Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All Work Is Not Equal - Funding Departments

Arguments can be made to fund every function of a company.  But the truth is that all work is not created equal, or even important.   And, that is certainly true about every function within a company.    Prioritization is absolutely critical to prevent headcount creep.  Since headcount in most service companies is about 65 - 70% of expense,  Senior Management must guard against requests for additional headcount to accommodate nice to have tasks; but not necessarily need to have tasks.  That can be difficult because all tasks are presented, by those involved, as a life or death proposition, when in fact life will go on just fine when some tasks are eliminated. 

Further, based on the company's strategic plan, some departments should just be in a maintenance mode, rather than expansionary, in order to fund other functions focused on growing the business.   Without continuous business growth, enhancing various department functions won't matter much anyway.  Necessary tasks should always be prioritized from the customer, or the client back to determine the most bang for the buck.   This should never be an emotional discussion; yet those directly involved will always be emotional about their department functions. 

Years ago, this CEO Blogger attempted to do some process mapping related to a particular service we were providing.  There began to be market resistance to paying for this service, which was the telling tale that all the bells and whistles we were providing were not valued by the client.   In meeting with those involved that had created the service, I simply asked the question, "Why Do We Do That" related to each aspect of the service.   It was the equivalent of telling those Managers, that had developed the process, that they had an ugly child.  Suffice to say, we did not get very far because every task was justified on the basis of "quality" that presumably would be seriously diminished if the task was eliminated.  

Quality is frequently used as the excuse to maintain various tasks and the resultant headcount needed to accomplish it.   Quality is not to be confused with the accuracy reasoning to keep doing something, which is a much better sell to Senior Management.   However, the market demands high quality only better, faster and cheaper, which requires out of the box thinking instead of same old, same old.   That means that some tasks, or even whole departments must occasionally be eliminated in favor of work that is more meaningful to better allocate resources to foster the company's growth and development.  It is often an emotional process; but it is what it is and it must to be done to insure the health of the company. 

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