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Guards all along the watchtowers…

There may be some of you who are still around to recall that fabulous song by Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower.

 

So this week we’re looking at the siren and seductive song of “We’re putting in a new telematics system hooked up to a powerful new work assignment system” – that way we’ll know every minute of the day where our workers are and can assign them job after job instead of them cherry-picking!” Heard that one before?

“Oh, and we’ll incentivise them to do 8 jobs per day – that’ll guarantee we get all our backlog cleared!”.

Oh no it won’t!

A global telecommunications company spent around £½bn in developing a work-assignment system, taking all decisions on which jobs to assign to engineers based on a number of factors including prioritisation. The end result was engineers travelling more than half-way across their patch from job to job, jobs being recorded as fixed, but then requiring further visits to properly resolve the problem, and, because of the after the fact auditing function, they would point to a rather good part of the network that they “worked” on, rather than the intricate bird’s nest of wires and cables that they actually had to deal with. Meanwhile, planners realised that the only way to get their jobs scheduled and completed was to increase job priority, so all jobs became highest priority! Customer Experience went through the floor – oh, and overall costs including over-time and service-level guarantee payments. Meanwhile, a highly successful pilot to put control back with the front-line was scrapped because management feared lack of control (costs of the pilot were double-counted to support the decision). It is recognised by more enlightened managers, underpinned by academic research, that control by those external to those running a business process is an illusion…..

A massive logistics / delivery company put a similar system in place, taking all control from the front-line workforce, with telematics in the cab. The result? That workforce ended up driving their vehicles to various directed locations and then took off on their own two-wheeled means of transport to pursue their own leisure activities, while checking off assigned jobs on their business mobile app! No prizes for guessing what happened to Customer Experience, or indeed worker morale!

Reaction by both companies – put in more, and more, and more external controls…

You just can’t put enough guards all along the watchtowers…

 

David Anker

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