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Results

Over a period of two years, the new department progressively increased the proportion of minor project work that they handled to 80% of the total. A small group who were assigned to tank maintenance work did very well, and became quite enthusiastic. As there was a large backlog in this area, there was no problem finding work for them. Of those who had acquired new skills or accepted refresher training, several found better jobs elsewhere. Others accepted a voluntary severance package. The overall (equivalent) mainte?nance manpower number decreased by 50% within three years.

During this period, the maintenance work output remained quite steady, with backlog well under control. Overtime work fell slightly, and reliability improved.

Lessons

Too much manpower is always a significant problem. So it is right to avoid that problem by having barely enough own staff (but with enough competence) to do the required work. Additional resources can be contracted to cover peak labor or skill requirements.

We should keep the manpower situation under continuous review. This should cover not only labor, but also supervisory and managerial grades. It is much easier to make gradual reductions rather than to make step changes.

The MD demonstrated that he was not merely a manager, but also a leader. By recognizing the local cultural and social scenario, he adapted the implementation process, thereby making it more acceptable. This alone would not have sufficed in the prevailing situation. He also saw a potential win-win possibility and capitalized on it effectively. He handled the implementation challenges thoughtfully and was sensitive to social issues.

Principles

Many companies state publicly that people are their greatest assets. Under pressure, they often liquidate these assets, without exploring alternative solutions. Loss of employment obviously affects the person concerned, both materially and emotionally. Those who are fortunate to retain their jobs may also be adversely affected. In some situations, imaginative solutions can be found, but it requires somebody who actively seeks them.

Reference

i. Parkinson, C. Northcote. 2002. Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress. Penguin. ISBN-13: 978-0141186856

 
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