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Interrogate the policies in force to determine their relevance

New TipsI found this story very interesting, for it is a true reflection of what happens in many organizations. It is told that a very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a buffet and drinks.

After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy the buffet. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution. One was the present distribution manager. The other two were past holders of the post, having retired some years ago. The three men represented three generations of company’s distribution management, spanning over sixty years.

The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.

“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets . . .”

The other two men nodded in agreement. “It was the same in my day,” sympathised the present manager’s predecessor, “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Monday and Tuesday couldn’t be used for little local runs, because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday.”

The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the despatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.

“I think I remember now,” he said, “It was the horses . . . During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. Therefore, we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday the horses we so tired they could only handle the short local drops . . .”

Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.

A good story well told. In your case, what informs the policies you might be so religiously enforcing? How often do you interrogate the policies in force to determine their relevance, currency and suitability?

For many of us policies take the centre stage, in complete disregard of what they are supposed to deliver. In the current times of rapid technological advancement, policies and operational guidelines should be alive, organic and growing with the times. If they are not you may find yourself like our distribution manager in the story operating on policies that were fashioned when the fastest means of transport were horses. Just look around your organization. There might be one or two anachronistic policies. Change them now. They could be the reason you are working so hard but getting dismal results.

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