A recurring challenge to anyone with an OTIF (On Time In Full) issue is managing the front end. The back end of the process is often where people focus. Getting the project signed off, or the products out of the door, is normally where the pressure is.
We are familiar with the final steps in our process. They get a disproportionate amount of focus when things go wrong, so we get to know them better. Their counterparts are often the poor relative by comparison.
The front end tasks, that I am referring to, are the tasks before you start doing the work. These are planning, scheduling and preparatory steps. The trouble with these kinds of steps is that the world doesn’t fall apart immediately if you don’t do them…
… the pain is often felt later, when OTIF is at risk. When the customer isn’t happy. When the staff are quitting due to overwork and stress. When backlogs start to appear. When supply chain difficulties become all too clear.
The key takeaway from this article is to ensure that you focus on the front end of your delivery processes. If you put the right focus onto the start of your activities, the back end tends needs less attention.
But, how do we do this?
Let me share with you a few strategies that can help you to have an easier life with your OTIF performance:
Depending on how fast your ‘production’ process is, a daily process driven meeting is a good option. The agenda for this type of meeting focuses on effective outputs. It reviews performance at several locations, helping to ensure ownership of the process.
Clarification of what people need to prepare ahead of the daily meeting is a key part of this approach. The agenda is a series of questions, each one designed to check that the process is working.
If the responses aren’t positive there should be clear guidance provided. The team need to know what actions they should plan in advance.
Check out my book Sunrise Meetings, for more ideas on this approach.
If your production process is longer, checklists might be a better way forward.
Break your process down into stages and define effective handovers. What do you need to complete before the next stage starts? Each item becomes a check on your checklist.
Figure out who needs to give and receive during each handover. Formalise the handover activity as appropriate.
Make sure that each deliverable (checklist item) is clear enough to avoid arguments. If you want some help with this, check out my book What Does Good Look Like? for some ideas.
A good checklist is worth the time and effort to design and complete. And, if done right, will help you avoid the problems outlined at the start of this article.
Roles and responsibilities
Let’s not forget clear roles and responsibilities. Making sure that your team know who owns which part of a process can make for fast improvements.
You don’t have to keep responsibilities to the confines of a job description document. Your list could be a spreadsheet that outlines who handles what part of a process. If there are specific tasks assigned to only one person, you can document these here also.
Note – using a centralised approach like this can help clarify what gap is being created when someone leaves. This helps when redistributing work or looking for a replacement.
When people know that they are responsible, behaviour has a chance of changing.
Cause and effect
I hope that this article has given you some ideas on changing your approach to managing OTIF. The principles are the same whatever line of work you are in. This could be multi year projects, ongoing service delivery or fast paced manufacturing.
The approach here centres on fixing problems at their source. We don’t want to wait until we get to the end of the activity to bail out team.
By doing the above, or similar, you will also get the benefit of not relying on individuals. There should no longer be one person standing on their own trying to organise chaos. The team should be clearer on the expectations of them. Individuals should be more accountable. Results should change for the better.
Delivering on time can involve many different people, suppliers and processes. Play with the ideas in this article and see if you can come up with an approach that would suit your business.