Revisiting proven management practices to drive efficiencies of remote teams. Managing the demand and capacity gaps in Service and Knowledge Work organizations is a big challenge when teams were physically collocated. But the challenges were worked around as there are many visual cues when everyone is in physical proximity. An empty desk meant an absent employee, a pile of paper on the desk indicated large amount work. Conflicts were managed ad-hoc via quick phone calls, or a quick walking over to the colleague’s desk.
The problem of productivity and utilization is another challenge since it is difficult to gauge someone’s pace of work when everyone on the floor is working on their PC. Unlike a production line, it is hard to differentiate between a fast and slow knowledge worker when they are in front of a PC monitor!
As organizations have accepted the new reality of remote working, unsolved problems of demand and capacity management and productivity tracking is only worsening what is already a chaotic situation. Explicit and implicit behaviours that helped teams get by in the pre-covid era are not only unsuitable in the new paradigm of remote working but are creating new challenges.
Team leaders could consider deploying some these proven practices to manage better control of the teams.
- Convert case volumes into time and activity-based measurements: The biggest bugbear in Service and Knowledge workers' day lack of visibility into the complexity of the incoming work - either via a case management system or an email. The request can contain 1 task , or 10 tasks all lumped into one request. The time and activities required to do 10 requests is more than 1 request, and these characteristics will not get captured in the case management system. Further, the requests might vary in complexity and some of them might need support form a senior and more experience person. Teams should considering workload based on complexity: for ex a simple request could be 10 minutes, whereas a complex e-mail with multiple tasks could be 1 hour
- Split the shifts into smaller chunks: A typical shift is an 8-hour day with an hour’s break. The 4-day work week with 10-hour shift is gaining popularity too. However, when people are working from home offices, it is practically impossible to not be interrupted to attend to a child, or run errands that of late, also have reduced working hours due to virus restrictions. It is important for organizations to recognize these needs and they can help by splitting shifts into smaller chunks of say 2-3 hours as per need of the team member.
- Vertical loading: Team leads allocate work in such a way that the staff have some spare capacity during the day to accommodate any unexpected surge in calls. While this makes sense from a capacity perspective, the spare capacity is too little to drive any meaningful innovation for the team. A resource cannot commit to innovation not knowing whether their 1 hour of ‘spare time’ will get called into a customer call. Instead of allocating 80% of work to all team embers, allocate 100% to most of the team members, but keep the experts and senior resources less loaded. This way, they have bigger chunks in their workday to take more strategic work, but can get pulled in during extreme crunch situations.
- Multiple progress updates in a day: Visual boards, either whiteboards or their digital counterparts, are convenient option when the team is collocated. Team members can walk up to the board, make quick changes to the data that is immediately available for all to see. In remote working, teams must work out a cadence that will support the same behaviours of reporting progress multiple times in a day. At least once every 2 hours is a good baseline to start off. The benefit of the cadence is that, for example, if halfway through the day 50% of work is not completed then teams can take countermeasures straight away, rather than discover the delay at the end of day or next day.
Expertivity Technologies are an award-winning Master Practitioners in the disciplines of Operational and Enterprise Excellence for Service and Knowledge Work Organisations and similar Functions in Industrial and Manufacturing Organisations. Since 2003, Expertivity have been enablers of success for clients in Healthcare, Life Insurance, Pensions, General Insurance, Motor and Home Insurance, Banking, Telecoms, Technology, Construction, Utility Infrastructure Government, Public Sector, Clinical Trials, Global Business Services and Shared Services.
ServiceForce is Expertivity’s low-code technology platform that enables Daily Lean Service Operations Management System. Its intuitive interfaces, robust data models help staff to effectively plan and manage workload, capacity, and productivity levels. ServiceForce highlights non-value-added activities, helping managers and team leads to focus on continuous improvement. ServiceForce’s low code, cloud-based platform ensures easy deployment, faster user adoption and NO internal IT support. ServiceForce supports managers to make better decisions, ensures a fair and happier working environment and drives predictable excellent business performance!
Author: Subhash Kamath has rich experience in consulting and programme management in Technology, Services and Manufacturing industries, across US, Europe and Asia. He has delivered management systems and technology solutions to achieve process improvements and efficiencies for businesses. He has an engineering background and an MBA. Certified in Green Belt, Design Thinking, Project Management and Robotic Process Automation