One of the best ways for a professional to ensure a smooth running operation is to ensure the staff and management running the shop have the proper tools to be successful. This not only transfers literally to the maintenance side of the operation but directly to the administrative side as well.
We all know what it's like to get that assembly required item from the store with the instructions missing; this is very similar to what happens when you ask your staff to provide proper support and results without that instruction booklet. This is why it is imperative that an organization have a complete policy and procedures manual, this is the "instruction booklet" for the staff. This should not only tell them how and when to do specific tasks but it should also tell them what not to do.
The setting up of accurate and complete manuals allows employees a clear reference guide as to what should be completed and in what order. Most companies are quick to produce the "Employee Handbook" when asked for the policy and procedures manual but very few have the policies and procedures for different departments.
For example, do you have an accounting policy and procedures manual outlining what the process should be for month-end close? A policy and procedures manual for the human resources function that says what should and should not be in an employee file? There always tends to be one person who people go to for the answers to the procedural questions in a department; let us all hope that person should never be sick or worse yet on vacation. The organization may come to a screeching halt while we wait for their return.
Would it not be easier and more efficient to have the policy written and clear? The ability to have a clearly written group of policies and procedures not only allows for the proper training of new staff, but as a reference point for seasoned staff which make the transit operation run with much less steering from the person at the helm.
The use of outside reviews is an essential tool in the arsenal of the transit professional. Be it an external or internal audit or review, the availability of another set of eyes observing from afar can prove to be very powerful in guiding the successful professional. This use of auditors and reviewers allows for surety in the financial instruments as well as suggestions for ways to improve from financial experience outside of the organization. This added expertise can allow for fresh ideas to continually flow into an organization as it is imperative to the continued growth. The management team must view these reviews as a positive part of the fiscal management process. Time must be spent with the reviewers to understand what they looked at and what their findings mean.
One of the often overlooked practices in transit operations is the ongoing observance of the internal control structure within an operation. Internal controls are frequently considered a finance function that has no relevance to the operation; but what about the ability to limit liability within an organization? On a regular basis an internal control audit should be performed to look at the normal items like accounts payable, proper signoff, reconciliations and the protection of assets as part of the review. The truly successful transit professional realizes that the most irreplaceable asset the organization has are its employees.
The professional transit manager should include in the internal controls audit the observance of any dangers to the staff, be it a torn carpet or tenuous stacking of parts inventory. This complete review will allow for the avoidance of accidents and injuries, therefore, lowering the insurance claims and potential openings for litigation. This will result in lower premiums and, consequently, will reduce spending. As we have said before, most items in fiscal management are linked to others.
One more tool available to transit managers is the comparison of financial data to a peer group. A peer group should be comprised of transit systems of similar size and operating in similar environments. Comparisons of your transit system to the peer group will often lead to questions and may lead to increased efficiency. In some situations, the comparison and subsequent research may uncover situations that were unknown to the management team.