The Faris Hotel Laconia the Peloponnese Greece

The Faris Hotel is situated on the top of a mountain opposite the majestic Tayegetus mountain range. It is incredible to find such a peaceful oasis. However, if you don’t like to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s not for you.There is a choice of rooms, double, twin, single, triple rooms and suites. Breakfast is available and included in the price, but you pay extra for other meals.The hotel is built of stone in the manner of traditional houses in the area, and it has views over the Spartan plain, and you can also see the sea from Gorani, the nearest village. From the terrace you can also see eagles wheeling overhead at certain times of day. If you have never seen wild eagles, you will marvel at their agility, sweet calls and their majesty.


There is a fireplace for winter use in the dining room, and you can sip the local hooch, a kind of clear brandy, while sitting in front of it. The nibbles that accompany the hooch are a delight, figs stuffed with walnuts, for example.The owner of the hotel, George, can tell you all about the local area and will transport guests up to the shelter if they want to do the Prophet Elias walk to the mountain peak. This is shaped like a pyramid and is a local landmark.On the slopes leading up to the hotel you will see George’s walnut and chestnut trees and you can usually purchase preserves made with them. There’s the local honey too, which is great with locally-made yoghurt.The water piped into the hotel is spring water, quite different to the usual tap water. it really quenches one’s thirst.The hotel has two huge Greek mountain dogs in residence outside. They act as guard dogs and are so big that wild boar don’t get the better of them for long, although one of the dogs was blinded by one. Thankfully, she’s recovered, although her sight is still not fully restored. There are cats too, so it’s quite a menagerie.The hotel is dog-friendly, so your pooch can accompany you, and make new friends with the resident animals.


The Byzantine monastery at nearby Gola is worth a visit, but check the opening times with George.The road up to the hotel is steep, with hairpin bends, so be warned and take it slowly.The hotel is well signposted from Xirokampi, so it’s easy to find.It’s a wonderful place to visit at any time of year. Book early though to avoid disappointment.

Better Planning

Better planning. It is often said if work is not ready in time. It is also seen as a solution for organizations to increase efficiency or a better service. It is all true and can thus be saved much money. If this money for the picking, why do we still not done?

Effective planning in practice is not so easy. Understanding the different types of planning is a first step. As is known in which a planning organization desired, then a road to be made to such a plan to come.

Planning is receiving attention. It has worked there since organizations. Yet planning is not an area where organizations always successful.

The constantly changing circumstances, think of changing availability of staff. The standard 40 hours for all is long past time. There are unexpected events. Suddenly there is additional demand in the market, etcetera. Despite the continuously changing circumstances is necessary for efficient operation. The competition is not that extra space (eg in the form of additional people) in an organization is to smooth out the changes.

There is still debate whether there are as many as possible should be centrally or planned. Central planning makes it much easier for all resources as efficiently as possible way. Decentralized planning produces the advantage that the local changes can easily be played, partly because the planner knows the people who planned and are thus relatively easy to bear in mind such as someone once one hours is not available.

The timeliness of planning will include illustrated by a recent article in a magazine automation, which by KPMG introducing a central planning as one of the solutions put forward for redundancies to prevent secondment providing ICT.

What little is written about the people who planned to carry. Rarely is the question whether the documents the employee as it likes to bring the project to which he is assigned. Of course there will a planner in practice into account. If this happens do not explicitly adopt or unconsciously. This may be the main reason why in practice there are many decentralized planning.

To clarify how an organization can better pick up the schedule, we first distinguish the following planning concepts.

-Agenda Planning

-Planning Tasks

-Project

-Planning Agenda

-As the name implies, is planning agenda only to establish a planning agenda of the different resources to come. This could mean hourly, half day or a fixed time each day in the calendar is planned. This situation occurs frequently in field personnel or resources for an organization that posting a few days or weeks makes available to its customers. Also in the planning in a call center is often referred to agenda planning. See also the article: Scheduling Optimization for Call Center

Planning Tasks

In planning tasks are tasks in the various resources planned. A task is an activity that after a certain date should start before a certain date and should be ready. The task is how long it must be taken to implement this. Accounting firms and advertising agencies work with many planning tasks. The professional knows that in a given week 5 to 6 hours per job tasks spend, but he himself can fill in what order the tasks it handles. The worker will not be told where exactly where he needs to work. As it is known when it is off than he himself would appreciate the week to complete.

