There is a word that is used a lot in my neck of the woods. It is utilisation – a combination of the two words ‘used’ and ‘tool’ (not two words anyone wants to see in the same sentence as their name)!
The question ‘What’s your utilisation this month?’ can send grown men running for their mums – and how many days you have been charged to clients is a measure of all things (a modern day consultancy version of T.S.Elliot’s coffee spoons?). Over 60% is good, under not so good.
Running operations around this seems to make sense in a flat stable commoditised world. But how about within digital media – a not so flat value-driven spinning and jumping world? I’m not so sure mainly because of the tendency to short-termism. If value can only be generated on client time – where does company thinking, innovation and change sit? Traditionally that would be in a siloed R&D dept. But these days as we all know innovation is within every employee, customer and partner ( the social business model) not in a few chosen ones in white lab coats. Therefore it could be argued that the pressure utilisation puts on employees to not think but to always do is an innovation killer. And without innovation most companies die in the mid-term, and surprisingly their death always takes them completely by surprise!
This reminds me of the story of two lobsters in a pot of cold water on a stove. One lobster continually checks the current temperature of the water against the previous temperature he took 5 minutes before and concludes that the slight increase is nothing to worry about and stays sitting happily in his lovely warm bath of death. The other lobster does some longer-term thinking and sees that the projected temperature in 50 minutes will boil them to death. He escapes the pan leaving his short-termist friend to his fate.
Moral of the story? Always ask the fishmonger for short-termist lobsters if you don’t want to lose a finger chasing the long-termist lobsters around the kitchen!