Author Archives: Jim

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule

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Shift schedules rarely fail overnight.  Typically, there are plenty of warning signs; signs that tell you to take action before it’s too late.  Here are the 5 biggest warning signs.

#1: You have idle equipment while still not producing enough to meet customer demands.  There can be a lot of reasons for this; nearly all of which point to a schedule that does not have the right people in the right place at the right time.  Product flow, staffing, maintenance and production order variability can all be addressed with the right shiftwork structure.

#2: Maintenance is blaming equipment availability for a downward trend in equipment up-time.  You can’t fix something while it’s running.  The result is often and solution like “We’ll wait until the weekend to fix it.”  This is fine until you find that leaving too much to the weekend ends up with an overly fatigued maintenance group with not enough hours on the weekend to fix everything.  Scheduling equipment, like scheduling people, can improve maintenance accomplishment while still getting the production hours you need.

#3: Absenteeism is going up as overtime starts to wear down your workforce.  As overtime goes up, two things will happen.  First of all, your workforce will start to get tired.  Secondly, they will notice that they are now making a lot of money and can afford to take time off.  This is a “death spiral”  situation in that it is self-perpetuating and will only get worse.  Staffing will impact overtime but to do so effectively, you must have a shiftwork structure to support the newly resized workforce.

#4: Local competition for labor is causing problems with recruitment and retention.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like “Amazon just opened a mega-facility down the street and is hiring all of our employees away from us.”  The right schedule, one that is a good fit for your workforce as well as your business can help with this.  If wages are a concern, look for ways to get overtime to that 20% of your workforce that wants all they can get.  Overtime costs your company about the same as fully loaded straight time.  This means when you pay overtime, your employees make 50% more but your cost per hour is virtually unaffected.  Don’t lose your workforce because of wage pressures or quality of life issues.  The right shiftwork structure can help.

#5: Productivity metrics are dropping as equipment runtime-hours are on the rise.  If you are running more an more hours with the same old schedule, then you are probably seeing an increase in overtime.  While overtime is not a bad idea in many instances, it can eventually lead to worker fatigue.  This is especially true if you spread it evenly across all shifts.  Remember, not all employees want the same amount of overtime.  As fatigue goes up, so will accidents, quality issues and absenteeism.  You make find, for example, that running 6 days a week yields more output than running 5 days.  However, if you didn’t change schedules, a 20% increase in runtime will yield significantly less than a 20% increase in output.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact of having the right shiftwork structure.  Fixing this issue is often the most expeditious and cost effective way of improving your overall operations.

For more information, call me, Jim Dillingham, at (415) 265-1621 or drop me a line at Jim@shift-work.com

The impact of overtime on salaried personnel

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Since president Obama signed (28 May 2016) legislation raising the minimum bar for salaried people to qualify for overtime, I have been getting two questions: (1) What does this mean and (2) How does it affect my shiftwork operation.

The answer to the first if fairly straight forward.  If you have a salaried person at your facility that is being paid less than $47, 476 a year, then you must pay overtime at the rate of time and one-half for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a pay week.

The second is less clear.  My hope is that a few observations on my part will help you to see the impact for your operation.

First of all, I will be speaking to the roll of direct supervision of hourly employees in a shiftwork operation.  This is often an industrial setting but need not be so.

Supervisors are typically salaried.  Sometimes they are home-grown in that they come from the existing hourly workforce.  Sometimes they are brought in from the outside.

This new overtime rule means that if you are paying your supervisors less than about $26 an hour, then you must pay them overtime when they work over 40 hours in a week.

Let’s be clear, someone coming to work for a wage or any other benefit represents and agreement between two parties: (1) the employer and (2) the employee.

The employer says “I will compensate you this way if you work here.”  The employee says “I will work there for this compensation.”

To this extent, the law may be self correcting.  Employers faced with paying overtime may offer a lower starting salary while employees, may accept a lower starting salary knowing that overtime will be added to it.

Now, “compensation” can mean a lot of things.  Historically, being promoted to a supervision role means that you get more money per hour.  However, this does not always correspond to “more money overall.”  Frequently, supervisors get a higher hourly rate (paid as salary) but then lose out on what may have been a significant amount of income from overtime; overtime they are no longer eligible for.  There is no shortage of people that have turned down salaried roles because they didn’t want the pay cut.

