Activities Analysis

To find out what activities are needed to attain the objectives of the business is such an obvious thing to do that it would hardly seem to deserve special mention. But analyzing the activities is as good as unknown to traditional theory. Most traditional authorities assume that a business has a set of typical functions which can be applied everywhere and to everything without prior analysis. Manufacturing, marketing, engineering, accounting, purchasing and personnel, these would for instance be the typical functions of a manufacturing business.

Of course, we can expect to find activities labeled manufacturing engineering or selling in a business that manufactures and sells goods. But these typical functions are empty bottles. What goes into each and the quantum and quality efforts needed for these ‘functions’ labeled manufacturing for instance? These are the really important questions. And to these the concept of typical functions has no answers. The average manufacturing business will indeed use these functions; but an individual manufacturing business may not need all of them or may need other functional containers as well. There is also a need to find out whether the classification is appropriate for the activities of the specific business. To ignore these questions and operate in terms of a pre-established set of typical functions is like first giving a patient medicine and then diagnosing what ails him. And the results are just as dubious.

These questions can only be answered by analyzing the activities that are needed to attain objectives.

One of the big manufacturers of electric bulbs considers the education of the public in the use of lighting and the creation habits of good lighting to be a major need of the business, which can be satisfied only if the task is organized as a separate function. Since practically the growth of the business depends indeed on increase in use of electric bulbs of different types including power saving depends on increase in use per customer and on finding new customers as well.

To have organized any of these activities as part of another function would have resulted in their neglect. Indeed, they must be organized as separate functions because an activities analysis revealed that as part of another function they were not being given the attention their importance warranted, and did not yield the performance the company required.

To substitute typical functions for an analysis of the activities actually needed is dangerous mental laziness and in the end causes double work. For only a thorough and careful activities analysis can bring out what work has to be performed, what kinds of work belong together and what emphasis each activity is to be given in the organization structure.

An analysis of the activities is needed most in the business that has been going for some time and especially in the business that has been going well. In such a business the analysis will invariably reveal that important activities are either not provided for or are left hanging in mid air to be performed in a haphazard fashion, It will almost invariably bring out activities that, once important, have lost most of their meaning, but continue to be organized as major activities. It will demonstrate that historically meaningful groupings no longer make sense but have, instead, become obstacles to proper performance. And it will certainly lead to the discovery of unnecessary activities that should be eliminated.

The new business also needs such thinking. But the worst mistakes in the organization of activities are invariably the results of growth and especially of success. They occur most often where an enterprise that started out, so to speak, in a lowly but functional two room cottage, put in, as it grew, a new wing here, an attic there, a partition elsewhere until it is now housed in a twenty six room monstrosity in which all but the oldest inhabitants need a St. Bernard to bring them back from the water cooler.

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