A while ago I wrote a post all about the dark arts of Maintenance KPIs. I’d like to follow on from that post and expand it a little to cover an equally obscure topic; Schedule Attainment Measures.
Measuring schedule attainment is essential for any organisation that executes any sort of work. It is an important mechanism; not only measuring how good an organisation is at doing what they say they’ll do, but also for ensuring that they are making the right decisions in prioritising their work. If used correctly, schedule attainment is also an essential mechanism for capturing data to allow continuous improvement and make sure mistakes are not continuously repeated.
This article isn’t intended to deliver an exhaustive list of how to effectively measure schedule attainment. That’s a topic that can be debated for hours, with each opinion and approach being perfectly valid. Instead, I’ll simply give an overview of the basics and fundamentals included in schedule attainment.
WHAT IS IT?
When you distil it right down, an organisation’s schedule attainment measures are there to do two things:
- Gain insight into whether an organisation is executing the work it says that it is going to, in an effective, efficient and viable way.
- Understand why an organisation is executing work it didn’t say it was going to do, or not executing work that it said it was going to.
The purpose of this measuring is to try and understand the reasons behind any incorrect or unfinished work execution. Then improvements can be made based on this data.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR OUTPUT
At a regular, consistent point in the week, a snapshot of the schedule should be captured to create a frozen schedule. This snapshot will capture all of the work that is scheduled to be completed over the coming seven days. Typically, this snapshot is taken on Sunday night or Monday morning; simply because that’s what most people think of as the start of the week. In reality the snapshot can be taken on any day; it could be taken on the day of crew change for an offshore installation, or a similar change in shift pattern. The important thing is that it is taken consistently on the same day.
This snapshot should capture each significant job step, not just overall work scopes. For instance, if you’re carrying out a motor driven pump change, the schedule should capture the step to mechanically isolate the pump as one step, the electrical isolation as another step as another activity, etc. The reason for this is that each step requires different resource to execute the activity. Capturing a schedule as overall workscope level won’t let you collect specific and granular data, which might lead to skewed results.
MEASURING YOUR RESULTS
The most basic measure of schedule attainment is simply the % of work in the frozen schedule has been completed by the end of the seven-day period. If there were 100 activities in the schedule, 85 have been completed and 15 haven’t, schedule attainment for the week would be 85%.
Then, of course, the focus would be on the 15% and why it wasn’t completed. This is where that specificity in your snapshot is your friend. The more detailed you can make the snapshot, the more information you’ll have as to which activities weren’t complete.
PROTECTING THE SCHEDULE
Considerable time and effort is often invested in developing the frozen weekly schedule. It will normally have been the subject of several review meetings beginning a number of weeks out from the point of execution. Any unscheduled break-in work won’t have been considered a priority during any of these reviews; hence, it won’t be included in the schedule.
In addition, introducing work into the schedule within the frozen week takes more effort to deliver than work that had been planned well in advance - as a rule of thumb, corrective work can be twice as expensive as planned work.
So how to minimise the disruption caused by unplanned break-in work? Before you can start, you need to understand why work has been added at the last minute. Ask yourself :
"Was this unplanned break-in work actually a priority?" If the answer to this question is often "No" then the organisation isn't prioritising appropriately?
Identifying the cause of this unplanned work goes a long way towards eliminating the need for it, and ensuring that your frozen week schedule goes as smoothly as possible.
DEALING WITH HURDLES
Emergency work is activity that has been newly identified and then executed immediately upon identification. This is the most reactive work which causes the most disruption, is the least efficient and potentially introduces the most risk, due to its urgent nature. Using the same rule of thumb as above, this kind of work is typically three times more expensive compared to planned work.
This is also work that is deemed to be so important that it is executed instead of work that was already captured in the frozen schedule. As a result, an organisation needs to ensure that only work that is genuinely essential is executed in this way; hence it is tracked and monitored.
That’s not to say that essential emergency work shouldn’t be done during this frozen schedule. Ignoring essential work in favour of scheduled work just because it’s cheaper and easier can lead to huge problems.
TRAJECTORIES NOT TARGETS
Finally, it cannot be stressed enough that these measures that you’re using are not targets.
Whilst it’s desirable for schedule attainment to be high and all other measures to be low, it is much more important that they:
- Accurately reflect actual performance.
- Show the decisions that are being taken to achieve the desired business outcomes.
Many organisations misuse the measures, which can result in huge unintended consequences. Simply making the measures look right is not the aim, and doing so can lead to a Watermelon Effect, where KPIs look green but turn red if you scratch beneath the surface.
Above all, and as I reach the end of this article, remember the golden rule of schedule attainment:
Measures reflect performance, not prowess.