Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Varsity Squad on Key Plays

Ever have struggles with capacity to get things done with your current staff? Struggle to get others to help in someone else's department? One paradigm we used got more people interested in using their extra capacity in other places. Firstly, you have to understand where your critically constrained department or bottleneck is. What step or resource is creating the logjam, where the ratio of demand to capacity is the highest? To confirm, is this area restricting the output of the organization as a whole?

You might have a high demand/capacity ratio but if it's not critical to satisfy your customers' demand then it might not be adding value. You want to ensure that you're moving capacity into the area that will increase output to satisfy customer demand. It most likely is not the last step in the process either.

Secondly, we have a tendency to waste underutilized resources by restricting people to their job descriptions, even with the ubiquitous addendum "...and any other duties as assigned by your supervisor." We don't tap into people's abilities because we haven't figured out how to best employ them when they have idle time. Some people want to stay in their 'home' work, where they're comfortable and less likely to make mistakes. People who prize being right and having their work accepted and feeling safe and secure will not want to venture into another area to learn something new. To overcome this resistance, we need a new paradigm.

In every department or process, there's work that requires expertise. There's also quite a bit of work that doesn't. What if you could bring someone new into the department to do the basic and general stuff, and free up your experts to work on the items requiring their expertise? You would have immediate increases in capacity and output. You would be increasing customer satisfaction without adding any new staff. How do you overcome the resistance the 'new' people will have? Let them know that you're not expecting them to be the experts. Assure them that they will receive adequate education about how to perform the 'simple' stuff. Assure them that they do not need to have the same level of efficiency as the experts, that every little bit they get done means one more customer is delighted to get their product or service. Assure them that their performance in the 'other' department will not reflect negatively on their performance reviews. Encourage them that it's better for the organization's overall success (and everyone's job security) if they can work on necessary stuff rather than slowing down their work to fill the time available in their 'home' department. And that it's more beneficial to rapidly finish their normal work and move into an area that needs more help than to do work that isn't going to be further processed for another two days, two weeks, two months...or two years (depending on just how badly the critically constrained resource is).

You can find ways to put your varsity in on the key plays, and pull in the junior varsity (B squad, C squad) for the less critical endeavors. You just need to reassure everyone that it'll be okay and it's the right thing to do.

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