Planning and scheduling as an Olympic sport

By: Frank Steiner

I always enjoy watching the Olympic games on television. It is truly inspiring to watch and witness athletes achieving great feats, breaking personal records or even world records. All of these accomplishments are undoubtedly the result of many years of hard work and focus on the goals that these athletes set for themselves, individually or as a team. They have definitely dedicated many hours of training to achieve these goals, they have evaluated and fine-tuned their techniques, and they have created the right circumstances by properly planning their diets, travel schedules, training locations, tools, supporting staff, etc.

The focus that these athletes demonstrate in their preparation for the Olympics (or any other competition in which they strive to deliver their best performances) can be an inspiration for people in many other areas as well. Think, for example, about the planners in your company who have to make sure that the right people are lined up for the right tasks every day. They have to take into account many factors, including ever changing demand, employee preferences, labor laws and union agreements, while executive management expects nothing less than cost-effective operational excellence.Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, the job of a planner can be as easy as solving a simple puzzle, or it can be a huge daily challenge involving thousands of decisions and clear communication of the results. What does your planning team need to survive every day and do a great job? It turns out that it’s not much different from what the top athlete needs to perform well: clear goals, focus, and the right supporting environment.

At the Olympics, the difference between a “great” and “good” performance could be the difference between winning gold or possibly not winning any medal at all. When your planners perform their best and come up with the best possible plan, it might not result in a medal for them, but it may lead to another 2 or 3 % increase in utilization, delivery performance, employee satisfaction or whatever your company’s goal is. This means it is definitely worth defining your planners’ goals clearly, enabling them to focus and provide them with the right tools to support their decision making.

Planning and scheduling may not be an Olympic sport, but your planners no doubt help you overcome some challenging hurdles every single day. Given the importance of the role they play in making sure you stay ahead of your competition, you may consider handing out a medal to your top performing planners!