recovery and when this happens, the unemployed proportion of the labor market will shrink, and costs will rise as organizations fight to command the use of scarce and skilled resources so planning is imperative, even now.
The result of this is that when the next cyclical economic downturn hits, organizations that are not carefully planning their growth and recoveries now, will suffer from the same mistakes that they made in the recent past; mistakes that service businesses should instead be learning from.
The response to my opinion, “We shall see”.
I hope that, as businesses recover, not all will have such a complacent attitude and will instead consider pragmatic business growth. But what are your current experiences and thoughts about this matter?