How HGA Optimizes Productivity Leveraging Lean Practices
Sometimes in a service organization, productivity can be like a rollercoaster. There are times when everyone is working on billable projects, and there are times when people have slack periods in the office and bridge unproductive time with tasks that are not billable.
At HGA, a multi-disciplinary design firm, we deal with multiple large-scale projects across several industries. My team focuses on Healthcare, and one of our KPIs is Utilization, which means that every staff member in our team has to have identified time slots on billable project work.
To manage our staffing load over two weeks, we came up with a simple, low-tech wallboard that provides an instant overview of all present staff members, their allocation to the projects we are working on and the staff who are absent or on holidays.
In the example shown, you can see the days and weeks in pink on the horizontal axis on top, alongside all our project managers on the vertical axis on the left. Now, if one of the project managers requires a whole day of support from a staff member, we allocate two blue sticky notes, which represent a 4-hour block of time each, to him or her and attach them under the respective day. The colour blue represents identified staff members in the Healthcare department. People from other departments have different coloured stickers. We also capture when people are on holidays by placing the square sticker on one corner to break the pattern visually, which means that everyone instantly knows that this person is away for the week.
30 minutes that boost our productivity
To populate this board, we hold a 30-min meeting with a structured agenda every Monday morning where the Principles and all their project managers come together to plan the next two weeks. The goal of this Stand-up Staffing Meeting is to identify free and open time slots of staff members and to ensure that everyone is working on billable jobs. We also determine who is on vacation or supports other teams in our Sacramento office. Additionally, we have access to our financials to see how we track with our budget for a specific project.
We also review the week before to see if everything occurred as planned. If not, we evaluate what we can learn from that and adjust for the upcoming week.
Simple, scalable, structured
Similar to our Change Document Review solution, we have developed a simple, low-tech tool that gives us an instant overview of who is present and working with whom on which project.
The Stand-up Meeting runs hand in hand with our weekly Colocation meeting on site where we have five staff placed permanently. The rest of our team works in our Sacramento office.
With these low-tech solutions, the Principles see the complete picture of what’s going on, who is working on which project for how long.
Since we started implementing the Stand-up Staffing Meeting, we have seen an improvement in utilization of our employees. What I love about it is that it is a scalable tool that makes my life so much easier.
Work from Home (WFH) Update
Like many of you reading this the landscape has changed significantly with current WFH orders. HGA went from 11 offices nationwide to about 980 overnight! In the sprit of the Lean tenet of continuous improvement, we quickly adapted out process of staffing reviews to support a virtual stand up meeting. The process is essentially the same, however, the format medium has changed from a physical board to a simple spreadsheet designed to mimic the physical boards we were used to. The outcome has been no lapse in our improvements in utilization, which is now more important than ever.