THE AGILE WORKFORCE

COPING WITH FLUCTUATIONS IN ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY

September 2018

 

Precursive is an application that manages capacity so it makes sense that we frequently hear about issues pertaining to it, prior to providing our solution of course. But despite this continuous message, many people still struggled with the concept of capacity, particularly with regards to how it’s defined, managed and measured. The familiar phase of “we need to be more agile” was a consistent theme when discussing their resourcing needs.

 

It became obvious from these conversations that once companies reach a certain size they share similar operational problems, particularly when it comes to deployment, tracking and retention. But seemingly there wasn’t a common solution or school of thought. So we set out to explore the ways operational leaders are viewing this topic of capacity and unpack it as a metric. Cards on the table, the initial idea was simply to generate some content but, as the insights we gained were more valuable than we could have hoped for, we’ve now published a white paper, hosted a briefing session on the findings and are responding to requests to come in-house to present what we are calling THE AGILE WORKFORCE.

 

Participants ranged from MD’s, CFO’s and COO’s of world-leading organisations, as well as those at the coal-face, all from a cross-section of industries - consultancies, agencies, telecommunications, research, professional services and many others - and we are continuing to expand the research. The consensus was that there is no adequate or scientific way of improving capacity management and addressing the underlying challenges from a people, process or technology perspective.

 

The research itself has extensive results; the following provides a snapshot that explores how mismanaging capacity can damage many aspects of the organisation.

 

“95% of participants said capacity ranked as a top three concern for the business, if not the most important concern”

 

WORKFORCE SCIENCE

 

People are any company’s most valuable asset, however traditional metrics such as utilisation are failing the workforce and causing them to disengage. Whilst most divisions of a business have a scientific approach to work, those who manage capacity are still operating through very archaic systems (58% are still in Excel for their resource and allocation overview). Many still are using utilisation as the single measure of performance, a measure that was created back in the 60’s and hasn’t evolved with the growing need to remain agile.

 

A unified definition of capacity wasn’t gleaned from our research, highlighting that its likely to be a multi-faceted concept versus the one-dimensional utilisation measure; the most consistent theme boiled down to the deployment of resources. But if you desire to position capacity as a lever to grow the business, can it be viewed through this simplified lens of just the level of open resource in the business?

 

So capacity shouldn’t be conflated with utilisation. Viewing your resources only through the metric of utilisation is problematic because typically one person = one unit. But an unskilled worker, at least when it comes to a particular task, isn’t as valuable as one that is prepared and experienced for that task. Whether those units are divided by their hours and days is irrelevant as one is not only highly more likely to produce the desired outcome but is also likely to do it faster, better and with greater levels of self and client satisfaction. So in defining capacity you should be mapping skills and experience to an activity, not just fitting an 8-hour peg (util.) to an 8-hour hole (task).

 

The barrier to this is that organisations typically want to see that their (often expensive) worker is put to use and is technically working on billable tasks for the majority of their time. But in these instances it doesn’t reflect whether that worker is being efficient or productive at the task in hand. Tying everything back to revenue generation also makes for two key issues. Firstly the worker will feel like a commodity, with no time for personal development leading to a unskilled workforce and staff churn. Secondly, workers will game the way they work to fit this outdated metric, not because they are trying to cheat the system but because they have no other yardstick to be measured against.

 

Progressive organisations realise that they need to move away from single metrics that don’t benefit either worker or company. The issue is only 15% of those surveyed believe they are doing this well, data often sitting in multiple silos and systems and all not communicating with each other, i.e. current methods are not working. Most suggest that the future sits within AI and automation but don’t know where to look.

 

“89% of business leaders are using/wish to use tech to measure employee capacity”

 

CAPACITY CRUNCH COMMUNITY

 

So how has The Agile Workforce developed beyond that initial content piece? Well, participants of both the research and subsequent briefings have said that there needs to be a more unified approach to capacity management and a support network behind it. Often capacity planning is managed by different business functions or roles depending on the industry, meaning you could be a COO, Head of Professional Services, Partner, Project Manager, or Resource Manager. Hence many are signing up to this Capacity Crunch Community, where leaders will converse and liaise on validated and proven approaches to tackle this #1 ranking issue. We can agree that there is no silver bullet solution that will deal with the classic peaks and troughs of any business, but there are more effective ways of challenging the typical culture of a business and exploring the ways we can potentially automate to humanise.

 

THE AGILE WORKFORCE

 

Precursive is continuing to expand on The Agile Workforce research and there are many ways you can get involved. If you wish to take part in the research itself we are expanding the results to uncover further trends. If you’d rather hear the insights you can request a free, live presentation at your offices (location dependant) or remotely; this covers workforce science in further detail as well as the largely ignored gap between HR and delivery (The New Gap) as well as exploring the benefits of building in buffer time when resource planning (The Wiggle Room Paradox). Future Agile Workforce events will be announced at www.precursive.com, including a free breakfast brief later this year.

 

If any of the above is of interest, please reach out at rburnell@precursive.com