Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Paul addresses 7-day working

In order to get more work out of his employees Paul decided that the National Hire Service should be functioning seven days a week so there was no interruption in service. Whilst the drivers agreed that this would be beneficial to the customers, they pointed out that this would require a large increase in funding and manpower - about 40% in fact: a jump from five to seven days.

"There's no extra money," said Paul. "But it's the right thing to do so you need to do it."

The drivers were not best pleased with this attitude but did their best to produce a plan to enact this new way of working.

They felt inherently that all this had not been properly thought out. This feeling was confirmed when they found a memo from Paul's office that a manager had left lying around. It read:

Ten consequences of 7-day working

1. An application will be made to the OED to remove the word ‘weekend’ from the English language as it will no longer be necessary – each day being entirely interchangeable with any other. (In time, we will also apply to have the phrase ‘work-life balance’ expunged, as well as the word ‘happiness’).

2. Funds are being set aside to counter a legal suit from TGI Friday’s, who are contesting that this initiative will ruin their business model.

3. In a similar vein, NatWest, Lloyds, Barclays and RBOS are preparing to sue against this removal of Bank Holidays from the calendar.

4. It is unclear whether there will be a decline in the ‘Monday Morning Blues’ or whether these could instead simply be experienced on any day and thus increase.

5. The Christmas and Easter festivals will no longer be necessary.

6. There will be no point in naming the days of the week any longer so they will therefore be referred to as the number of the day in the year. Thus for example, the 1st of February 2015 will be known as Day 32, 2015. This will foster the conformity required in the National Hire Service and remove the ability to hanker for old style weekends.

7. Drivers will be permitted to carry photographs of their families as it is recognised that they will be seeing them much less frequently.

8. As no school will be adopting this 7-day working principle, we must guard against unreasonable requests from the drivers to offer childcare on (old-style) Saturdays and Sundays when they are working but their children remain unattended. It is for the individual to arrange such matters.

9. Clearly the next step in this programme is to treat day and night as the same as well with no distinction being drawn between the two, thus enabling a round-the-clock service to run. For the purposes of this project, the rotation of the sun and moon should be ignored.

10. Similarly, we need to ignore the fact that the rest of the world continues to work using the archaic five-day week. There is no need for the National Hire Service to be hidebound by tradition, nor indeed by common sense.

Signed: PAUL

(NB: All managers are exempt from the 7-day directive).

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Paul reorganises the offices

The drivers spent most of their time out in their vehicles but did also need to complete paperwork on their journey, respond to questions about the cars and teach and supervise the Learners. Paul would have preferred them always to be driving and completing their administrative tasks in the cars but even he saw this was impossible as so grudgingly granted them some office space. He made sure though that their offices were not the best ones in the company - these he reserved for his under-managers and Main Administrative Task Reorganising Operational Notetakers. These, he felt, should have pot plants, conference tables and nice views. The drivers, being out for much of the time, could have the remaining spaces in differing nooks and crannies of the building. Even drivers from the same team were scattered about in different parts of the building, usually three to an office.

One day, one of the drivers saw his secretary looking at a room plan.

'What's that?' he asked.

'Our new offices,' she replied.

The driver was surprised as he had not heard that anyone was moving. Despite the relative cramped state of the current offices and the over-crowding they had become used to their space and made it work.

He contacted the manager in charge of offices and paperclips.

'Oh yes, I was wondering if I could come and talk to you about the proposed moves,' she said. 'We are building new workshops where you are so we are owing everyone from that area.'

'And just when were you planning on asking us about this?' the driver wanted to know.

'Oh, we're having to work in a hurry,' said the manager. 'Paul wants this new facility up and running as quickly as possible.'

So the drivers met with the Office and Paperclip manager to hear more details about this enforced move. 'It would be really useful to hear what your requirements are,' she began.

'Wait - you have drawn up plans for the move and now you are asking us what our requirements are?'


So the drivers outlined their needs. Some of them had to be close together so that they could communicate about day to day issues. Others required some space for confidential interviews. The manager wrote it all down.

A week later the affected drivers received a note informing them that they would be rehoused in a mass open-plan office.

