Fleet managers tend to get bogged down in the day-to-day operations and then wonder why they are not connecting with upper management. These fleet managers wrongly assume that effective fleet management is simply managing assets.
A secondary concern is an ongoing misperception by some senior managers that fleet management is not a complicated and sophisticated profession. These senior managers do not recognize that fleet subject-matter expertise requires competency in a multitude of peripheral areas.
As a result, one of the biggest challenges facing many fleet managers is getting management to see — and acknowledge — their contributions to the company. I’ve seen too many great fleet managers labor in obscurity and taken for granted. One factor contributing to fleet manager isolation is the size of the company for which they work. Most fleet managers do not occupy positions high in the corporate hierarchy and must rely on their immediate management to properly represent fleet’s viewpoint, which often doesn’t occur.
How can fleet managers increase their presence with senior management, and educate them as to the value they provide?
My answer is that you must manage a fleet from a strategic level focused on achieving specific long-term objectives using metrics to benchmark actual (not presumed) progress. Strategic fleet management requires you to be goal oriented in all aspects of fleet operations and strive to reduce not only hard costs, but also soft costs, such as downtime and fleet-induced impediments to employee productivity. The challenge for fleet managers is to continually find ways to add value to the company and its bottom line.
Too many fleet managers operate fleet from a tactical (day-to-day) perspective. Instead, these fleet managers need to manage from a strategic perspective by becoming a goal-setter — someone who is goal-oriented in all aspects of fleet management, including driver productivity, safety, cost avoidance, and so forth. You must link fleet operations to the corporation’s overall mission and keep management informed as to how fleet is helping to achieve this mission. You must keep the company’s interests foremost in all fleet management decisions.
To achieve this, it is critical that you establish a cooperative, working relationship with all internal corporate functions associated with fleet operations. You must keep senior management informed about fleet performance, budget requirements, new products, and programs. It is also important to work with suppliers and other strategic partners to optimize fleet performance. Employ supply-chain management techniques, such as bringing suppliers together as a team to facilitate communication with each other to provide efficient, low-cost service to the fleet.
Viewing fleet management from a strategic viewpoint stresses the importance of achieving specific objectives and the use of metrics to benchmark progress. You must view vehicle acquisition, replacement planning, funding alternatives, and sourcing alliances with manufacturers and suppliers as high-level strategic corporate decisions. Why? Because, this is exactly what they are.
You must make a concerted effort to rise above the level of simply managing day-to-day fleet work. Even though you are the fleet manager, your understanding of the company’s business must transcend fleet management. Besides having fleet management expertise, you must be intimately aware of your company’s product line and services, marketing objectives, corporate culture, and user group needs. It is important to be proactive and anticipate changes in your corporate environment.
The bottom line is if you implement fleet programs that contribute to the achievement of overall company-wide goals, you will get the attention (and praise) of senior management.
Do not assume management knows you are doing a good job. To demonstrate your subject-matter expertise, you must develop performance metrics that can be reviewed by all corporate areas that interface with fleet.
To accomplish this, it is important to have an open-book policy and share fleet data with both management and internal users. From the perspective of management, this will validate that the fleet is operating as cost-effectively as possible. Continually push metrics to internal customers to demonstrate how they can contribute to improving productivity and make the fleet operate more cost-effectively.
If there is one thing I learned from successful fleet managers, it is to never become complacent, which is the corporate kiss of death. You must constantly try to improve your value to the company. You must set a plan to achieve this. Without long-term planning, it is impossible to have a well-managed fleet. In addition to producing both fleet and departmental budgets each year, you must develop strategies for cost containment and, more importantly, cost avoidance. It is one thing to develop a strategy; it is another to actually implement these strategies. It is a critical skill to set strategic goals, but it is an absolute must to be able to develop the tactics to implement them.
Let me know what you think.