How To Avoid an Oversight Trap: Correlating Vision and Design

by | Aug 5, 2011

When a health system or hospital purchases a workforce management system to implement, the executives who approved the purchase typically have a vision of what they want from the system. This is beyond the ROI, which would have been used to justify the purchase. The vision is how the WFM system will be utilized in the hospitals and what benefits it will provide – usually in the form of improvements over the existing processes.

Improvements are a reflection of how the current operations will be made better. Capturing punches on paper time cards? Every unit scheduling on their own via spreadsheet? Managers spending 12 hours every other Monday trying to get employees paid correctly? Sometimes identifying the improvements that a WFM system will facilitate is easy!

However, there is a trap in thinking that the vision is so easy and straightforward that it can be bypassed because “everyone knows” the purpose for the WFM system. When defining the vision in context of the capabilities of the WFM system is skipped, the result is an oversight that can confuse the implementation by muddying the waters of the design of the implementation.

If you’re thinking: “Design? That should just be carrying out the vision, whatever it is!” – you would be exactly right! But that also means that vision must be allow for a consistent design. When the vision conflicts with itself, the project risks falling into an “Oversight Trap.”

Let me explain what that means with a specific (and slightly long) example:

You are an executive champion for a hospital that is preparing to implement Kronos Advanced Scheduler, the Workforce Central (WFC) module that is most appropriate for complex hospital scheduling, and that you are going to implement it with your existing WFC system, which is timekeeping only. [I’m specifically referencing Kronos WFC and Kronos terminology in this example.]

You selected Kronos for your scheduling solution because your units are currently just keeping track of schedules on a paper and you have heard that having a scheduling system can help you balance your hospital labor productivity.

And that’s your vision: “Replace paper schedules.” You don’t think you need anything else. Your implementation team should be able to just put it in and your hospital will be on its way to balancing productivity.

The implementation team understands that a project like this is more of a transformation and that they need to address a change management strategy and make specific design decisions. They come back to you with clarification questions on the specifics of what you want the system to do for the users and the hospital so they know how much change the transformation will incorporate.

This is no problem. You spell out some obvious guidelines that they should follow:

Improve payroll accuracy. Your thinking: With Kronos WFC, scheduling is integrated with timekeeping so using schedules should make the timecards better.

Track staffing coverage better. Your thinking: This is a hospital scheduling system, right? If you can’t track coverage, what’s the point?!

Make scheduling easier for the nurses. Your thinking: A scheduling system has to be better than scheduling on paper and if it’s not easy to use, the nurses will reject it.

And just like that, you’ve fallen into an oversight trap.

Here’s why:

The guidelines are all good guidelines. In fact, that’s the kind of thing that should have been put in the vision instead of just “Replace paper schedules.” And when you define those points in the vision up front, you have the opportunity to develop and consider each one in context of:

  1. How the system works.
  2. How each guideline compares to the others.

The problem here is that these perfectly normal guidelines are incompatible with each other. In Kronos, the first guideline will consist of the scheduler maintaining the schedule constantly and putting work rules transfers on the schedule (traditionally timekeeper work). The second guideline requires job transfers to be maintained in the schedule in addition to the schedule itself. And the last guideline…well, that really means giving the schedulers less work than they had before.

When the implementation team takes those guidelines, they are trapped when attempting to incorporate them into their limited timeline and scope of change. Do they include or exclude work rule transfer processes? What about job transfer processes? How do they sell the staff via change management on the new system when the staff thinks it’s supposed to be easier and the changes are instead adding to their workload by requiring the nurses to keep track of data they’ve never tracked before on the schedule?

OK – so that’s a very long example to make this very practical point:

The vision for a WFM system guides how it is designed and implemented. That vision needs to be clearly defined up front with proper context so that it can be carried out. And if you mix vision statements that are not compatible, your implementation team is trapped on how to proceed.

By far, the most frequent offender that I have seen is trying to match a vision that wants more data being captured and used to make intelligent system combined with making the system easier to use or faster to perform tasks. Unfortunately, it’s nigh until impossible to get more data – new data – into a system and have it take less time and be less complex than the legacy processes. One or the other is often achievable – which one is designed into the WFM solution should be driven by the consistent and well thought out vision.

Do you have examples of conflicting vision points that you’re willing to share? Sometimes they make for funny stories and other times it can just be an example of a challenge you faced. Others who are in your shoes would like to hear about it! Feel free to comment below or email me.

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