It’s All About Consistency…
Often referred to as the ‘beautiful’ game, football (that’s soccer if you happen to live in the US), has its similarities with a service operation. Where am I going with this, you may think? Well, you’ll soon find out. Anyone who watches football, either live or on television will recognize that the result often hinges on key decisions. These decisions are made by one individual (the referee) possibly with the help of his two linesmen or assistant referees as they are now called (amongst other ‘unofficial’ names). These 3 individuals are called upon to make decisions over and over again. Sometimes they get them right and sometimes they get them wrong because even now, in 2008, technology has been kept away from the game – decision making is entirely manual and unaided by technology. When a wrong decision is made, the impact of this decision will determine whether or not the mistake is highlighted and criticized in the media and on post-match TV programs. A referee is called upon to make split-second decisions in situations that are unclear. For example, he may need to decide if the ball has completely crossed the goal line (and therefore scoring one goal for the team) when there is a crowd of players blocking his view. Because the referee does not have x-ray vision, this prompts the argument for technology to be introduced in order to ensure better (and hopefully accurate) decision making.
Another added dimension is the fact that one referee may make a different decision than another referee in what is essentially the same set of circumstances. Frequently, we are shown highlights of football games where almost identical tackles have taken place. One referee has shown a red card to the player making the tackle, interpreting it as ‘serious foul play’ while the referee in the other game let the game continue without even showing a yellow card, interpreting it as ‘a fair challenge’. Just in case anybody is reading this who is not familiar with football (a.k.a. soccer) let me explain the significance of these cards – a red card is serious. It is a dismissal from the game. There’s no sin bin, there’s no return – you leave the game early, take a shower, and are not seen again. Then, just to add further pain, you receive a fine and then a ban from the football association for the next few games so you’re forbidden from participating. The team’s manager will be upset with you. The yellow card is a warning – yes, you’ll still receive a fine from the football association after the game because you’ve been bad – but your role in the current game continues…unless you’re bad again, as two yellow cards equals a red card so you’re off…got it?
It should be clear now that showing a red card has serious consequences and can alter the balance of the game so the decision must always be made correctly, but it isn’t. This situation has led players, managers and pundits to call for consistency in decision-making. In defense of the poor referee, you often hear the phrase ‘we’re only human’ because making mistakes is simply part of the human DNA!
So what does the above tell us?
- When a human has to make many split-second decisions in a short space of time they will make mistakes. Some mistakes will be more costly than others.
- Consistency in decision-making is what everyone is looking for and the introduction of technology can help achieve this.
Service organizations that we speak to today are increasingly looking for solutions capable of fully automatic optimization, in which manual intervention is the exception for the extreme and unusual cases only. The decisions that are made by the computers are based on service policies that have been put together by the executives. In essence, humans do the thinking and the interpretation of the anomalies. They leave the routine and regular number crunching and its associated decision making to the computers. There is no emotion involved, no lunch breaks to take, no subjectivity, and certainly no vacations! Beyond the benefits derived from consistent decision making and minimal dependence on the experience and knowledge of specific people, automatic optimization has been proven to produce schedules and capacity plans with significantly improved business metrics: higher productivity, lower travel, and higher compliance with service level commitments. Computers will always consistently outperform humans.
‘The beautiful game’ is under threat from poor and inconsistent decision-making. With the amount of money involved and the pressure for success of manager, players and Board Directors, technology needs to be introduced. It has been in other sports (think Tennis and Rugby – and technology there can often add to the experience and the suspense, and not be a distraction)…
Don’t let your service delivery suffer from the same inconsistent and therefore costly decision-making.