Management Blog and case study



February 11th 2011

Soyez mobile

Taking a moment to surf a period of accelerated growth, I realize how much time has passed since my previous post.

The first question that comes to my mind is, "what did I do during this period that kept me so busy that I didn't take an hour to share my passion?"

My intelligent cell phone (PDA) ringing at the moment, following my call, I wonder about the phenomenon of mobility now at the heart of our business operations and its impact on our productivity.

With these new tools in hand, we are now endowed with a superpower of being anywhere, anytime, and even, I would dare say, at more than one place at the same time. We are, so to speak, practically omnipotent! At least, we think so.

However, in terms of operational management, this new managerial superpower presents its glitches, a bit like in the cult film “The Matrix”, when the program derails for a few seconds to display the same image (the black cat ) a second time.

As Twitter's 140 character limitation cannot adequately support exhaustive thinking on a given topic when the volume of knowledge involved requires a highly structured thought flow, being able to be everywhere at the same time thanks to new mobile technologies can introduce perverse effects at the level of operational efficiency and, worse, possibly, at the level of decision-making quality.

Obviously, to the Twitter defendants, don't worry; this is just a parallel to support my dialectic. We all know that Twitter isn't primarily about generating new knowledge but rather plays the all-important role of a training belt that circulates available information.

To go back to the essence of my ticket, two years ago, when I was in New York at a big box store waiting for my wife at dinner time, I watched the race of frenzied consumers when three men in suits and ties sat down in front of me looking for a belt for trousers. Nothing exhilarating so far.

But their smartphone solicited them into a topic important enough, I imagine, that the three of them, at different times, would sigh and respond instantly. I was already wondering why they couldn't take 5 minutes to finish their choice of belt at dinner time before answering, but hey...

All the more so as they were in front of a belt booth about 4 feet by 4 feet, lined only with black leather belts. I was like, "Black is pretty black all the time". The patterns and the width remain, as the waistline already canes the length. So a decision to be made on an article, for the majority of us, relatively innocuous, not very visible, based on two criteria only.

When, in turn, the three men finish their text and go back to their analysis of clothing, new texts arrive, and the "call-answer" waltz continues for 15 to 20 minutes. Let's face it, buying a belt for around $25 starts to take a long time. That is 15 to 20 minutes of sighing and returning to the belts, a burlesque situation that greatly amuses the technologist and entrepreneur that I am.

Finally, the climax of the event is that my three interlocutors all end up leaving the place grumbling, continuing to text or probably calling their respective antagonist, grabbing, for two of them, a belt practically at random just before they left.

In short, this anecdote puts us in front of three individuals who are necessarily very available and accessible for their business environment, family, whatever, who have not settled anything for 15 to 20 minutes and who have bought a belt which they will probably be disappointed with when arriving home in the evening. And they ruined their dinner too!

So, a laudable question here in the face of mobile technology: does it increase our productivity and our management efficiency according to our strategic objectives, or does it lead us everywhere according to the winds, demands, unforeseen events, possibly nowhere comparing to our corporate game plan?

In all the operational interruptions caused by these new mobile communication tools, are you still focused on value creation, operational efficiency, or are you only proud to be always accessible and available?

Of course, your client can reach you anytime, what can I argue about that, but are you always providing them with the best possible service simply because you are accessible at all times? Honestly, I don't think so, even if, for many people in constant contact with a clientele, my words may seem entirely out of touch.

Accessibility to a person and the quality of the deliverable are two independent components of a business project. The first serves the second but does not guarantee the quality of the latter.

I will not go into the detail of the argument that would require establishing the operational principles involved and correctly describing my operational perspective on the matter. However, by analogy with the manufacturing world, it is known that any operational interruption in the manufacturing process multiplies the Setup Time, that is to say, the delays in resuming where we were before the interruption, and, consequently, reduces automatically real-time dedicated to tasks to be done, the productive time.

Constantly getting disturbed in a task at hand automatically reduces your efficiency or, if you will, lengthens the time usually required to complete the job. Either way, you, or a client, will never come out a winner.

In terms of efficiency and operational effectiveness, one should always distinguish between using technology for entertainment purposes and using technology to optimize a business process.

If you want to distract yourself, excellent! Your technological choice and the use you make of it do not call for any operational leverage obligation. Wasting time for fun is not wasting time.

On the other hand, if you want to leverage and use the operational leverage of mobile technologies, be sure to oversee their use to avoid burdening your processes by incorporating administrative time without added value.

With these new, very relevant communication tools, of course, it's still extremely easy to feel hyper-efficient and super goal-oriented when you're overwhelmed with calls and texts to answer.

However, be a seasoned manager by keeping your head above water. Downtime could save you time and increase customer satisfaction!

Make sure you're always at the right place at the right time.

Good management.

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