Management often argues, correctly, that the compensation for supervision goes beyond wages.  Salaried positions often make “decision makers” out of “decision takers.”  For many, the draw of a position of responsibility can be huge.

Salaried positions sometime pay overtime-type wages if you come in on a day off while not paying it if you work a longer than scheduled day.

Salaried positions sometimes offer compensatory time off if you work extra hours.

Managers hire a salaried person and tell them “This amount of salary includes compensation for the expected extra hours you will work.”  In other words, they are saying that they are building the overtime wages into the offered salary.

Maybe there is a company car or free lunches or better vacation.

Probably one of the biggest reasons someone will take on a salaried position is that it represents a stepping stone to something even bigger; perhaps a promotion to the level of really big dollars.

In the end, it still comes down to the agreement.  Compensation = Filled Position.

If you are paying your supervisor less than $47,476 per year,  then I have to say, “You get what you pay for.”  I know that can be harsh in certain markets that only provide the thinnest of margins.  Still, good leaders are hard to come by.  There is competition for them and if you don’t pay them enough, they will leave for greener pastures.

Of all the companies I have worked with over the last 28 years, probably none of them paid less than the $47K bar set for overtime wages (in today’s dollars).  Discussion about this law states that it protects 4.2 million salaried employees.  In truth, they may be protected but are probably not affected.

In short, the impact of this law is far more political than practical.  Chances are great that you will be unaffected in some major way.

Change Management

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Let’s suppose someone walked into your office and said, “I just did some math and it looks like we need to make a change.” At that moment, you should realize that the easy part of Change Management has just been completed.

Yes, I’m saying that “Math is the easy part.” Putting pen to paper and arriving at a conclusion that calls for change requires only an idea and mostly high school level math skills. This is really only step one in what could be a long and complicated process.

Step One: Identify the change to be made.

This post is not about Step One. It’s about all of the other steps that must follow in order for change to be successfully implemented. Consider this the Cliff Notes on Change from someone who has spent the last 28 years making the most complicated and emotionally loaded change a company can undertake – changing shift schedules.

Here is how I do it…in no particular order:

Communicate. Talk to the people who are affected; letting them know the Why’s, When’s and How’s. Talk to the people that are unaffected but near the periphery of the change. They will hear rumors and if you leave them out of it, they will assume the worse.

Find the Feather. In every change, there are going to be good things and bad things; not necessarily balanced and not necessarily spread equally across all affected parties. Look for the “feather in the cap” as it may apply to everyone involved. Give them something to look forward to; something positive that will result from the change. Don’t leave it to them to find this for themselves.

Communicate. When telling people about the change, don’t overwhelm your audience. Too much information too quickly will result in the opposite of what you hope to occur. Instead of understanding, you will create confusion. With confusion comes anger and resistance. Meter out your information in digestible chunks.

Perspective: Understand the perspective of your stakeholders. I guarantee it’s not the same as yours. For you to address their issues, you need to know what they are concerned about as well as what they value. For example, when changing shift schedules, the workforce will care very little about how such a change strengthens a company’s competitive position. They care about how it affects their income and their time off.

Communicate. Do not hide the downside of a change. In fact, actively bring it up. Doing so will let your audience know that what you are proposing isn’t just a snow job. They will see downsides and you ignoring them will seem disingenuous. In presentations, always address the elephant in the room early on. People will know it’s there and they won’t hear a thing you say until you address it.

Create Ownership. Actively look for degrees of freedom when multiple options will lead you to the same result. Next, solicit input from your stakeholders as to what options they would most like to see pursued. They may also have options you may not have considered. In short, get them involved in the solution. If the change reflects, at least in part, input from affected parties, those parties will be more likely to support the outcome.

