Execution Compliance may be about more than you think

By Doug Paulin
Senior Manager

When the workforce management industry talks about task management and execution compliance tools, the emphasis is typically on how they can improve adherence of the workforce to following the prescribed plan. The tools are heralded as a window into what exactly is happening where the rubber meets the road – a window that allows those driving operational execution to determine who is performing as planned and where corrective action and coaching must be applied to increase compliance. But is that message – low execution compliance infers an issue with untrained or poorly performing people – missing the mark in some cases?

Merriam-Webster defines Execution as “the act of doing or performing something,” and Compliance as “the act or process of doing what you have been asked or ordered to do.” Together, we can cobble together a rudimentary definition of Execution Compliance as “the act or process of performing something as you have been asked or ordered to do.” But what if the ask is too cumbersome, or doesn’t reflect the reality that your workforce is operating in?

Should process and business managers take lower-than-expected compliance metrics and immediately try to fix people, or, should they use those metrics to further analyze the system and determine if there is an opportunity for improvement?

In Kevin McManus’ article Finding Effective Fixes (Industrial Engineer, Vol. 48, No. 4), he posits the following: “System fixes are much more sustainable and have a broader reach, but they always require more resources to install. Or do they? System fixes don’t have to be costly, but it helps if they are creative. And do we know the real financial inflows and outflows of the errors we are trying to reduce with these improvements?”

It is common for individuals in workforce management to take action to correct people – remind the workforce of the proper method, admonish poor adherence, develop penalties for non-compliers – rather than use the insight to identify the root cause of the non-compliance and improve the system, thus improving the results.

Every industry has critical tasks that require high-levels of compliance. Whether it is a retail grocer performing temperature checks on products, a big-box retailer responding to an urgent product safety recall, or a distribution operation performing necessary safety inspections, optimal performance in these areas is a necessity, not a luxury.

Having a task management, execution compliance and reporting system containing industry best-practice audits, checklists, and inspections is a toolset – what you do with the toolset ultimately determines the value and worth of the system and program. If your organization is seeing poor compliance in a particular area the impacts could be severe – the health and safety of your consumers and workforce first and foremost, followed by areas such as liability, customer satisfaction, efficiency – all of which impact the health and performance of your business.

Identifying non-compliance is an important first step and should not be understated – but the decisions that you make once that non-compliance is identified are even more important. Non-compliance should be seen as an opportunity to foster improvement. In the same article, McManus states:
“Fixing systems produces more lasting results, but we often don’t invest the time or the right type of thinking to find creative, system-focused and more effective solutions.”

Once non-compliance is identified, you and your team should ask yourselves the following questions:

  1. Is the system or process we are asking to be followed realistic within our workforce’s day-to-day operation?
  2. Is there a more efficient or easier process that we can prescribe to enable compliance for this task?
  3. Have we provided the optimal conditions and tools to allow success and compliance for this process?

More importantly, you and your team should ask your workforce those same questions and sincerely listen to their feedback. Your workforce, executing on the plan within the confines of your actual environments, are the foremost experts on what is actually happening where that rubber meets the road.

There will always be cases of non-compliance that represent people issues – lack of proper training, misunderstanding of importance of following the proper method, and many other management challenges, but when trends arise in non-compliance the system may actually be the root cause. Taking this as an opportunity to refine the process – the system – to greater facilitate ease of understanding and execution by the workforce may be more effective in driving compliance than trying to refine the workforce – the people – itself. It just may yield other results as well, including reductions in labor costs, increased customer satisfaction and reduced turnover.

Maybe execution compliance represents a bigger opportunity than you originally thought, after all.

This post is also available in: Spanish