We could talk in depth about how to solve specific problems in the daily life of a DSP, but because we DSPs work with Amazon, any advice could be outdated within 2 months. Amazon is a dynamic company, which is what makes them successful. Their dynamic nature means that processes can change at any time, and therefore change how you operate day-to-day.
So, how do you optimize your processes when Amazon pivots regularly? The answer is not in the details, but in your approach on how to do business. If you build the following principles into your operations, you will find that your business stays adaptive enough to keep up with changing targets, yet still efficient enough to achieve your profitability goals.
Do Not Assign Tasks to People – Assign Tasks to Roles, and People to Roles
Daily operations can feel like they are moving at a blinding pace, and it is easy to start giving orders to anyone that is nearby. With this approach, you will always be on high alert. Instead, take the time to define who does what, when and how often. Now, this is the important part – who is not a person, but the name of a role.
In a DSP, here is a list of the most common roles:
- HR Manager
- Financial Manager
- Operations Manager
- Fleet Manager
- Dispatch/Operations Coordinator
Go through your list of daily processes and assign each task to a single role. It is OK to think of individual people when you are coming up with a list of tasks, but never assign a task to a person. Why? Because what happens when that person is sick, or on vacation, or quits? Tasks remain incomplete, and worse – you don’t know they are not getting completed until it’s too late.
It is also normal for one person to fill multiple roles. DSP owners do that every day. But with roles, gaps tend to be closed because all tasks for the role have been documented and there is no question of what tasks each role is responsible for.
Define Roles Using a RACI Chart
A good way to define tasks for a role, and who should be doing what is to use a RACI chart using the terms (R)esponsible, (A)ccountable, (C)onsulted, and (I)nformed. For small businesses such as a DSP, using only the first two (Accountable and Responsible) is usually sufficient. Here is what one looks like:
|Task||Dispatcher||Fleet Mgr||Operations Mgr||HR Mgr||Owner|
All tasks appear along the left-hand edge, and each column represents a role (not a person!). For each task, you should have both an ‘R’ (who will execute the task) and an ‘A’ (who checks to see if the task was completed). You should never have more than a single ‘R’ or ‘A” per row – that creates gaps because a person thinks the other role will see to it.
In this example, Dispatchers are Responsible for preparing bags each day, and the Operations Manager is Accountable by making sure this is getting done. The Fleet Manger is Responsible for completing oil changes are completed on-time, and the Operations Manager holds them Accountable for it. Disputing invoices if left for the owner to do, but if the owner fails to do this, there is no one to hold him/her accountable. We know this because there is no ‘A’ in that row.
The danger with RACI is when one person performs more than a single role, which is often the case with small businesses. No matter how dependable and efficient you might be, without someone holding you accountable, it is far too easy to let a task go uncompleted. In this case of being assigned both the Responsible and Accountable roles, it is helpful to hold a daily 15-minute meeting with someone else to ensure the tasks for which you are both Responsible and Accountable have been completed. It is crucial that this other person has the authority and willingness to call you out when you do not complete tasks.
Hold People Accountable
If you struggle with employees following through in their daily duties, it will always be for one of three reasons:
- They are not capable.
- They have too much to do and not enough hours in a day.
- They are unmotivated or assume someone will pick up the slack.
Let’s discuss how to solve each.
They Are Not Capable
Some people simply cannot multi-task, or cannot think quick enough, or just do not have the proper level of judgement to make decisions. In this case, you must replace them or move the employee to a different role that they can excel in.
They Have Too Much to Do
Sit down with the employee and write down all the things they have to get done each day. If you have already created roles with assigned tasks, this is easy. If you do not have roles, then you have just discovered an excellent opportunity to define them.
Once you have the list, ask the employee: ‘Do you have enough time to do all of these tasks each day?’ The answer will probably be ‘No, I do not have enough time’. You will then need to shadow them for a day and judge for yourself if this is true. It is hard to take time out to do this, but consider the two alternatives:
- The problem continues and the tasks never get done.
- You must hire and train a replacement.
Spending a single day to shadow the employee is a much better approach – less time, and less expense. What will be the outcome? In 99% of the cases, you will be able to prove there is plenty of time or a simple adjustment can create the time.
They’re Unmotivated or Don’t Care
This is by far the most common reason for underperforming employees. In most cases, employee simply does not feel the need to do a better job. The answer is one word – accountability.
Accountability means three things:
- The employee knows what is expected.
- You have a way to quickly measure if the employee is meeting that expectation.
- You ALWAYS let the employee know they are not meeting the expectation.
Without accountability, tasks simply don’t get completed. Accountability means there is a clear expectation with consequences, repeatable inspections, and follow-ups with the employee 100% of the time when they do not meet that expectation. And you must implement the consequences, or the entire process fails.
Look for Ways to Automate
When dealing with tasks that have a lot of detailed steps that do not change from day-to-day, look for software that will automate them. For example, dispatchers must continuously watch for drivers who are running late, need rescues, or wander off of their route. This takes a lot of time and attention, and many times problems are not discovered until it is too late. Look for software that can push alerts in real-time to the dispatcher, so that they can apply their brain power to more complex tasks. Unfortunately, the DSP world is quite unique and complicated, and you will not be able to find an abundance of software to help in this regard.
Ciibo DSP software can help you automate processes pertaining to your needs as an Amazon DSP. This creates the necessary free time for our last suggestion:
Leave Time for The CEO Role to Operate
If everyone on-staff is involved in putting out fires and running the daily processes, you have a huge problem. There is no one watching the big picture and looking for opportunities to do better. There is a reason companies have a president/CEO role. This person does not carry out activities – they look for new opportunities and steer the company towards them.
This does not mean you must have a person dedicated to this role, but it does mean that you must have time dedicated to the role. Every day you must carve out a minimum of 1 hour to do nothing but look at gaps in your current processes, analyze new opportunities, and dream about how your company can get bigger and more profitable. Ideally this will be a full-time position.
Look for Gaps
This is the only opportunity you will have to look at gaps across the three vertical business units in your DSP – Operations, Human Resources, and Finances. Each unit is crucial to success, but even if there is not a dedicated person for each unit, it is easy to ignore communication and integration issues between them. How does driver performance impact Finances? How does Operations help to detect incorrect invoices? How do Finances inform HR hiring decisions? How do HR attrition rates impact Operations?
Without a dedicated person – or at least dedicated time – to look at gaps between business units, inefficiencies will remain hidden, and opportunities for increased profitability will remain undiscovered.
Look for Opportunities
You also need to devote time to look outside of your company to find new opportunities that you have not considered before, or that are brand new in the marketplace. This might be discovering a new software package to use for your company, or it might be stumbling across a new source of revenue that you can invest in. Perhaps it is finding a new place to source cheaper van rentals from or hearing about a new insurance provider from a fellow DSP. Whatever the focus, this time and role is used to think outside of the way things are today and to dream up a better and bigger tomorrow.