Communicate. (As you can see by now, I’m a proponent of communication.) When deciding what to communicate, be aware of The Fear of the Unknown. In the face of unanswered questions, people will make up their own answers. This is not a good thing. We all inherently have what is known as a negative bias. In short, our survival skills depend on our never underestimating a situation. We assume the worse because the penalty for being wrong is less than if we mistakenly assume the best. For example: Caveman Jim sees a brown blob off to the right. He can assume it’s a bear and run or he can assume it’s a rock and ignore it. If it’s a rock but he wrongly assumed it was a bear, he ran away for no reason. If he assumes it’s a rock and ignores it, but it’s a bear, then caveman Jim is going to have a bad day. To overcome this negative bias, eliminate the unknown. Communicate clearly and often. Perfect information makes for smoother change processes.

Leadership. Understand that there are different leadership styles and different situations call for different styles. Coach others to help achieve your goals when possible. Be authoritative as needed but remember, people don’t like to be told what to do. Coercive styles are rarely productive. Look for ways to empower people. Treat them with respect. Listen and respond. You want people to follow your lead by choice, not by directive.

Communicate. I’ve heard over the years that people need to hear things at least 3 times before they sink in. While this may not be a law of physics, it certainly seems to be good advice. Not only must you communicate the same message several times, you must do so using different methodologies. Group meetings are great, as are PowerPoint presentations; but they don’t work for everyone. Some people will just want to spend some informal time with the “message giver” to help them better understand what is being communicated. Some people need to read a message instead of hearing it. Many of us need some “soak time” that will allow us to process a message before we can respond. Look for innovative ways to communicate the same messages multiple times.

The 5% rule. It has been my experience that 5% of every workforce, managers included, come to work to say “no”. They are like Eeyore on Winnie the Pooh. “It will never work.” I’m not going to tell you to disregard someone that says this. After all, they may have a point. What I’m going to recommend is that you don’t over-empower these nay-sayers. Accept the fact that you will not get everyone on board with your plan. Trying to do so will have the following two consequences: (1) Your plan will eventually morph into something you didn’t originally intend and (2) You will never get that 5% on board anyway.

Communicate. Don’t put this on your to-do list and then cross it off when completed. You will never be done communicating. From conception to congratulations, communications will play a vital role in the success of any change process. Communicate timing. Communicate intent. Communicate changes in the plan. Communicate recognition. Communicate progress. Then communicate some more.

And finally, all change is loss and all loss must be grieved. I don’t say this as a low note. It is an inevitable part of life. Accept it, not as a roadblock to be overcome but as a sign that you have in fact reached that point where the inevitability of change has arrived and it is time to move on; time to implement that change. We get over this grief. Sometimes we need help but we always get over it. In the end, you will have made a change for the better.

You can contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or call at (415) 265-1621

Jim Dillingham, Partner

Shiftwork Solutions LLC

 

Preparation is part of Doing

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I just saw a post on LinkedIn where a LEAN expert mentioned that 20% of implementing LEAN is having the right tools. The other 80% is mindset. In other words, the table must be set in order for dinner to be served.

It strikes me that this is an “oft-overlooked” phase of every project.

I worked with a company charged with writing software for an entire state’s medical insurance program. There were several hundred programmers; all of them busy all of the time. As I began my process of evaluating the workload in preparation for a schedule change I was surprised at what most of their work consisted of.

When I asked, “What do you spend your time doing every day?” The average answer came back as “I spend 80% of my time with my customer, identifying their needs. I spend the remaining 20% writing code.” Another instance of “measuring twice before cutting once”.

I recently had a deck at my house painted. It took about 20 hours. This wasn’t a large deck and I expected it to take much less time (although I wasn’t in a hurry). As I watched the painters work, I noticed that nearly all of their time was spend sanding and taping off different areas. When it come to actually painting…that took no time at all.

Whether its implementing a LEAN program or writing code or painting a deck, preparation is the key to success.

In my world at Shiftwork Solutions, things are no different. Implementing a shift schedule takes preparation as well as process. In a sense, the preparation is part of the process. Sure, you can go online and find schedules anywhere; we even put them on our website. But don’t be fooled into thinking that what you have found is the key to success – because its not.

My advice – Do it right the first time.

If want to know what that means, give me a call at (415) 265-1621.

Be Careful What You Ask For – Part One

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Once upon a time, about 28 years ago now, nearly every 24/7 operation in the country was using some version of a rotating 8-hour schedule.  Ten years ago, I used to ask large groups of employees if any of them have ever worked one of those outdated 8-hour schedules and inevitably, several hands would go up.

