Chris Wood discusses how his bad shoulder reminded him of the importance of flexibility.
12 November 2009
As I write this column, I have an inflamed tendon in my shoulder that is impacting on flexibility in my arm necessitating limitations in, and changes to, the way I usually do things. This has prompted me to think about flexibility, and its importance in today's business world - particularly as we go through this recession. One definition of "flexibility" that I have come across is "the ability to adapt to new situations: to be able to change or be changed according to circumstances".
The recession has given an added impetus to change. As we are all aware, in the long run it can be bad economics to make cuts - particularly knee-jerk ones that might be forced upon us, for example in areas such as maintenance that can impact asset life. However, looking at opportunities derived from flexibility can be rewarding.
A key area to consider is the construction of support contracts - do they provide for changes in scope, manning levels, fine tuning of service levels, etc? Another is addressing opportunities for improvements that can be made to existing and new contracts, thereby ensuring that flexibility is built in, to make it easier for change to be introduced in response to new challenges as they arise.
However, there is greater opportunity for cost reductions through introducing flexibility within the workplace - both in the way that space and technology is used, and in the way that people carry out their roles. And not just direct cost reductions, but also working efficiencies arising from enhanced team working and productivity improvements.
The challenge is to think outside of the box and find more efficient ways of doing things - and to question whether they still need to be done. Get things right now and we will be well placed to see ourselves through today and be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.
Which takes us back to the recession itself - well, it's much more interesting than my shoulder. Are we now over the worst, or will we continue to bump along the bottom before any real recovery comes? As usual, there are as many theories as there are economists, but one thing is certain - the need to remain agile. Our business sector does seem to be holding up, and there are real signs of opportunities and growth in the outsourcing sector. But of course we are only as resilient as the industry we, as FMs, are engaged to support.