Recently there have been a number of articles in the media relating to how the UK is falling behind other countries in our rate of productivity and other reports that countries or organisations that have reduced their working hours have actually been found to be more productive. This is likely to hit a nerve with those in the public, not-for-profit or charity sectors who already feel overworked as pressure increases on services and resources reduce as budgets tighten. However, we know that working longer hours or doing more activity doesn’t directly equate to being more productive – sometimes it can actually do the opposite.
When we run improvement projects and ask individuals the one improvement they’d like to see, all of us at Ad Esse have lost count of how many times we hear ‘recruit more people’. Experience tells us this is almost always the wrong solution! Instead, teams should first seek to understand what they are actually dealing with on a daily basis against their team purpose. We work with many different organisations and find that whilst many employees work hard this doesn’t necessarily help them achieve their purpose or to add any value to their customers. Often, resource gets caught up in waste activity such as duplicate data entry, completing multiple sign-off documents, waiting for systems to reboot or even redoing work that wasn’t quite right the first time. If that sounds familiar, read on to learn more about Overall Effectiveness and how it can help you understand what is stopping you and your team fulfilling potential.
What is Overall Effectiveness?
The origins of Overall Effectiveness lie in the Lean principles and tools introduced in post-war Japanese car manufacture. However, given Lean is a Continuous Improvement methodology, it’s naturally come on a long way since then! Overall Effectiveness, known in manufacturing as Overall Equipment Effectiveness, is one such tool to have evolved to better apply to service delivery across sectors, although the principle of driving continuous improvement by giving a merciless and honest view remains the same. At Ad Esse, we have spent many years successfully translating the basic principles into real work settings such as criminal justice, local authorities, housing associations and charities. Overall Effectiveness is an excellent tool for identifying improvements in team productivity, however, we do not recommend it is a starting point for improvement, instead it should be introduced once Lean Thinking has become embedded as part of an organisation’s culture to really help a team to excel in what they do. It should be introduced at a point where teams have an established a visual Information Centre and are comfortable collating data and discussing leading measures on a daily basis and are already quick to implement problem-solving activity when issues do arise.
Calculating Your Overall Effectiveness
Overall Effectiveness can be applied to a wide range of service delivery processes – from Council and Housing Association teams delivering repairs, to Customer Service teams responding to customer complaints, to a Patient Support Line making and answering calls. Once you have clearly defined what Overall Effectiveness will be measuring it is then calculated by scoring three elements individually and multiplying them out to give a percentage score for the service. These three elements are:
Availability – How much time resource is available to deliver a specific service
Example: The number of hours a Supporter Relations Team were available to take supporter calls versus the total number of working hours
Performance – How fast the resource service delivers the service/how much actual work gets done within a given time frame
Example: The number of patients a nursing call-back team actually speak to in a day versus the number they could speak to
Quality – How many times things were completed correctly and how many times they went wrong
Example: The number of repairs that were fixed the first time.
Whilst the calculation itself is simple, establishing the ‘currency’ for the team, i.e. how you are going to score and measure the three individual categories is not. It is important to give yourself the time to get these measures right so that you get a true reflection of current performance. It is imperative that all staff understand what is being measured, collect data regularly at the point of delivery and score honestly. This provides quick feedback on performance and gives the team a real time basis for improvement. Another difficulty with implementing OE is that staff must feel assured that if they highlight poor performance the outcome is a positive improvement activity and without negative consequence for them. If not, they may become defensive or manipulate results to make performance look better thus masking where the opportunity for improvement lies.
Help – Our OE Score is Really Low!
Measuring the right things in the right way and understanding how one aspect of our work impacts on another is, in our view, the key to improvement. In Lean Thinking the only acceptable target to aim for is perfection and for Overall Effectiveness this is a score of 100%. Therefore, whilst an initial low score for Overall Effectiveness may feel a bit soul destroying, it is important to remember that you can only start meaningful improvement when you truly understand current performance.
Once you have calculated a score you can then start to identify the ‘losses’ that contribute to that score before putting improvements in place such as process redesign, problem solving, error-proofing or developing supporting tools that stop the losses occurring. As improvements to tackle losses are put in place and with frequent measurement, you will see your OE score increase. As your OE score increases on paper you will start to feel the benefits – you will have more availability to add value, your performance as a team improves in terms of the rate of delivery and the quality of the outputs produced.
In our experience establishing the use of Overall Effectiveness is highly powerful for teams. It does require step-by-step expert guidance, but once the team are in a position to fully participate, and therefore take ownership of the metric and its improvement, they really start to feel in control of their work and it’s outputs. It can work at any level, with frontline staff especially developing a real sense of achievement when they recognise they can affect productivity, without intervention.
Public and not-for-profit sector organisations are more than ever being required to do more with less, to demonstrate value for money and reduce waste. Many believe they do not have enough staff yet very few understand demand and failure, even then are only looking at half the picture. It is impossible therefore to make best use of limited resources . If ever there was a tool that could help, it’s OE. If you would like to learn more, give us a call on 0116 478 8258.