Overload is the relationship between demand and a system’s inability to meet that demand. Since systems differ among organizations, there may be things that larger companies handle easily but overwhelm smaller companies. Storm work provides many concrete examples. When managing one storm, an organization may be okay; however, two or three simultaneously may lead to overload. As an industry, we need to build in the agility to respond effectively.
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During storm, utilities are willing to make significant financial investments outside of established vegetation management budgets to restore power as quickly as possible. Mutual aid kicks in to rapidly deploy line and tree crews from other areas. Craftworkers work 80-hour weeks to meet demand. Companies send in extra leaders and logistics support.
When deployed on storm, managing expense receipts by traveling crews is difficult; however, the urgency remains. We shift the resource load to another team who can reprioritize their work and assist. Loads can be shifted in time, too. If a storm is coming, schedule preventative maintenance sooner to ensure vehicles are road worthy.
When all hands are on deck, loosen policies or extend due dates to give team members more leeway. Proactively raise credit card limits to avoid inconveniencing traveling crews. In the office, instead of auditing every report, spot check for accuracy.
When capacity is strained, review your list of priorities, and decide what can be skipped or postponed. As corporate teams shift to new roles during storm response, take something off their plates.
These four strategies can be leveraged to manage all types of constraint but keep in mind that employing these may lead to a game of whack-a-mole. When we sacrifice to meet other goals, some initiatives lose. Always review long- and short-term payouts to be strategic and deliberate.
This article originally appeared as a Sponsor Spotlight in the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of the Utility Arborist Association (UAA) Newsline.