'Didn't you listen to a word we said?' they asked. We specifically said that this would not enable us to do our jobs properly.

'Oh,' she said. 'I'll look round for something else.' And then she closed her office door. She needed to be alone.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Paul sorts out fault reporting

Sometimes, after drivers returned from a job their cars were checked over for faults, so as to ensure that their next journey would be as trouble-free as possible. Often no problem was found; sometimes a minor fault was turned up; occasionally an unsuspected and rather serious issue came to light. The technicians who carried out these inspections did them at random times and the drivers never knew when their vehicles would be checked. Moreover, the technicians then issued a report that was typed out and sent to the driver, often weeks late. If this slip of paper went astray there was no back up mechanism for informing the driver of the outcome. And this outcome may have been the uncovering of a serious problem which, if not fixed urgently, could lead to a disaster further down the line.

The drivers had repeatedly petitioned Paul to at least introduce a system whereby they would be notified if an inspection had been carried out on their vehicle but he had always refused saying that it was their reponsibility to check.

"But how can we, Paul?" they cried, "if we don't even know that a check has been carried out?"

But Paul remained obstinate.

"Sometimes people request a check for our vehicles and we don't even know about it but we're still held responsible for the result."

But Paul remained obstinate.

"Sometimes a report might arrive and we are on leave for a two or three weeks. Who is supposed to act on it then?"

But Paul remained obstinate.

"Surely if one of the technicians finds a serious fault they are morally bound to do something about it - not just issue a paper report and forget about it."

But Paul remained obstinate.

So one of the drivers suggested a simple system whereby a technician, when finding a serious fault, simply sent a very brief email to one of the drivers' team administrators - a desk that was covered 52 weeks a year.

"We can't do that," said Paul. The technicians agreed with him.

"But why not?" persisted the drivers. "It would solve the problem at a stroke."

"Because it is the responsibility of the driver to look up the report," explained Paul. The drivers felt that they were going round in circles with someone who did not really grasp the issue.

Paul held a focus group meeting. None of the drivers was invited. Then he announced his marvellous plan.

"We will employ someone to whom all abnormal reports from the technicians go and they will then ring the responsible driver."

"But Paul," they cried. "We've already explained to you that is not going to work because sometimes they will be ringing a driver who has no connection with the report and sometime we will be on leave. Do you then want a serious fault like a leaking fuel pipe to wait until we get back from holiday? Not to mention that your plan costs money and ours is cost neutral. Why can't we use our plan? We've canvassed all the other drivers and they feel the same way as they are all concerned that the current system is unsafe."

Paul became exasperated. "All right - we'll hold a meeting to discuss the various options. Next Monday at 2pm? Come and present a concept paper on how your plan might work."

The driver who was proposing this plan said: "I have a driving job at that time that I cannot cancel - after all, customers come first. Can we hold it later that afternoon?"

Later that day he received an email from Paul. "We'll go ahead with the meeting a 2pm and feedback the results to you."

"But what's the point of having the meeting if I'm not there to explain things to you?" The driver was in despair.

But answer came there none.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Paul's austerity measures

The late summer and much of the autumn had passed off without Paul having done anything much more in the way of incomprehensible management. The drivers were surprised for he could usually be relied upon to baffle them with some odd decision or initiative at least once a week. They wondered if he had, so to speak, nothing left to offer. Perhaps he had shot his bolt?

But they were wrong. He had apparently just been having a short rest before embarking on a spree of spectacular managerial incompetence the like of which they had not seen before.

Ever since the General Election the whole country had been plunged into a programme of saving in an effort to try redress the enormous debts that had been accrued by banks who, guided by several of Paul's cousins, had gambled heavily on selling expensive houses to underpaid Alabama labourers - a gamble that had mysteriously and spectacularly backfired. The result was that all public sector pay had been frozen, although sadly inflation had not. All the workers in the National Hire Service had not seen their pay increase at all for nearly two years. And it was with this as a background that Paul thought it fit to award himself and his five executive directors pay rises of between 7 to 13%. The local press heavily criticised him. His personal share of the bounty was an extra £20,000 a year. As was pointed out, this was more than the salary of some of the clerical staff he had been plotting to sack earlier in the year in his so-called Customer Service Improvment Exercise.

