Why the COO hates Christmas

Beautiful Christmas TreeFollowing on from the recent blog Why the CIO hates Christmas.  So in the cheery spirit of Christmas, I thought I’d turn my attention to the COO or Operations Director: The one who keeps the wheels turning, no matter how much grit is thrown into the innermost workings.

So why do COOs hate Christmas?  It all revolves around two things – more work and fewer people – with an artificial, yet unmovable deadline set some 2000 years ago in a stable.

With that said, here are the top 10 reasons the COO hates Christmas:

Reason #1: Staff illness:

With colds, flu and coughs going around, often germinated at school and brought home, the run up to Christmas is the time when staff illness is least welcome.  When I was IT Director at a major UK Government Department I was stunned when I was told by a member of staff that she was planning to take the following Thursday off as sick leave to go Christmas shopping because “she hadn’t taken the full 11 days sick leave that year”.

Reason #2: Staff vacation:

Staff are forced to take remaining vacation; following on from the previous point, vacation policies often force staff to take unused days by the end of the year.

Reason #3: Christmas period shutdowns

Depending where Christmas falls anything from 3 to 10 days are lost, and often little is achieved in the week before Christmas…or the week after.

Reason #4: Offices closed due to weather

Winters are starting to be more extreme and whilst we don’t suffer the power cuts I remember as a child, snow often closes offices and schools, disrupts public transport and makes roads dangerous.

Reason #5: Year end sales peak

If you are of the B2B world you are trying to close deals and deliver projects in a month which is often half the length of other months.  This is made worse by clients who have a December year end and hold off making purchases so that they get a last minute discount. If you are B2C then you probably have an increased volume of work which again is compressed into a shorter working month.

Reason #6: Year end discounts

B2B clients know that you have targets to hit and savvy procurement teams will wait to extract the best deal possible. They know that by hanging on to the last few days of the month they can get serious discounts, which will be given. I know one software sales guy from a major international company who sells 85% of his target in the last 2 weeks of December. He’s not alone.

Reason #7: Christmas opening hours

Retailers are forced to stay open for longer in the run up to Christmas that means additional staff need to be recruited, trained and paid.  Poorly trained staff are more likely to make mistakes, give unnecessary discounts, damage customer reputation and raise risk of credit card and other types of fraud.

Reason #8: Christmas rush delivery logistics

For those retailers who are online the pressure is put on the logistics and courier companies to deliver on time, often with a backdrop of appalling weather conditions.  If they don’t, then the retailer’s reputation, fairly or unfairly, will suffer.

Post- Xmas products are returned or warranty claims are made. This is pure cost for the retailer, but if managed efficiently can improve customer satisfaction dramatically.

Reason #10: Post-Christmas morale blues

If December gives the highs, then January is the lows. Expect staff absenteeism.

Not a lot to be cheery about, I am sure you will agree. Especially, if the company is kept alive day-in day-out by the heroics of the staff.  If there were more a process-led culture you might find a very different picture. Fewer mistakes to be cleared up which means fewer surprises and a calmer, more pleasant working environment.

What can you do right now?

  • First review your core processes; Order to Cash, to make sure staff are up to speed and it is as easily understood and efficient as possible
  • Do you need to change/uprate your credit card processing at a time when there is increased fraud?
  • What about your Recruit to Retire for the seasonal / part time workers. You want them recruited and up to speed and integrated into the company culture as soon as they join.
  • Equally the exit process needs to clear and fair. You can have them leaving with an armful of laptops, just because you have no track of them.

Unfortunately, those who love the buzz of constant firefighting, giving them the feeling that they are important, haven’t read this far…


Tags: , , ,

Categories: Customer Service, Human Resources, Information Technology

Author:Ian Gotts

Founder of Elements.cloud, tech advisor, investor, speaker and author. Runs on Duracell. Based in San Francisco and in a 747. Elements.cloud, is the business analysis app designed to support Salesforce #AwesomeAdmins. 100% cloud, it is tightly integrated into Salesforce. Use the free core capabilities to capture business processes and embed them inside objects, with single sign-on.

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One Comment on “Why the COO hates Christmas”

  1. Ron Webb
    December 3, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Ian, there is another process that can impact the end of the Year or Holiday Season. It is the annual performance evaluation and goal-setting process. Many organizations conduct annual reviews and set goals for the coming year during this period, as well, and no matter how simple the process is, it takes bandwidth of everyone — the employee, their manager, executives, and the HR function.

    Obviously, it can be avoided by changing the cycle for these reviews and have them start/stop at some other time beside the calendar year.

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