Magazine article Training & Development

Trimming Your Waste Line

Magazine article Training & Development

Trimming Your Waste Line

Article excerpt

As they search for ways to save money for the corporation, upper managers may take a closer look at you. There is no escaping scrutiny in these tight times, especially in departments that handle support functions rather than line functions. Most of us recognize that; we don't want to escape scrutiny. What we do want is fair and knowledgeable consideration of what we contribute. But that can be hard to come by when the pressure is on.

WHEN TIMES GET TIGHT, YOU LEARN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PART OF A COST CENTER INSTEAD OF A PROFIT CENTER. HERE'S SOME ADVICE TO HELP YOU DO MORE WITH LESS.

The following tips are meant to help you get the kind of consideration you want from management.

Do not wait until the pressure is on to trim your "waste line." Keep it trim all time. Yes, the analogy to the overweight person going on the crash diet is appropriate. That mentality does cause us to lose weight fast, but it does not keep it off. What we need is a mental framework that keeps us from getting fat. We must pay attention to what we need to do and what size we need to be to do it, and then make certain that we are that size now.

Use your human resources well. Some of us are heavy and solid, not fat. We bring more muscle to the job than the organization needs. We bring in heavyweights to do featherweight work.

We need to pay attention to the skills we have on staff. Are we using our high-talent people often enough to justify having them here full-time? There are alternatives.

Some of us are heavy in numbers rather than fat. Our people are capable; they are turning out all kinds of quality work--and management is not using it. How long can the organization carry the expense of highly capable people who generate information or services that few others use? It is difficult to cut people from your team who do their jobs well, but sometimes the jobs are just not needed.

Give responsibility back to your customers. Many of the functions we now handle in support departments were originally carried out as a part of the line operations. Support jobs were created to free the operators to operate. What would happen to those support functions if our support jobs disappeared? Who would handle them? Or would they be handled at all? I suggest looking at the various services you now perform that might be passed back to the line or dropped altogether.

Have your customers set priorities regarding what they need; use those priorities to decide what you can stop doing, do differently, or start doing. It is easy for people in support functions to listen too much to each other and not enough to the people they are supposed to be helping. What kind of help do those people really want from you?

Find more effective ways of doing what you are already doing. If you weren't doing it the current way, how else might you be doing it? Involve the people who do the work in deciding how it might be done better. They have a lot of ideas that are seldom asked for.

Take a look at the span of control of managers and supervisors in your support group. There are no magic numbers that delineate an "ideal" span of control, but there are some pretty good "should nots."

Supervisors generally should not have just one or two people reporting to them; likewise, 30 people should not be reporting to one supervisor. Check out your organization.

Span of control is an area of great vulnerability for many support functions. In our search for ways of keeping and rewarding our people, many of us have created quasi-management positions so that we can promote capable people, give them more money, keep them, and allow them to keep doing what they were doing before the promotion. We give them one or two people as assistants who really don't require much management, but this allows us to call the person a manager and fool the job-evaluation system.

If we do this successfully enough, we can even succeed in raising our own jobs a notch, because we have more managers reporting to us. …

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