Having spent tens of thousands of pounds on this deeply unpopular initiative and continually urged staff to consider voluntary redundancy (presumably to save himself the aggravation of firing them), the drivers were surprised to see a small item hidden in the company's website. It seemed that the original target of a loss of 107 posts had been revised down to a mere 6.7. Whilst pleased that the majority of their secretaries would now keep their jobs, the drivers wondered how the original calculation could have been so spectacularly wrong. They felt that if ever they would have got some important maths wrong by a factor of over 15, then they would be facing some serious questions. Not so Paul.

"On re-examining the accounts we found an extra £2 million," was all the explanation he volunteered when pressed.

"But Paul," countered the drivers, "we thought that these job losses were a by-product of the administrative restructuring that was to improve the customer's experience. How is it that finding extra money suddenly means that these people can keep their jobs? It almost looks as though the point of the exercise was to save money in the first place."

Paul didn't answer, and because the drivers didn't want him to change his mind yet again, they remained silent too. Paul had been taught this management tactic very early on in his career and had often employed it to good effect.:

1. Take a situation that may or may not be a problem.
2. Turn it into a big problem.
3. Suggest a draconian solution.
4. Weather the storm.
5. Propose more lenient solution.
6. Garner the ensuing praise.

After all, it's what Sir Humphrey would have done.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Paul slices the cake

The summer was drawing to a close and many of the under-managers were returning from their holidays. It did not seem to matter if they were away at the same time as each other but the drivers had to stagger their holidays to ensure several of them were always around.

Now that most people were back Paul set about sending some administrative emails - these had been sadly or mercifully (depending on one's point of view) absent over the previous month and he felt he needed to introduce some changes. If only for changes sake.

So the drivers were not too surprised to find a message in their Inboxes one morning informing them of changes to the areas of responsibility of the Main Administrative Task Reorganising Operational Notetakers. Few of the drivers knew what it was these people did anyway and they certainly did not see them around the company's shop floor very often. It was therefore news to them that they had 'areas of responsibility' at all and still quite mystifying as to what exactly was their role.

Paul however decreed:

From the beginning of the month the Main Administrative Task Reorganising Operational Notetaker previously assigned to the Refuelling areas will take over responsibility for the Washer Section and the one for the Job Booking Centre will now be in charge of Single Colour Parking. The roles for supervising the Cleaning Section with extra responsibility for the Clean Below the Ankle policy will swap with the previous role of overseeing the compulsory in-house training programme.

The drivers looked at all this and wondered. What on earth was the point?

"Hey, Paul!" they wanted to shout. "If you slice a cake a different way does it get any bigger?"

But Paul wasn't listening. He was counting all the extra income he was getting from the 125% price rise in the car parking fares that had quietly come into effect that month.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Paul seeks innovation

Paul's company internal budget management was a mess. All the individual departments were required to keep their accounts based on the amount of notional money that came in. No real money ever changed hands and moreover, the system assumed that all the departments operated entirely independently, without interacting with each other. Nothing could have been further from the truth as every driver, washer and refueller knew - but Paul did not.

On one sunny morning during the sultry late summer therefore, Paul sent an email around to the staff in the Division of Unhired Cars - they were responsible for most of the emergency work that did not involve actual breakdowns needing stripping down of the engines - inviting them to take part in a competition:

Due to deficiencies in performance there is a current overspend in the projected annual budget for your division. We need to find more cost savings urgently and you are encouraged to submit your ideas to me within the next three weeks. The person with the best - and the most - ideas will win a prize.

It was not specified what the prize might be.

Most of the drivers were rather put out by this. 'Aren't we working hard enough?' they wondered.

One of them asked: 'Paul, this little toy town economy of yours in the company - it doesn't make any sense. On the one hand you are exhorting us to work harder, attract more work, take on more jobs. Now you want us to reduce what we do, cut output, make savings. Have your left and right hands even met?'