Project

Is often thought to project when discussing planning. When planning a project involves the planning of several interdependent tasks. Construction projects are a good example. In one building, the foundation can be ready before the start of the masonry walls. The development of software is a good example of a project that requires project.

When planning a focus in the organization, it is prudent to first determine what type of planning is involved. Is there planning calendar, task and project planning. Sometimes, there are several species in a planning organization. It is advisable to first look into the planning issues, which are predominant in the organization.

Existing planning rules

Any exceptions must be made on what the planning rules is created. This has two advantages. It is clear that the planning rules and those rules need to be evaluated and which were probably useful in the past but not now, or how certain rules otherwise be filled. It is through critical to the planning rules used to look and not too quick to accept that a rule is still relevant today, may be more flexibility in the creation of the plan are achieved. This increased flexibility often leads to cost savings. In a service environment, eg the rule that in 95% of reports within 3 hours after the reported failure of the service technician must be present. If this rule is replaced by 95% of reports in the interference within 8 hours after the notification must be resolved, give the organization more flexibility and gives the customer that what is really important to her.

Central or decentralized planning

It should also be given to whether centrally or will be scheduled. If manual is planned, there is often much to be said for a decentralized planning to make. In a little volume it is not central to overlook. If automation can be planned it is easier to central planning. However it is important that the various departments can exert influence on how the schedule is created.

Specialties

The peculiarities should properly be identified.

The desired capacity is every first Monday of the month 30% higher on January 1 and 60 resources are needed. The details of the various resources must be known. The one the other works 36 hours every 2nd Friday of the month only in the morning until 11 hours et cetera.

Employees hold in general if not on them when they decided to have no effect. Furthermore, it also possible that a section on special circumstances at issue. This should be factored in or planning.

Inventory

What are the unforeseen circumstances that may arise? What is the priority when it comes to? Who decides this? How can we determine whether, based on the experience gained in the past, take account of unforeseen circumstances in the future? Ad hoc solutions have always possible, but just a good inventory of the expected “unexpected situations”, the number of ad hoc solutions are limited. This is an important aspect, because practice shows that many developed planning systems failed, precisely because of unexpected circumstances often ad hoc solutions are chosen so that it seems more the rule than the exception.

Culture

Around the planning process there is often a culture. By force of habit is already planning a certain way. The way the plans are made is often a process of evaluation of years. It requires courage of the people here to open fully candid and critical look at. Therefore it is important that this happens in a constructive and open atmosphere.

If all the above aspects are examined, can be examined whether and how the planning process can be automated support. Often there may soon be offered to help the planner. This could for example the use of Excel or a comprehensive planning package. The proposed plan will always be judged by the planner and still be adjusted before the final planning.

The rules for the different schedules used, strongly determine the final schedule. This in turn determines to a large extent the costs are made in the organization and the quality of the services provided. Consider this in all circumstances or based on minimal cost should be scheduled as long as the minimum quality requirements or that there are strategic projects to naming, where even at maximum quality must be planned. Although planning in the final form a strong operational process, regular involvement of management is still required, because the planning rules used to continuous change.

Planning is important in organizations, but is often a difficult process. A process that is time consuming, not always with conclusive results. By identifying what type of planning situations exist, create better understanding of the possibilities. By then the clear and critical process inventory, creates a picture of what the organization. Precisely by existing rules into question could possibly be playing much. If the rules are known which will be scheduled, look how the process can be automated can be supported. This can save time for the planner and lead in complex situations to ensure better planning, because in a short time, the various alternatives can be calculated.

Health Insurance Rate Increases And Grandfathered Health Plans – Should You Go Down With The Ship?

Everybody is getting large health insurance rate increases this year. The size of the increase is making many people look for alternative health insurance plans. One type of plan is being especially hard hit with double digit increases, and those are grandfathered health plans. We’ll cover what’s happening and what you can do to protect yourself from the rate increases that are taking place.

You may be thinking, “What’s a grandfathered health insurance plan?” The answer is, if you have a health insurance plan that was in place on March 23rd of 2010, and you haven’t made any changes to your plan, you’re still in the same plan, then you have a grandfathered health insurance plan. If you’ve been in the same plan for 5, 10, 15 years, then you have a grandfathered health insurance plan.

