Most teams start small and are glad when increased demand leads to more staff. However, as teams grow past the capacity of a single manager, coordination between all parties tend to break down and can cripple the efficiency, quality and client satisfaction of the organization. The tools that used to work become sources of frustration. Instead of growth, a team can implode.
Here we’ll explore the requirements often encountered by growing teams, and evaluate four approaches to scale your company’s scheduling.
For this article we use the term ”event.” For your team, this could mean tasks, appointments, jobs, meetings, visits, trips, steps, etc.
What’s required to plan your event?
Each team faces different scheduling challenges. We’ve listed 13 of the most common requirements we’ve encountered, but you may have more:
Even if you identify with only 5 or 6 of the above requirements, this shows the dimensional complexity of the scheduling process. It also highlights the difficulty for a one-size-fits-all solution to meet your team’s unique needs.
Piecemeal vs Integrated Solutions
Now that you’ve identified your requirements you have options to choose from. High level options include either a piecemeal solution or an integrated solution.
With a piecemeal solution, managers assign schedules to staff by referencing factors stored in multiple systems. Decision making is not automated and managers are responsible for decision-making and coordination.
By comparison, in integrated system solutions, one system understands all factors and provides a single point of reference on which managers, staff and clients operate. The system operates in real time and can be programmed to escalate or adapt.
Piecemeal models are the default options for growing teams, dictated by the lack of tailored tools available to make improvements.
Model 1 • Multi-Manager Team
In this model, organizations have multiple managers, each working directly with specific factors relating to clients and staff. Information is gathered from multiple systems and managers manually schedule teams, distribute data, report and coordinate communications with all stakeholders.
This model can work if there are a limited number of events to schedule and priority is easy to establish.
The pros to this model are that it requires minimal resources and investment. It can be easy to implement. The individuals may have to spend a bit of time coordinating and communicating, but if the scope of work is minimal, this could be the most efficient model.
However, there are many risks with this model. Information can be difficult to consolidate and distribute. It is difficult to scale, coordinate communications and adapt to changes due to manual processes. It also relies on the managers for decision making and can be difficult to ensure compliance to standard procedures and processes.
Model 2 • Multi-Team
The multi-team approach is the simplest answer to the coordination frustrations of the multi-manager team. Since the tools worked best with a single manager, why not go back to what works?
In this model, organizations have multiple managers, each managing a team with independent factors, clients and staff. Each manager owns a specific area or set of factors, which reduces the need for coordination multi-manager teams require; however, there could still be challenges with standardization of processes and optimizing efficiencies in the same way for each team.
The pros of this model are that it is simple to implement using existing tools and processes. Scaling teams is achieved by hiring additional resources to create team clones. This model can scale efficiently for operations with simple scheduling requirements.
However, removing team integration means this model limits opportunities for upstream and downstream optimization. In addition, each manager remains a single point of failure for their team and processes are not automated, making it difficult to ensure that all managers are following standard procedures and processes.
The integrated models describe options for a single system that is programmed to manage schedules based on predefined logic related to factors.
Both integrated system models share advantages of the scheduling system over the piecemeal options, including:
- Reduced time required for all scheduling activities, but still allows for the management of scheduling optimization
- Increased volume and timeliness information available for decision-making
- Automated decision-making either by suggestion or automatic actions
- Minimized need for manager and staff training by templating and automating the detail work.
- Standardized framework that makes measurement and optimization possible for every tool, process and stakeholder.
- Integrated with the larger service workflow, allowing for seamless data flow from sales, operations, client, and invoicing
Model 3 • Decentralized Management (Marketplaces)
In a decentralized marketplace, the resources are self organizing. In some organizations this can be the most scalable, efficient and an achievable solution. Why not let each worker manage themselves? This viable tactic is the foundation for the gig economy and one of the underlying principles of the agile methodology.
The pros of this model is that teams are empowered to self-organize and clients to self-serve. Workers can then choose when, where and what to work on. Clients could choose services, events or appointments based on their preferences or needs. This option also negates authority and responsibility.
However, with the wrong incentives, some tasks or events may never be fulfilled. Unfortunately, free will doesn’t always lead to the most efficient workers. Ultimately, the coordinating organization must ensure quality and satisfaction.
Just like currencies need “Market Makers” to keep things flowing, for a marketplace to be successful, it requires careful modeling and frequent interventions to ensure customer satisfaction.
Marketplaces thrive best with a 2-way review and rating systems. This adds work for staff and clients. Also, because of the importance of ratings, they can also lead to undesirable “gaming”, including avoiding clients who may not give 5 stars, or giving unnecessary discounts.
Model 4 • Centralized Management
Here managers remain in the drivers’ seat for scheduling decisions, but are given a number of autopilot tools to enhance quality and performance.
The advantages of this model are that it gives the organization more direct control of quality and satisfaction. It’s also simpler to develop, and easier for all parties to use than the decentralized model because it lacks the game mechanics.
The disadvantages of this model is that it requires an initial investment for design, development and implementation. However, these investments are often dwarfed by medium-term labor cost savings and long term growth opportunities enabled.