Paul, naturally, ignored this.

One of the drivers had an idea. It was an old established custom that a worker wanting help from someone else within the company would scribble an outline of their problem on a little card and drop this off in an old box in a central office. From there it would be collected, passed to the addressee and action would hopefully ensue. The irony of the anachronistic nature of this system in an otherwise almost completely computerised workplace had gone largely unnoticed.

Sometimes the cards would get lost. Other times they went to the wrong person and days could go by waiting for the delivery to go to the correct person, during which time most of the work on the project in question would more or less stop. No one seemed to question why a simple telephone call or an email would not suffice, especially as lately the system was open to a fair amount of abuse as even junior fuel pump attendants could write a card asking for a quite senior driver to come and look at a fuel gauge, when perhaps this was not always necessary.

'And if you also wanted to record all this activity, Paul,' said the driver, 'then why not introduce an electronic system? The cards don't record anything as mostly they are torn up after the relevant advice has been given. It would be a much more reliable system, fully accountable and save days of waiting around. Other National Hire Service centres do it already. Think of all the time savings.'

'I'd have to invest in more IT,' countered Paul.

'Yes, but think of all the time wasted currently while people wait for others to come and advise and the job stalls. Saving that would surely pay for itself very soon.'

'Hmm. Hard to quantify though,' said Paul.

'Oh, I have quantifiable savings too,' replied the driver. 'Take a walk round the place any day of the week and ask anyone who is carrying a clipboard what on earth they are doing. If they aren't contributing anything useful to what goes on here - sack them.'

'You mean introduce an extended programme of compulsory redundancies amongst the managerial staff?' mused Paul.

'Same thing,' sighed the driver walking off, confident that neither of his ideas would ever see fruition.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Paul sorts out some staff disharmony

Some of the administrative staff had not been seeing eye to eye for some time. The office was something of a no-go area for the drivers lest they be embroiled in another round of 'she-said-this-to-me' and the amount of time they had spent counselling the various parties was beginning to add up.

No one could even remember who, how or what had started this maelstrom of ill-will and different drivers had at various times done their best to pour oil on the troubled waters, but to no avail. Things had got so bad that people were now taking time off with stress - a sure sign that the downward spiral was in full flow.

Up until then Paul had not been too concerned with the situation as the work was, one way or another, being done. But as soon as it became clear to him that he was paying money for people to be away, he took notice. He acted swiftly.

First he arranged a meeting with all the affected administrative staff. There it became clear to him that the central issue was the relationship between one person in particular and the various others. Allegations and counter-allegations were flung about like confetti and he too found it hard to untangle the whole. He decided that simply to move the one person into a different office and let the rest get on with things seemed the most practical solution. The drivers were delighted and the workers who were to be left behind in the office were very happy with this plan. It would, they thought, solve everything as they all worked quite well together.

A couple of weeks passed where nothing happened and the staff were starting to become a bit restless, wondering if they had been forgotten. One of the drivers rang Paul to enquire what was happening.

"I'm arranging a mediation session," was the reply.

"What? Why? I thought we had a good plan that kept everyone happy?" queried the driver.

"I've drafted in an advice team from the Human Resources department and the Training section and they feel that some sessions of facilitated common ground finding would be useful."

"And how long is that going to take? The atmosphere in that office is awful. If you're not careful more will go on sick leave. None of them enjoys coming to work anymore."

"Well," replied Paul. "Obviously many of the mediation facilitation staff are away on their summer holiday right now but as soon as they're back..."

"Don't you understand the urgency here, Paul? Why change a perfectly good plan that could have been enacted straight away?" The driver thought awhile. "It wouldn't by any chance be a tactic to get people to resign? Only a couple of weeks ago you were telling us you needed to sack 107 staff..."

"We're not sacking anyone!" screamed Paul. " There will simply be some compulsory redundancies. Anyway, were going to try mediation and that's that."

"You do realise that you're taking a big responsibility in doing this. If it doesn't work it is highly likely that there will be a disruption in service."

"We are merely advising," retorted Paul. "We don't take responsibility for anything." And he stomped off.