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Stepwise Success

Fix That Schedule

Published March 28, 2014 7:50 AM by Scott Warner

A work schedule reveals how techs work together. Techs may prefer to have weekends and holidays mapped for a year or longer, may prefer certain days off, and may have different rules for swapping and volunteering. The ends justify the means, since all the shifts have to be covered.

As a manager it is very frustrating to work hard to make a schedule fair only to generate suspicion, complaining, and unrest. A schedule can be the bane of any manager’s existence. But there are a few rules of thumb (please add your own in the comments) that can fix a broken schedule:

  • Write it down. A written staffing plan is a blueprint for a schedule, because it describes shift times, how many people work, how holidays are covered, how swaps happen, etc. It’s a good idea to write it down, make sure everyone understands it, and follow it. Techs will use it to hold their manager and each other accountable.
  • Spend as little time as possible. The more time a manager spends working on the schedule, the more suspicious people get. Unless an elaborate scheme to distribute shifts is explained or justified, techs will wonder (and probably look for) what took so long. Perceived fairness -- the only kind there is -- is inversely proportional to time.
  • Use templates. Spreadsheets are great tools to create perpetual schedules based on a rotation for weekends, holidays, or an entire schedule. It’s helpful if techs know what weekends they are working for planning vacation, swapping, etc. It also saves management time.
  • Be consistent. The more predictable the process, the better. Deviations from how a schedule is created, posted, or formatted (to an extent) can erode trust and generate suspicion.

I’m not keen on letting staff self-schedule. That might work, but a manager loses a prime chance to build consensus and demonstrate leadership when abdicating such an important task.

Unpopular scheduling decisions stink, but a good team makes it very clear when that has to happen. Fixing a schedule is a perfect chance for any manager to improve participatory leadership skills.

NEXT: Pushing Innovation

posted by Scott Warner


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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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