"Please get the milk" or "Kronos Pay Codes?"

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"Please get the milk" or "Kronos Pay Codes?"

If you have been following the last few blogs on strategic reconciliation in the Kronos WFM environment you know that I have been digging up some rather old but timeless principles about strategy and tactics from Sun Tzu the 6th century BC Chinese military leader. I promised that in this edition I would rejoin modern society and showcase these principles at work in two actual WFM implementations. More specifically, the actual consequences of ignoring these principles as well as the salvation of applying them.

In the past examples, you may have noted several concubines and at least one Chinese foot-soldier were executed. In the interest of maintaining similar drama in our present example, not to mention honesty, I should warn you that a consultant did not survive the end of the project in our first example. I know, I know… it makes me shiver too but that is what really happened.

The first project was in a company that needed to solve three major competitive issues:

  1. high labor costs

  2. falling product quality

  3. poor costing transparency

This was actually stated on a power-point slide in their last big internal operations review as cause for their diminishing market share. Some pages later, I noticed on their list of capital projects a ‘ShopFloor Time Clock System’. Under the ‘Benefits and ROI’ column it stated ‘Needed to achieve strategic goals in cost management & product quality’. Again, if you don’t believe the ‘S’ word (strategic) has the ability to convince people whatever follows has amazing problem solving powers you need to be more wary. Moreover, rest assured this effect is cumulative once you commit the dollars to it. In this case, it was now a $250,000 strategic capital project and, like Sun Tzu and a quarter-million infantry, had an air of invincibility to it.

Most unlike Sun Tzu, however, was the consultant/general —we’ll call him ‘G’ – that was hired to drive the project. I first met with G in order to work out the plan for interfacing the new time-keeping system to payroll. I had been given a list of (page of) pay codes that were being proposed and I had a lot of questions. During this meeting G’s pager went off numerous times with the most annoying high-pitched beeping sound. (This was before cell phones and the ability to buy annoying ringtones). At each review of the pager’s LCD display he would consult a little laminated card. It turned out that he and his girlfriend had come up with about 30 different two-digit numerical codes they used to send more meaningful messages to each other.  ‘01’ – for ‘Leaving Work’, ’02’ for ‘Please get milk’…. Seriously.  I’m not kidding. I stopped reading after seeing number 10. Did I mention there were 30?!?

“But back to the pay codes” he said. “That’s only a partial list so far. I’m meeting with the cost guy tomorrow and I’m sure he will need more. It’s part of our strategy on reducing cost thru better labor transparency… better we meet after then, ok?”. I faked a nod of understanding and turned to leave. As I was walking out I passed the safety manager on her way to G’s office. G’s pager went off again and he shut the door--- “What was that high-pitched whine?” the safety manager asked. Sounds like the noise before defeat if you ask me.


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