Grandfathered plans have some special exemptions and characteristics, so we need to go over those in a little bit more detail. The easiest way to do that is to tell you a story about a recent client. That client’s name is Barry.

Barry and his wife are 52, and they have two daughters; one 21, and one that’s 16. Barry shared with me that their letter basically told them their new rate was going up almost 24% and they would be paying $1389 a month. They were in an Anthem PPO Share 5000 plan, and they’d been in that plan so long, he didn’t even remember when they actually started it. The rates had increased progressively from one year to the next.

But this year, the rates were finally high enough that he said he didn’t want to pay that much anymore, he wanted to find an alternative. So he called his agent, and then he called Anthem Blue Cross directly. In both cases, they told him to “just ride it out” and wait to see what happened in 2014, after the Affordable Care Act kicked in. That wasn’t an answer Barry was willing to live with because he wanted a solution today.

So when Barry called he shared the above information and his fear that he would have to pay higher rates. When queried about the health characteristics of his family, he said they were all healthy, and that other than one or two colds, they did preventive care and that was pretty much it. Their current plan was very rich in benefits that they weren’t making use of, based on what he’d described.

After running a set of quotes for the family, and scanning all of the different options, it became clear that one of the best options for them was the Health Net PPO Advantage 3500 plan. The reason is because it gave them two office visits for a simple copayment, and then all of the preventive care was free. That’s not something that they had in their PPO Share plan. They actually have to pay for their preventive care as part of their deductible costs in that plan.

The monthly premium on that Health Net plan was only $480 a month, so they were saving a little over $900 per month, or $10,900 per year. Barry really liked that. But he said, “There’s a big difference in benefits between these two plans. Can you show me a plan that’s a little bit closer to the benefits we have in our grandfathered plan, but at a lower cost?”

So looking through the list again, the closest match was the Cigna Open Access 5000/100% plan. It has a $5000 deductible and has unlimited office visits, which is very similar to the plan they currently have. But the monthly premium is only $928 a month. They could still save almost $500 per month, and $5500 in savings over the course of a year. Now, I don’t know about you, but saving $5500 to $10,900 is a pretty substantial amount of money for any family. Barry loved the heck out of that.

But he was still a little bit concerned. He said, “I like those plans, and I’m glad that there is an option that looks like it could save us a ton of money. But what am I giving up if I leave this grandfathered plan?” He needed to know what the advantages and disadvantage of a grandfathered plan are.

Advantages Of Grandfathered Health Plans

The advantage is that it’s outside of the Affordable Care Act. It’s not regulated, so it doesn’t have to have all the essential health benefits, and it doesn’t have to add all the extra benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. So hopefully, it’s going to have a lower cost. But that’s the only advantage of a grandfathered plan.

Disadvantages Of Grandfathered Health Plans

There are a number of disadvantages to grandfathered plans. First of all, they don’t free preventive care. For a family that has people over 50, that can actually be pretty substantial when you start looking at colonoscopies once every few years or so.

Secondly, in all health insurance plans, when it initially starts and gets to its largest size, there’s a pool of people that are inside of that plan. The premiums that the pool of people pay, covers all of the medical expenses for everyone in the plan. But over the years, as people leave that plan and move to lower cost plans or plans that better fit what they currently need, the number of people in the plan shrinks. This the typical lifecycle of a health insurance plan. At some point, the people that are left in the plan are either people that just never bothered to leave, or people that have health conditions that prevent them from being able to leave the plan. At that point in time, the rates for the plan start to climb much faster than the rates in other plans.

The last nail in the coffin for grandfathered plans is that because it is outside of the Affordable Care Act, come 2014 when the rates go up yet again, people on the grandfathered plans are not going to be able to qualify for subsidies. So they’re going to get no financial assistance at all, they’re going to have to pay for all their preventive care, and the rates on their grandfathered plan will increase again, so it probably isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense to stay in the old plan.

At that point in time, Barry was pretty much ready to change plans. He understood why his plan was going up so much; he liked the fact that there was a solution for him; and he actually started to get kind of frustrated. He said, “My agent and the Anthem Blue Cross representative both told me I should ride this out. Why did they do that? That doesn’t make any sense.” Not wanting to say something bad about somebody else, I told him that if he had asked the same question a year ago, I would’ve said to let it ride. Just stay in there and wait for more information, because nobody knew what the Affordable Care Act plans were going to be, and nobody knew what the rates were going to look like on the new plans.

