Series 1 of 2, ‘The spare tyre; when do we need spare?’ delved into the always vexing subject – spare body parts. Series 1 ended on an open note. Open conclusions denote complexity of the issue at hand. The effectiveness lab shared that spare body parts or not; we need to keep in mind the fact that people are mortal. If we are all mortal, life can only be effective and efficient, to a certain point.
Enough about spare body parts. What about spare parts in the context of an organisation? Can you envisage a situation where organisations need spare parts?
Manifestation of spare-parts at an organisation
The debate whether organisations are mortal or immortal is as complex as with human beings. When organisations die, there is incredible suffering and a feeling of loss. We have witnessed tycoons commit suicide, triggered by the demise of their brands.
Organisations, like human beings, wish they lived in perpetuity. The truth is, organisations if looked after well, can live in perpetuity. However, it takes incredible effort, hard work, and delicate ‘organisational spare parts management’ for organisations to attain a state of perpetuity.
Indeed, many institutions have failed to get the above critical balance right and have ended up dead.
It is not surprising that like the enigma of human mortality in series 1, even at organisations, human death influences the mortality or immortality of organisations. While institutions can find near equivalent ‘staff spare’ in deputies or new employees from outside, certain people aren’t replaceable in the immediate. There is no spare-part for Steve Jobs at Apple. Indeed, Steve Job’s passing may, in the long run, bring Apple to its knees. Many Apple well-wishers wish that Steve Jobs were immortal. So you know, the quagmire of the mortality of human beings, also affects organisations
The immortality of the human being and its impact on the mortality of organisations is so complicated a concept that even nation-states have died upon the demise of certain individuals. Nation states have in some instances failed to get exact ‘spare-parts’ of charismatic leaders that held them together. Josip Broz Tito and the Chezk Republic a good example
To look after organisations well, certain critical parts of their ‘life system’ need replacement. Replacement may be abrupt or scheduled, based on the life served by a particular organisational component.
When working in effective and efficient eco-systems, challenges like the above can also bring opportunity. There are several active and positive manifestations of the phenomenon of ‘spare parts’ in the life of companies:
- Senior level positions at organisations may have a deputy below them
- Extra head counts for certain mission critical positions. It is not bad to keep some slack in the system, to ensure key elements of the value chain never stop
- Multi-skilled teams. Staff trained to do more than one job
- Automation introduces a new paradigm to the concept of spare. Certain parts of the value chain may run on a computer at night. For example, radio stations using computer programmes to run night shifts. Planes on auto-pilot allowing pilots a kind of break in-flight etc
In doing all the above, organisations are using alternatives or spares, to ensure continuity – and hopefully perpetuity.
In a minimalist era, firms cannot always afford spare – what is the alternative?
Cut-throat competition amongst global industry sectors, short new product and service lead times, and an interconnected business world with data and information moving at break-neck speed, have all colluded to shorten lead-times for business decision-making. Pressed to take decisions quickly and without proper information, decision-making has turned into a poisoned chalice for business executives. Given the unknowns, It is significantly ‘riskier’ to commit organisational resources.
Senior executives are wary of investing large amounts of money, in products and services, whose life cycle is very short. Managers are not sure whether the short life-cycles will allow enough time to recoup the investment. So the dilemma for executives has to be; how to ensure there is a spare line of resources to ensure seamless business continuity plus enforcing principles of minimalism
Welcome to the age of ‘coerced’ minimalism
How to access spare parts without making the investment in in-house spare – the entrepreneurial opportunity
The age of minimalism, while a nightmare for business executives, brings opportunity to those with entrepreneurial zeal. Businesses do not always have to keep spare parts 24/7 in the context of their business value chains. Companies only need 24/7 access to ‘spare parts’ service providers. The latter ‘service provision gap’ is the entrepreneurial opportunity that avails itself to those that are business savvy
Opportunity to provide spare to other firms:
- Staff recruiting agencies that supply temporary staff: schools employ supply teachers on short-term contracts; hospitals use supply nurses; we hope to see more organisations embrace the principle of ‘supply-staff’ even for other traditional functions like accounting, Human Resources, etc.
- Running certain office activity off site. For example, documentation services don’t have to be done on site. Huge photocopy machines can be moved offsite and run by an independent firm. While some may want to call this traditional ‘outsourcing’, it is not. Out-sourcing entities simply duplicate functions. In this age of coerced-minimalism, ‘spare’ service providers are pressed hard to practice minimalism
- Aided by the Internet of Things (IOT), the world is already shifting to second generation ’supply-staff’ concepts. For example, given the difficulty in hiring mathematics and science teachers in schools, there is no reason as to why schools can not deliver lessons to different classrooms, in various countries using WebEx, Skype, and other online communication. We do not always need the physical presence of a supply teacher to teach
- Again, using IOT, there is real potential to stretch the concept of ‘spare-mums’ or even ‘dads’, especially in Africa. Maids have for long stood in for mums as they go about their duties, both at and away from home. With IOT, firms can provide ’supply-maids’ to homes and have mums and dads access live, 24/7 feeds of their children and the care they are receiving. Mums and Dads can control from afar bottled baby milk temperature. It’s all about a video link to homes and certain gadgets with microchips all controlled from the comfort of iPhones, Tablets, and Computers
- At the Effectiveness lab, we have always been fascinated by the concept of ladies fashion and the room there is for efficiency/effectiveness gains. For example: How much time do our sisters or spouses spend in saloons? We honestly think that in this part of the world (Great Lakes Region), it is a little on the higher side. The concept of the diversity of ladies hair style and how the ‘hair-piece’ can provide safe, real-time and tailored style alternatives, is one for entrepreneurs to explore further, or we think.
In the so-called ‘coerced’ minimalism and IOT, comes a real opportunity for the entrepreneurial type amongst you, to turn their fortunes for the better, on a dime. After all, organisations cannot always afford to have in-house spares. Organisations are looking for alternatives.
Let entrepreneurs create service companies and products that provide real-time ‘spare component’ service. To those companies grappling with how to stay lean and mean, spares should not always be directly managed by your company. You can buy them as and when needed.
Finally, please remember that ‘repair’ is not synonymous with ‘spare’. The latter is about seamless-alternatives in the event of failure or want.