Practical Strategies for Effective Management

Month: January 2015

Disaster Preparedness at the Office


As I look at the weather maps showing some serious weather bearing down on us in the Northeast, I can’t help but think about the importance of disaster preparedness for good managers. Too often “risk management”  simply means insurance policies for some folks.  For me, risk management is also about being prepared for disaster:

Step 1: it is important to have procedures!

  • Weather related (Blizzard of 2015?)
  • Power failure
  • Fire or chemical spill
  • Technology breach or failure
  • Ransomware!
  • Dangerous individuals

Step 2: If you don’t have procedures, develop them!

  • Talk with your colleagues
  • Review the Small Business Association’s disaster preparedness website at:
  • Consult with your local police and fire department
  • Talk to your IT people
  • Think!

Step 3: What is your post-disaster plan?

  • What do you need to have ready to get up and running? Where and how will you access it/them?
  • Back up files?
  • Contact lists?
  • Communication plans?
  • Alternate service sites?

But it is the day before the blizzard is going to strike. It is too late to develop procedures now, so what can you do today? Of course your first responsibility is to your family. So if you haven’t filled the gas tank on your car and gathered up the batteries, water, and extra milk yet, do it now.

If you have a few minutes left at work?

  1. Back up all your files on a portable drive and stick it in your pocket. Yes, even the ones in DropBox or ICloud—you may not have internet access at home. Even if you have a generator, the cable company needs external power to get your internet service to you.
  2. Bring along any hardcopy reading you’ve been wanting to get to.
  3. Grab your most critical paper files.
  4. Take your list of home phone numbers.
  5. Shut off all the equipment, so your computers, copiers, and so on aren’t hit by an electrical power surge.

My list here is pretty short, and there may be more that you really need to have at home given your industry. Maybe it is client contact info? Or head office contacts? Or field people?  Board members?

Now, enjoy the snow. Make a big pot of chili or soup, get out the board games, and revel in having a snow day!


Outsourcing, Insourcing, Upsourcing, Downsourcing

It sounds a lot like “one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” doesn’t it? Well with apologies to Dr Seuss, here is what I am thinking about today:

Example One: You go on line to get an airline ticket. After putting in the same information multiple times (find the airport code, use the little interactive calendar, check the “agony index,” –thank you Hipmunk for that accurate term– compare flight times and costs, etc.) the site crashes repeatedly. Finally, in desperation, you call the airline. After 25 minutes on hold, you finally reach an agent that will indeed sell you a ticket, but for an additional $25 fee. The airline’s “efficiency” has been improved but the cost has been absorbed by the customer.

Example Two: You are a radiologist in a high volume trauma hospital medical center. You read maybe 40-50 cases a day– CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds,and so on – filled with complex images. There are few “normals” in a trauma level 1 or 2 hospital, just various kinds of disasters ranging from motorcycle accidents to strokes to tumors. Each case is dictated to a trained medical transcriptionist who can type as fast as she or he can hear, with extraordinary accuracy and full command of the medical terminology. These are solidly middle class positions, with median salaries of about $35K, with the top 10% making about $50K, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They require a high school degree and additional training, often at a community college, but not a Bachelor’s degree. But your hospital decides that it will save money by laying off all of the transcriptionists and replacing them with voice recognition software. Anyone who has used this software knows how inaccurate it can be. In medicine, it might have 95% accuracy! But that means your doctor has to correct 5 out of every 100 words. Is that good enough? And now your radiologist spends twice as much time dictating as he used to. His or her day has gone from 8am to 6pm to 7 or even 8 pm, depending on case volume and complexity. (One scan might yield 1500 images!), and s/he still has to actually treat people! The hospital’s “efficiency” has improved, but at the expense of both the transcriptionist and the doctor.

We all have examples of this from our own experience. Sometimes it is the dead end phone tree. Why do I have to say my credit card number over and over again, when they will ask me for it again once I get a live person when I call my credit card company? Why does the cable company not fully staff its customer support number? I waited on the phone for ADT’s customer support for 51 minutes recently! These processes are deliberate—they improve the “efficiency” of the company, by requiring fewer people to answer calls because the extended wait times make people give up! The company’s “efficiency” has improved, but the cost in time (and frustration) has been paid by the consumer.

So here is my question for today: Can we get a better definition of efficiency than “fewer people doing more work” along with making the consumer do as much of the work as possible, despite their lack of specialized training? Or as I put it to myself: Eff  ≠  (roadblocks + hurdles) – employees!


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