Targets – Part 2

In my last blog, Targets, I covered the situation of hitting time targets in a services environment. I thought I was onto something but wasn’t sure just what……..

Just to recap, people are targeted on delivering work within a certain time frame e.g. reply to a customer letter within X number of days. There was an understanding that this “drives the wrong behaviours” but no clarity on what to do. Here is what I have come to.

What I did was look at the current measure andsplit time into value and non-value as shown.

Then I looked at the two time components and put together two principles:

1.The time an item is waiting in a queue should not be the handler’s problem; it’s a management problem. The idea of pushing people to “work harder” because of variation in demand doesn’t work and alternative solutions are required.
2.The time that a handler is working on an item should not be driven by a time target but should be against a quality target. We want our people to do a great job as quality drives down rework, defects and costs.

Now the tricky bit, how to translate these principles into actual measures. What I looked for were rules for defining the measures and came to these from Vanguard

  • The measure should help in understanding and improving performance – capability measures rather than targets
  • The measure must relate to purpose – measure what is important to the customer
  • The measure must be integrated with work – the measures must be in the hands of the people who do the work

Looking at these and my principles I came-up with two measures:

Handpicked Content:   Lean Six Sigma Project and#035;1031
  • Lead Time – The time from receipt to when work starts. Leadership and not handlers own this. They are responsible for improving Lead Times by changing the system not “cracking the whip”
  • Right First Time – This is not a time measure but a quality measure. For each step in the process, the “Must-do” & “Optional” requirements are defined. These are the items that ensure the work is done correctly without defects being created. It is as simple as a check-list to ensure work is done as required.

The approachextends across the whole life-cycle.This splits the process into value and non-value adding steps. It focuses the right people on doing the right things – leadership to reduce Lead Time by reducing waste in the process – handlers to improve Quality by defining, doingand measuring what is required.

Sound good? I am already getting challenges and resistance. Would appreciate comment on the logic and how I could make the proposal even better…..

Comments 6

  1. michael cardus

    I have been following in darkness for a while lately pulled into other work type vortexes.

    I feel the model above is applicable in is simplicity.
    The three guidlines you propose for measurment I have seen work with manufacturing clients I have consulted (whether they 6S or not)

    The challengeing implementation of measurement in a factory mentality is

    – The measure must be integrated with work – the measures must be in the hands of the people who do the work

    I have found push back from leaderhip and the "people who do the work" for this. Many feel that it can be used as a performance metric to fire them.
    I have found that this mentality is challenging with leadership and workers.
    They want to be told what to do, they want the "whip cracked"

    Your model seems effective, interested in follow up you do.

  2. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Michael

    Thanks for the comment.

    The main stumbling point I have is around performance differences between people. If people are focussed on “doing a great job” and one takes 2 hours while the other takes 10 minutes then the faster person will be penalised with more work. I know about “standard work” but am hesitant to go in that direction.


  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Hi Robin, I love your concept and find my self thinking about takt time as I read it. I agree that Leadership has some responsibilities here – have they staffed to the demand? If the choice is between speed, cost, and quality, the two that most organizations pick is high speed & low cost – which are often incompatible themselves, not to mention what that fraework does to the quality of the output. Your model gives us a different way to think about this issue, thanks.
    –Sue K.

  4. Tim Hall


    It sounds like you are travelling a similar path to one Total Flow struggled with 3 years ago in a legal firm.
    You have got to the nub of the issue with the queue time: How can an operator control the time in their queue? They just can’t.
    So the organisation needs to set up a system like a supermarket: 3 people in the queue:- Open another checkout. With a very forward thinking lawyer (not an oxymoron, but perhaps the exception which proves the rule!) we set up a system for the legal administrators to process company insolvency preliminaries in order to reduce time in the queue (look for manufacturing-of-law on our website)
    The next challenge was more taxing and matches your second point: In order to measure the productivity we need to set a standard; but the objections came flooding in: "Every case is different" "I can’t turn the case around if the client doesn’t respond to my e-mail" You can imagine many more.
    So what was the solution:
    1) Decide what is standard work:- (Contact the client and set out our information needs. Let them response target times for e-mail / phone…) Really challenge yourselves to make as much as possible standard and within the control of the operator . These are the measures of the operator and in general only the shirkers will object to them.
    2) Externalise only the non-standard work you cannot break down to a measureable task (awaiting response from external bodies, awaiting court date….) these are outside the operators control, but the delays will still be important to the client so…
    3) Create an external-work service level metric to keep the client happy: (IF no response from the Court within 3 days, THEN e-mail client with ’std. e-mail 27’ (which should have a level of personalisation unless you wish to be seen as a robot company), ELSE Confirm court date. Our suggestion to the legal firm was; don’t charge for these e-mails by the item on the clients bill:- A whole new concept for UK legal practices, but that’s another story.

    Does this help?

    Total Flo

  5. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Sue, thanks for the feedback.

    I have looked at Takt time. But these are “high-value” & “complex” claims with life-cycles of sometimes a few years. But showing flow is important and I am exploring this right now.


  6. Robin Barnwell

    Hello Tim

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree, I think making the queue time an issue for management leads to constraint busting / line balancing etc…

    On the second point, rather than call it standard work, I am calling it best practise and it demonstrates what is expected of people at each stage of the life-cycle. I go further and implement training & coaching to ensure it become cultural. For the metric, rather build a numerical measure, it becomes the opportunity to create dialog. The people working on the claims have the opportunity to highlight where the sysyem/process stops them delivering great results. These issues/bloackages are then acted on to improve the system.


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