However, a lot has changed since January of last year. During the summer and fall, the Affordable Care Act “metal” plans were described. Not the specific benefits, but what they’re going to look like in terms of benefit levels. The insurance companies, have given indications about what the pricing is going to look like for these new Affordable Care Act plans. What they’re saying is that the average cost is probably going to be anywhere from $300 to $500 per person each month. So for a family like Barry’s, it’s anywhere from $1200 to $2000 per month. The cost of the Affordable Care Act plans and his current grandfathered plan are pretty much even right now, and his plan is going to go up even more next year.

Barry decided there’s really no benefit to staying in his grandfathered plan, because he’s not going to get any subsidy help, and he’s not going to get free preventive care in the grandfathered plan.

The end of the story is that Barry’s family was accepted, and they were going to take a dream vacation this year, using some of that $11,000 they’re no longer paying to a health insurance company.

As you can see from this case study, it’s really important that you stay on top of what’s happening with the Affordable Care Act, because things are going to start moving very quickly this year. States and the feds are beginning to quickly build the exchanges, and the insurance companies are creating the new metal plans to go inside and outside the exchanges. Knowing what steps you should take to position yourself and your family to be able to make a smooth transition to the new Affordable Care Act plans is important.

If you have a grandfathered health plan there are some exemptions that you have to consider, along with determining where your grandfathered plan is in its lifecycle, to determine if it makes sense to stay with the plan you currently have, or if making a change is a better option. There’s no sense going down with the ship if you don’t have to.

Strategic Planning With Implementation in Mind

Plans come in all shapes and sizes, but the sorts of plans that I have in mind are those whose effective implementation is vital to the organisation’s continued well-being. The plan might be a marketing plan involving the development of new markets and products; it might be a restructuring to enhance flexibility and customer focus or the adoption of a concept such as lean thinking. It might be all of these which, together, form the elements of a strategic business plan. The common denominators are that the effective implementation of the plan involves many more people than were involved in the plan’s formulation and the price of failure to execute is high.

The three fundamental reasons for poor strategy implementation are:

  1. Planning and implementation are seen as two entirely separate activities whereas the reality is that the seeds of success or failure are sown the moment the planners sit down to plan.
  2. Planners spend a disproportionate amount of time deciding what they are going to do rather than dividing their time equally between that and planning how they are going to do it.
  3. Too few people are involved in the “how” process – assessing the plan’s feasibility and its impact on all the organisation’s resources.

These are further broken down into the following 13 barriers to good planning:

Planning Barrier No.1 – “The plan did not take into account the new environment we were operating in”.

If the plan ignores the present or fails to predict the future environment that the organisation will be operating in, it is doomed to failure from the start.

Planning Barrier No.2 – “The rationale behind the plan was never incorporated into the written document”

It is said that 70% of people will change, given a good enough reason to do so. Since almost by definition these days plans involve change, the rationale behind the proposed changes must be explained and justified. It is not sufficient to state that “this is what we are going to do”. Management has to articulate the debate that resulted in a particular course of action being proposed.

Planning Barrier No.3 – “There was no overall goal that everyone could relate to”

My company conducts Customer Satisfaction Surveys and one of the key outcomes is a weighted Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). A division of a large public company recorded an average CSI that was satisfactory but which masked a significant problem – inconsistency. The 24% of clients who rated the supplier very highly was offset by the 27% of clients who were dissatisfied with the supplier’s performance. The supplier decided to set an overall goal of a certain CSI to replace the contribution margin that they had previously used. Although the staff found the new measure of performance much easier to relate to than the old one, it would have been even better if the revised goal was to eliminate any customer ratings below an agreed figure in an agreed time frame.

Planning Barrier No.4 – “The plan was just a series of activities – there were no clear results to aim for”

If you were trying to lose weight, you might decide to exercise more, drink less alcohol and eat more green vegetables. These are activities. I’m sure your campaign would be far more successful if you set a goal weight to be achieved at the end of 12 months together with intermediate monthly targets. Corporate plans are no different.

Planning Barrier No.5 – “Those responsible for the plan’s execution were not sufficiently involved at the planning stage”

There is an old adage that says that the more people who plan the battle, the less there are to battle the plan. Not only does this strategy begin the transfer of ownership from the “planners” to the “implementers” but it also results in a better quality of planning.