Now…no one remembers.

There is a problem with this.  People are no longer going to 12-hour shifts and saying “Thank God that 8-hour rotating beast went away.”  Instead, they are born into 12-hour shifts, with no knowledge of what the old schedules used to look like.

So, what are they saying now?  They are saying “12-hours is too long to work.  I want to go to an 8-hour schedule.”

They say this thinking that they will somehow reduce the length of the shift and not have to go to work 50% more days of the year.  They don’t know that they are really asking to give up half of their weekends.  The certainly don’t know that they are asking to give up their fixed shifts for rotating ones.

The cure for this is information.  When your workforce brings up the “shift is too long” issue, all you need to do is make sure they completely understand what the alternative is.

While I have never had anyone tell me “I love being at work for 12 hours,” I also have never had someone say “I really want to work more days for less money and fewer weekends off while rotating through all the different shifts every four weeks.”

Here are a couple of charts that will hopefully help to demonstrate what you are getting into with 8-hour shifts.  I use the most popular 8-hour 24/7 pattern there is. In the example, I use 12 employees to make 3 show up 24/7.

Slide1Slide2Slide3If you have any questions about these schedules, this blog post or anything else with regards, to shift work, please contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or call at (415) 265-1621.

 

The next generation of shift work schedules

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As unemployment drops and wage pressures rise, companies are scrambling to find ways to attract people.  This is an especially challenging task for companies that work around the clock.  How can they be expected to attract people to jobs that require work on nights and weekends?

Here is an example of two schedules that work in tandem.

Let’s start with the situation.  This company had a very popular shift schedule (12-hour, 2-3-2 pattern) and yet, they were having trouble recruiting people to the night shift.  They were doing some things right: (1) Used fixed shifts and (2) paid a 12% shift premium for nights.  Still, they were having trouble.  Since people were not sticking around, training was a problem as well as staffing.  How could they attract quality people to nights, get them trained by senior people on days all the while giving them a Night Shift schedule that many would prefer to work over the existing Day Shift pattern.

We recommended the following:

Keep the 12-hour day shift pattern as it is

Replace the night shift pattern with one that has fewer short breaks, some day shift exposure and more weekend off.  Below is a copy of the schedule.A few notes about the features:

Slide1A few notes about the features:

  1. The Day shift is staffed by 2 crews.  Their schedule’s pay week starts on Sunday.
  2. The Night shift is staffed by 5 half-crews.  Their schedule’s pay week starts on Monday.
  3. Day shift people can take 24 hours of vacation on either Monday/Tuesday of week 1 or Wednesday/Thursday of week 2.  This 24 hour vacation nets them 7 days off in a row and thus represents prime vacation time for the Day Shift.
  4. Since the Night Shift is broken up into half-crews, two crews will show up every day to make up a full crew.
  5. Nights have a 7-day break every 5 weeks.  They also have two 3-day weekends off (in addition to the long break) every 5 weeks.
  6. Nights can get a 14 day vacation break using 32 hours of vacation time if they take off during week 2.
  7. Once, every five weeks, each crew rotates into week 2 where they go to days.  While on Day Shift they can be trained, relieve others for training or cover the expected high vacation rates on these days.

This is an example of a schedule working for the company instead of the other way around.  All too often, companies see their schedule as a static situation; one they must change their operation to conform to.  The reality is that a schedule can be used to enhance product flow, increase employee morale, lower costs, control overtime, flex the workforce, match the workload and much much more.

If you have any questions, here is my contact information:

  • Jim Dillingham, Partner at Shiftwork Solutions
  • Cell: (415) 265-1621
  • Email: Jim@shift-work.com

 

Sleepiness and the Shiftworker

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This is a 31 minute presentation on the impact of sleepiness on your workforce.  Included are some suggestions for improving the alertness of your employees.  This presentation will run automatically when you click on the picture below and has sound so make sure you have the time and have your headphones ready.

Presentation on Shiftwork and Sleepiness for blog post

Shift Scheduling for Distribution Centers

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Let’s start with the disclaimer that “I am not showing you the answer to scheduling for every distribution center in the world.”

