If you are reading this from a sun-kissed beach or a hot tourist spot; stop, but bookmark. There’s every chance that you are on a proper holiday. And that’s what it should be; take a break from work-related activities, clearing e-mails or keeping on top of urgent problems. But when you’re back, take time to reflect on what August says about your organisation, its culture and its resource management.
For those currently liaising with organisations, it can only be August. Contacts are not around, responses arrive from people who are ‘out of office’, (but sometimes in different time zones!), meetings that normally occur within a week are moved to September, commuter reliant services are reduced and the transport routes are quieter. Apart from the seasonal maintenance closures!
The temporary closure of some services makes sound business sense. For example, if you run a retail unit in a busy commuter railway station, it’s wise to reduce your opening times if there are fewer customers. But in other areas, e.g. some public services, the ‘August downtime’ is forced upon users rather than responding to perceived need. Where occurring, this month may be indicative of various underlying issues which require challenge, such as:
1. Does the organisation put the customer / user at the heart of what it delivers?
2. Do we plan resources smartly? Staff need to cooperate so everyone has a chance for a summer break, but without detriment to the organisation. And September simply cannot be a chase to catch up.
3. If we can do without an activity in August, is it always necessary at other times? For example, weekly meetings may be a default way to communicate. But if you suspend during August, can you reduce frequency at other times of the year or use an alternative method?
4. How much is the continuation of services over a holiday period reliant on the goodwill, (or concern), of a limited number of people who do check their e-mails on holiday, take phone calls and so forth? With proper planning, skills development and confidence of junior colleagues, an organisation should be able to run effectively without constant input from a few individuals. If it can’t, or they fear it can’t, something is awry.
So, put on the ‘out of office’ and enjoy your break. But once refreshed put time in your September diary to reflect, learn and act in response to the August effect.
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