Planning Barrier No.6 – “The planners failed to integrate the plan with the current circumstances facing the organisation”

Very few planners start with the luxury of a clean sheet of paper. As a consequence any plan needs to address the present as well as the future. Womack & Jones in their book “Lean Thinking” recount the story of a company that decided to embrace the concept of “Just-in-Time” – reducing inventories and manufacturing batch sizes. Unfortunately for them, they made no fundamental changes to their production system that remained as inflexible as before. Manufacturing costs and freight costs skyrocketed due to increased machine downtime and the need to airfreight customer orders to meet delivery times.

These six barriers are connected to the first component of any plan which is deciding “this is what we are going to do”. The next stage is to think through the implications of stage 1 of the plan on every function that makes up the organisation.

Planning Barrier No.7 – “The implications of the plan were not sufficiently worked through by the planners”

For example, what if the plan calls for the development of six new products a year? Such a target has implications for Development, Production, Marketing, Sales, Distribution, Supply, HR and Finance. To minimise this problem, you need to involve the people with detailed knowledge of these functions at the planning stage.

Planning Barrier No.8 – “Insufficient time was spent planning before moving to implementation”

You would think that with all their experience, Boeing could design and bring into service a new airliner in the timeframe originally envisaged. This certainly wasn’t the case with the 787 “Dreamliner”. It was four years late into service mainly because of the problems encountered by not only out-sourcing the production of many components using new technology but in some cases also out-sourcing design. As one senior Boeing executive admitted – “… we put a global supply chain together without thinking through some of the consequences”.

Once the issue of “how we are going to do it” has been thought through, the next step is to look at the implications for human resources and finance. These are the two key Enabling Functions. Without people and money, no plan can be implemented.

Armed with the knowledge of “this is what we want to do” and “this is how we are going to do it”, the next set of questions to be asked is whether the organisation has the right number of staff with the right expertise in the right places to effectively implement the plan.

Planning Barrier No.9 – “The implementation of the plan required changes in the current organisational structure that management was not prepared to make”

Furthermore, is the organisational structure suitable to implement the planned changes? Under the direction of Lou Gerstner IBM underwent massive organisational changes in the 90′s as it moved from a technology driven hardware company to a market driven services company. The “old guard” resisted such changes to the status quo and the reorganisation would not have succeeded, had not Gerstner redistributed the “levers of power”.

Planning Barrier No.10 – “The planners underestimated the cost of implementation”

By this stage of the planning process, you will have built up a shopping list of the requirements necessary to bring your plan to reality. New infrastructure, new equipment, new IT systems… to say nothing of new people for new roles. If you cannot afford to implement the plan in its present guise, then maybe you can stagger investment or extend the period for implementation – or maybe you have to reduce the scope of the plan so it is within your means to execute. Far better that you come to the realisation now that you cannot afford the costs of the strategy implementation than discover it six months down the track.

Planning Barrier No.11 – “There were no clear subsidiary objectives”

It was the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu who said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Similarly, the achievement of the goal will be dependent on a large number of subsidiary objectives and the strategies to achieve them. It is so important that these objectives are related to “how we are going to do it” rather than “this is what we want to do”. In effect, we plan from the top down but execute from the bottom up.

Every plan should conclude with an initial Action Plan. “Initial” is emphasised because action planning is a rolling exercise. As some actions are completed, others take their place. The final two barriers relate to the transitional phase where the focus on strategic planning gives way to one on execution.

Planning Barrier No.12 – “There was no Action program that set out the objective of each action, who was to be responsible for it and its completion date”

There is one action that is frequently overlooked and that is to communicate the totality of the plan to everyone who will play a part in its execution. If you want to engage your staff – and who doesn’t – you have to explain where the organisation is now, where it’s going and why and each person’s role in getting there.

Planning Barrier No.13 – “Management underestimated the time required for implementation – we simply did not have enough hours in the day to complete the actions that we were responsible for by the date indicated and do our “normal jobs” at the same time”

This very real barrier needs to be addressed at the planning stage – not when the execution of the plan starts to flounder. Before agreeing to completion dates with those responsible for completing actions, talk with them, make sure you understand what is involved in carrying out the action and arrange for them to receive assistance if necessary.

The quality of execution is dependent on the quality of the strategic planning. The good news is that as you successfully tackle each barrier in sequence the next barrier, and the one after that become less daunting.