Week 5 Student Discussion - Work Standards

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Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
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#1
Chapter 10 (Human Resources) brings in issues of standardized work practices (such as the story about UPS on page 315, where workers have a very proscriptive method as to how to stop the truck and make a delivery) and work standards (it should take a worker X minutes to do this task).

Certainly such information is usefull to Operations Management, but how can we make good use of this information, without the downsides of "managing by numbers" and running into the problems with Dr. Deming's 14 Points?
 
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Jamie Morris

#2
Steve Prevette said:
Chapter 10 (Human Resources) brings in issues of standardized work practices (such as the story about UPS on page 315, where workers have a very proscriptive method as to how to stop the truck and make a delivery) and work standards (it should take a worker X minutes to do this task).

Certainly such information is usefull to Operations Management, but how can we make good use of this information, without the downsides of "managing by numbers" and running into the problems with Dr. Deming's 14 Points?
Using numbers and statistical process control methodolgies to manage, adjust, and improve our processes and systems is certainly a very good use of operations management tools. However, if we use numbers, unrealistic goals, objectives, etc. to control, adjust, micromanage the workers, we have missed the point, and we will achieve average performing organizations, at best.

Power Plants have very prescriptive controls, limits, and procedural processes to control their systems and equipment. Some may say that this is management by numbers, however, these controlling limits are based on extensive design specifications and safety analysis, and they ensure safe operation of the plant.

In the Red Bead experiment, much emphasis was placed on management by numbers and goals related to defect reduction. However, the numbers that were being monitored and tracked were related to worker performance versus system/process performance. As Scholtes describes in his book, the Leaders Handbook, managers must have a full understanding of the system, must understand the common cause variation that is inherent to the system, and must be able to identify special cause variation in the system. This knowledge is required to be able monitor (numbers and data), to make adjustments to the system, and to improve the system and thus the organization.
 
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Roberta

#3
Week 5

The numbers that are associated with a certain task or subset of tasks are useful for planning purposes, and yet consideration must be given that numbers do fluctuate due to unforeseen circumstances. For instance with the UPS driver, the amount of time that it takes for the driver to stop the truck and make the delivery/pick up will be varied due to the road and sidewalk conditions, the size and number of packages, if there is a vicious dog on the way to the residence, or a number of any other factors of the process. The weather and physical obstacles are out of the control of the employee and therefore it would be unreasonable to require the optimum delivery time to met each time. However, in planning it can be considered that a delivery will take "x" number of minutes, but milestone goals, such as getting packages to the airport in time for air shipment, need to accomodate a reasonable number of those circumstances in order for the major milestones to be met consistently on time and within budget. Involving the staff (in this case the drivers) in the planning activities would bring reality into the numbers and allow for consensus on the plan from the start.
 
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Mary Davenport

#4
In the world of project controls the numbers are everything. It is impossible to know where you are and how to proceed unless you know how numbers are affecting you. Plans are based on average number of manhours required to perform specific work, costs are forecast based on labor hours/dollars, and expected material costs. Performance is measured based on actual costs vs planned vs value for the dollar.

Knowing all of that is critical to a project manager, but worthless to the craftsman on the job. Management must use other factors to educate and motivate the people doing the work. Beating people over the head with numbers does not motivate them to perform better, but giving them a sense of accomplishment, helping employees take pride in their work, and demonstrating how their tasks fit into overall company success can provide many benefits for the company.
 
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mark child

#5
I agree that numbers and specific instructions are good. However, holding people to attaining these numbers and instructions by the letter is nearly impossible. With endless numbers of uncontrolled variables floating around we as managers cannot expect perfect results every time. Therefore maintaining numbers and specific instructions as guidelines or benchmarks make much more sense. In this line of thinking emplyees will push themselves to maintain the standard or go above it. People generally do not set out to perform poorly.
 
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dwall

#6
I agree with Mary. The use of Benchmarks for particular tasks is important for planning purposes but to use the benchmarks to evaluate performance appears to relegate managerial responsibility to some predetermined algorithm. This to me is a very lazy way to manage employees and is detrimental to any kind of employees' quality of worklife. Management must be involved with the dynamics of the work place and monitor mission completion with the understanding that uncontrollable events have as much impact on the final process completion in a timely manner as the employees' performance of the tasks. Today many managers discuss process improvements in one breath and evaluate employee performance based on some ideal process. By removing the flexibility from the process (i.e.; it takes 6 minutes to complete this task) we are seriously limiting the chance for process improvements because we are not acknowledging that there is any room for alternate times. In this way, management may never learn of root causes for additional times nor will they be able to correct root causes and improve established times for specific tasks.
 
#7
Good! At least you sense the basic flaw in what is often termed "Management By Objective" (MBO) when the human is measured against an algorithm and the human is replaced or retooled instead of the process.
 
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ssagreen

#8
On the UPS analogy. There is nothing wrong with UPS saying that this is the best way that our experience has shown us to perform the task of delivering packages. I am sure that they have done enough deliveries to understand about how long it will take and probably the "best" way to do it. As long as they give employees allowances on time and the ability to improve the system there is nothing wrong with training the employees with best known way of doing things and letting them know of the company's expectations for them. UPS has a strong corporate culture and their employees stay with the company for years with very low driver turnover. They seem to be doing very well.

A competitor of theirs, FedEx, is exactly opposite of them on how they treat their drivers. A FedEx driver is an independent contractor that gets alot less training, corporate indoctorination, and a whole lot more freedom to do it their own way. FedEx also seems to be very successful. So which is the better way?
 
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jlowens

#9
Work Standards

I agree with Mark. When I was a teenager, I worked for Jack-In-The Box. The manager would sit outside the restaurant and time how long it took for us to get an order out. What wasn't taken into affect were the outside variables that could slow an order down or ways to speed up an order. Tools weren't given us to increase production. As a manager we know better. now The red bead experient has shown us that. We have to realize that it's more than just a number's game. I think numbers are important and needed but they must be realistic numbers.
 
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