The director of operations at the field services company I was visiting didn’t seem to mind my rather blunt question. In fact he welcomed it.
“We’re pretty good at planning and scheduling. We’ve made a conscious effort to invest in highly qualified planners and… yeah… they’re doing a good job.”
My ears pricked up. What exactly did he mean by ‘a good job’?
It turned out that a good schedule was one that enabled the company to meet its commitments by assigning all required tasks to the available personnel. A bad schedule was simply one that failed this test.
The director’s low expectations were understandable. It is incredibly difficult to create a feasible schedule. But ‘feasible’ is a far cry from ‘good’.
I tried again. “What would you like to achieve with your schedules? What’s important to you?”
It turned out that he did, indeed, have certain expectations. He expected the schedules to minimize overtime. He expected planners to avoid assigning highly qualified, ‘expensive’ employees to tasks that didn’t require their expertise. He expected employee preferences to be incorporated into schedules and distributed as fairly as possible.
Given that the planners were aware of his expectations, I wondered – aloud – how well they were performing.
He wasn’t so sure about this – and for good reason. He and his planners had no way to determine the quality of a schedule.
Many large organizations have no way of knowing if their schedules are actually helping them achieve their business goals. There is a better way – one that makes complete sense once you think about it.
I put it to the director that what his planners really needed was immediate insight into the quality of their plans and schedules – as measured by carefully chosen KPIs – even as they were planning. Those goals he mentioned, well they could be weighted (employee satisfaction is sometimes gained at the expense of productivity and vice versa) and the quality of plans and schedules could be expressed in a KPI-based score.
Of course the director ‘got it’. Live KPI-based planning is one of those ideas that transform your vision of what is possible, leaving you dissatisfied with anything less.
After all, why schedule for the sake of scheduling when you could be scheduling to achieve some of your most significant business goals?