My intent is to show you what I commonly run across as an issue with many of the distribution centers I have worked with.

That issue is an unbalanced workload.

Consider the following chart:

Slide1This is a graphic representation from a recent project; one in which my task was to match the “Shape of the Workforce” to the “Shape of the Workload.”

You will notice that staffing is much lower between 6:00 pm to 6:00 am than it is from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Like many distribution centers, the workload is lighter during the night than it is during the day.  This is not by choice.  Rather, outside influencers (delivery trucks etc) are not inclined to work during the nights even if the D.C. wants them to.

You will also notice that there is less staffing on Saturday and Sunday than there is during the weekdays. This is due to the same reason as the workload dropping off at night.

Still, this facility is running 24/7 even though at different paces, depending on the time of day and day of the week.

When faced with this type of situation, many companies feel they have only two scheduling solutions.  One solution is to pretend that they are not a 24/7 operation.  They do this by staffing three 8-hour shifts during the week.  The put fewer people on the night shifts because of the lower workload.  This is a Half-Good idea.  It solves the problem of less work when its dark.  However, it fails to address the on-going weekend work.  That coverage is generally left to overtime; not a bad idea unless the overtime is too high.

A second common solution is to put in a 24/7 schedule.  This is typically a 12-hour schedule with two Day shift crews and two Night shift crews.  They staff the Night shift with fewer people so as to better match lower work at nights.  However, this can often result in over-staffing on the weekend Day shifts.

The best schedule is one that matches the “Shape of the Workforce” to the “Shape of the Workload” as closely as possible.  Any mismatch should be seen as an unnecessary cost; weather that cost if from overtime/fatigue or from over-staffing.

One thing you can do is to see how much flexibility your “Workload Shape” has.  Can you move work to other parts of the week?  You don’t have to do this, but it does help to identify the degrees of freedom you have when rearranging your workforce.

Another thing is to look at complex scheduling solutions.  A “complex solution” is one that requires more than one approach.   In the case with the chart above, we did the following:

  1. Verified that some work could flow into Saturday from Friday without cost.
  2. Verified that work could be pulled forward from Monday to Sunday without cost. (note: steps 1 and 2 helped to level the workload and promote more streamlined operations)
  3. Implemented a 12-hour, 7-day schedule that covered all the hours in the week between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm.
  4. Retained three 8-hour crews to add to the workforce Monday – Friday.
  5. Distributed the workforce amongst the different schedules in such a way as to retain some overtime while never over-staffing.  This helped to meet the expectations of the workforce while not incurring additional costs
  6. And most importantly – We got the workforce involved.  They helped to pick the schedule patterns, the shift hours and the amounts of overtime.

Remember, a workforce that helps develop the schedule will be a workforce that owns and supports the schedule.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at (415) 265-1621 or Jim@shift-work.com

 

Shift Schedules for the Food Manufacturing Industry

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Shift work – The more you learn about it, the more you find out how much you didn’t know.

I have friends that know very little about what I do for a living.  When I say “I evaluate, design and implement shift schedules,” they will respond with “Aren’t all shift schedules basically the same?”

I will respond with something neutral like “sometimes” and leave it at that.  They are laymen who are not involved in the business of running a business that needs to cover something other than Monday through Friday, day shift.

However, if you are in that business, the business using shift work, then you know what I’m saying when I tell you, “There is far more to shift work than schedules.”

To this end, I have decided to write a series of blogs that talk about how shift work varies from one industry to the other.

I will start with the Food Manufacturing Industry.

The one thing that sets the Food Manufacturing Industry apart from all others is the need to sanitize.  Depending on the nature of their product and process, this can mean shutting down weekly or even daily for several hours to clean.

Most companies over-clean.  They do this because their shift schedule makes them do it.

Over-cleaning creates overtime.  It increases costs and eats into valuable capacity (it’s not unusual for a food production line to cost well over $10 million.)

How does the schedule make them do this?

Following a typical growth pattern for most industries, they handled expansion through a combination of capital acquisition and the addition of afternoon and night shifts.  They plan for 5-day operations and base their capacity on that.

