In the name of profits, improved quality and efficiency, some companies employ programs to the n'th degree to streamline towards operational efficiency and cost effectiveness. As customers we're first to see the downside of their programs - poor customer service.
Rick Segal in his posting about an airline experience witnessed this. I'm sure we all have suffered this or will very soon.
What drives these experiences is that slimmed-down organizations didn't properly factor the allocation of resources. Oh sure, there are best practices to allocate overhead, R&D, projects, equipment, etc... Its the human factor that's didn't gain an equivalent level of rigor.
The result is evident when interacting with highly operationalized companies. Their staff are miss-matched to their jobs. They simply don't have the right skills and support technology. This translates into the loss of competitive advantage and transformation of their corporate essence (the reason you became a customer in the first place.)
How did this happen? If you've ever been through a corporate downsizing you know why. The people that are left behind inherit tasks/responsibilities/jobs simply because there is no one else to assign them to. So there they are, doing new tasks and learning on the fly.
Is it possible for Operationalized Companies to effectively re-deploy their human capital? The answer is yes...but its not easy to accomplish.
A couple of years ago I was part of an ambitious re-org. No one lost their jobs but we had 45 days to put hundreds of people (the entire business) into new jobs. This was part of broader program to move to a solution based business model. The expectation was that on day 46 individuals would be contributing in their new gigs.
At the time I wished that we had more time, but it worked. Not just because we did skills inventories and matched people to the right jobs. Or because we also identified where there were gaps and put in contingencies. The key success factor was de-constructing manager/supervisor instinct to hoard assets. In this case the assets is people.
This was the hardest part. I suspect it is the biggest obstacle to most operationalized companies embarking on human-capital redeployment.