Now, let’s take a 3 typical sanitation requirements and see how a schedule affects them.

  1. You must clean when you shut down.  This requirement has nothing to do with periodicity.  So, if you shut down every day, then you must clean every day.  If you shut down once a week, then you must clean once a week.  If you never shut down, then you must never clean due to this requirement alone.
  2. You must clean when you change products, especially if allergens are part of the equation.  If you are running, for example, 5 lines Monday through Friday and you need to convert one of the lines over to peanut-free, then you must shut down that line and clean it.  This takes that expensive line out of the production mode which means (assuming you need the production) either weekend work or the need to buy more capital.  If you had an idle line, you could simply set up that line and then shift to it when needed.  A better schedule can make this happen.
  3. You must shut down based on a biological emergence rate.  Bacteria become a hazard in a very predictable time frame based on conditions.  The same is true for a number of other pests. The schedule being worked has no impact on this.

Let’s suppose that in you operation, you are running 7 lines for 5 days.  This means you are using 35 line-days a week.

Suppose you went to running 5 lines for 7 days a week.  This still gives you 35 line-days a week.  However, this also addresses the first two issues above.  Running 24/7 on a line means you no longer have to clean a line weekly just because you are shutting down weekly.  It also frees up other lines so you can switch from one line to the other without experiencing lost production time.

So, just looking at sanitation alone, we can see that just changing from 5 day operation to 7 day operation can save capacity and eliminate over-sanitation.

Freeing up extra lines also allows maintenance to work on equipment without having to wait until the weekend (where they now try to do a week’s work in 2 days.)

Freeing up extra line also allows you to do setups on one line while the other line is running.  You can then shift to the newly set up line without losing production.

Does this mean that you should be running your operation 24/7?

It’s never that easy.  Food Manufacturing has a lot of moving parts, schedule-wise.  Sanitation aside there is also seasonality, new product introduction etc.

The best schedule is one that carefully considers everything from both a business and an employee perspective.  Every industry is unique.  Every company is unique.  Every facility is unique.

It should not come as a surprise that every shift work solution is unique as well.

My name is Jim Dillingham.  If you have any questions, please call me at (415) 265-1621 or send me an email at Jim@shift-work.com.

Don’t tell me what to do!

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After 26 years of working with hourly employees all the way up to senior corporate executives, one thing strikes me as a universal truth – We don’t like to be told what to do.

Shift workers are no different.

Knowing this, at Shiftwork Solutions, we have developed a process of communication and participation to help us through our change process.

Companies typically come to us with a shiftwork issue such as “I need to start running my 5-day operation 24/7.”  They expect us to do some math, which we do.  They expect us to work out the policies and staffing numbers, which we do.  They expect us to examine product flow and create a solution that fits their entire situation, which we do.

But most of all, they expect us to bring the workforce along on the ride.

We accomplish this using the following basic steps:

  1. We make sure the reason for change is real and understandable.  This is then communicated to the workforce.  Instead of saying, “We are changing,” we say “We need to change and this is why.”
  2. We tell the workforce what their level of involvement will be.  While some decisions are the job of upper management, many issues can, and should, be resolved using input from those most affected.  For example, the workforce can’t say, “Turn down that customer order because I want the day off.”  However, they can say, “I like this amount of overtime and I like my shifts to start at this time and I like longer shifts to give me more days off.”  All of these preferences can be managed in such a way as to have no impact on cost structures or productivity.  In short, if you can find areas to let the employees have their say, then do it.
  3. We educate the workforce.  This comes down to eliminating the fear of the unknown.  People that are unclear on what is happening tend to resist change.  They can become angry over a situation that only exists in their mind; where they filled in the blanks because no one else would.  They need to know what is possible and not possible.  For example, employees prefer you to hire additional crews to work weekends.  If you just say no, then the argument still exists.  If you say, “No and this is why,” the argument, and thus resistance fades away.

These three steps are very broad-strokes being used to briefly explain a complicated process.  The basic point is this: If you want to maximize the result of any change, then use a process that results in the workforce supporting that change.

If you have any questions, I can be reached at Jim@shift-work.com or you can call me at (415) 265-1621.