fWith Thanksgiving a week away, we are in the home stretch for preparations, and it’s no small task to be in charge of making sure the day goes off without a hitch. Thanksgiving Success for us means that the house is readied, people are gathered, food is consumed and enjoyed, games are played, arguments are avoided, and, ideally, families and friends leave with a desire for a repeat performance next year. The crowd for Thanksgiving is typically about 30 or so, which includes immediate family (with a few boyfriends and girlfriends), grandparents on both sides, siblings and their families, in-laws, sibling in-laws, and a few straggler friends. As Customer Success Leader for our family’s Thanksgiving, I recognize that pulling this off is all about Capacity Management.
Good capacity management plans provide clear insight into:
- When and how to introduce additional resources to accommodate growth
- When and how to segment services to improve efficiency
- How to restructure to reduce bottlenecks
- How to create availability to respond quicker to customers
- How to create better proactive routines to reduce reactive patterns of activity
- Identification of opportunities for improved collateral and information resources that will reduce the need for repeating information to customers and internal resources.
For Successful Thanksgiving preparations, these insights are essential. If I do this right, I should know the answers to some key questions:
- Should my daughter be allowed to bring her boyfriend (who is strong and can help with heavy lifting and contribute to the family football game, but who may also eat more than a single serving of just about everything)?
- What chores can be done ahead of time, and who should do them? (who will be in town early enough to help with ironing the linens and make the pies, and who will I have to tap that day to peel the potatoes?)
- How do I create a seating chart that takes into account personalities of the guests such that there won’t be long lulls at one end of the table and political fighting at the other?
- What should I take care of earlier in the day and delegate later on so that I can be available to manage the timely and hot delivery of all food items to the table?
- Should I pull together a menu for my Dad so that he won’t ask me 10 times in the day what we’re eating and when?
So, let’s do this.
First, I need to know my available resources. Availability is the combined time dedicated to a process by a group of resources. In the case of my family Thanksgiving, I have the following resources:
|Resources||Availability/Talents||Total Workforce Availability|
|Customer Success Manager (me)||Unlimited. Will fill in where needed.|
|(3) Grandparents||1 of them is a negative availability. The two grandmas can help with some of the preparations, but we don’t want to task them with too much. I’d give them both 2 hours.||4 Hours|
|(5) Husbands and other adult males||Good for heavy lifting and cleanup duties, but not much else. Could also get injured during football game, so actual availability could be lower. I’d give them each an average of 2 hours.||10 Hours|
|(4) Adult females (sisters, in-laws, friends)||The workhorses for the day, but not available ahead of time. The only risk to their availability is too much wine at (or before) dinner. I’d give them each an average of 4 hours.||16 Hours|
|(7) Female teenagers/ young adults||This resource can also be (guilted into being) strong workers. Their biggest distraction could be the male teenagers, but they’re each good for some help in advance, and some good clean-up help. They are good for 2 hours each. Some of these resources are available the week prior to Thanksgiving.||14 Hours|
|(8) Male teenagers/ young adults||Again, this is a group that can be guilted into helping. They offer brute strength for table set-up, turkey hoisting, and clean-up. They are eager to eat, so they can be of great help on the set-up side (and for the football game earlier in the day). They are good for 2 hours each. Some of these resources are available the week prior to Thanksgiving.||16 Hours|
|TOTAL RESOURCE HOURS OF AVAILABILITY||60 Hours (+ Management)|
Do we have capacity?
Now we need to understand the work that needs to be done, and determine if we have capacity to pull this off. What activities need to be done, and what is the estimation of time/work/talent that’s required to complete each activity well, such that the event is a success and the customers (also the workforce in this case, but that’s because it’s family) want to come back again next year? Here’s a to-do list I’ve developed based upon past years, including estimated time (and notes regarding specific talents required):
- Shop for food – 4 hours (must be available earlier in the week. I’ll likely do this myself)
- Iron linens – 2 hours (this can be done a week ahead of time)
- Clean the house – 4 hours (this can be done a week ahead of time)
- Make place cards – 1 hour (this can be done a week ahead of time, and requires good handwriting)
- Set tables – 2 hour
- Brine turkey – 1 hour (this must be done the night before, and is best done by someone with some culinary talents)
- Cook turkey – 5 hours (culinary talents are a requisite talent for this job, too)
- Peel potatoes. Mash potatoes. – 2 hours (someone who doesn’t have much culinary talent, but thinks they do is ideal for this job)
- Make stuffing and other side dishes – 6-8 hours (great jobs to delegate or outsource)
- Make and bake pies – 8 –10 hours (another great job to delegate or outsource)
- Play football – 2 hours (X 12 – 16 people – 28 hours. This takes a chunk of our resources out of commission for a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. It could take additional resources out of commission if any of them get injured.)
- Watch football (See above note – 28 hours. Same numbers and same possible net availability.)
TOTAL HOURS: 95 hours
Before we do final calculations and manage capacity for this event, we must look at effort. There are three types of effort, productive, non-productive, and wasted effort. Productive (P) effort includes those activities which directly contribute to the customer’s success. Non-productive (NP) effort includes those activities which are necessary, but do not contribute directly to the customer’s success. And Wasted (W) effort includes those activities that are often unplanned and result in a loss of productivity.
In the case of my Thanksgiving Day event, I can designate each of the tasks as P, NP, and W.
- Shop for food – P
- Iron linens – P
- Set out silverware, plates, serving utensils, etc. – P
- Make place cards – P
- Set tables – P
- Brine turkey – P
- Cook turkey – P
- Peel potatoes. Mash potatoes. – P
- Make stuffing and other side dishes – P
- Make and bake pies – P
- Play football – NP
- Watch football – W (see note above)
At first look we appear to have more hours of work required than we have resources. Our capacity is, at first calculation, insufficient (60 hours of workforce and 95 hours of “work” required). However, if we remove the Non-productive and wasted efforts, we see that we have full capacity to pull off the work required to deliver to our customer’s satisfaction – 39 hours of work and 60 hours of available resources. A deeper look at the skillsets available and the task descriptions (time and talent required) offers insight into even finer-tuned capacity management. I can easily determine who to tap for which jobs, and when to do that, so that we create efficiencies and availability to do some non-productive tasks, such as football.
So, back to the original questions and insights I hoped to be able to derive from my capacity analysis:
- Should my daughter be allowed to bring her boyfriend (who is strong and can help with heavy lifting and contribute to the family football game, but who may also eat more than a single serving of just about everything)? – YES. We’ll need him, and we can accommodate his appetite if we plan appropriately.
- What chores can be done ahead of time, and who should do them? (who will be in town early enough to help with ironing the linens and make the pies, and who will I have to tap that day to peel the potatoes?) – Looks like shopping, linens, table prep and some food preparations can and should be done early so that there’s more free time to enjoy the day. These tasks should be assigned to
- How do I create a seating chart that takes into account personalities of the guests such that there won’t be long lulls at one end of the table and political fighting at the other? – This requires a deeper dive into resources, including Meyer’s-Briggs personality assessments and political inclinations questionnaires.
- What should I take care of earlier in the day and delegate later on so that I can be available to manage the timely and hot delivery of all food items to the table? – Should have plenty of resources to delegate tasks to, as long as I properly manage the timing and intensity of the football (live and televised).
- Should I pull together a menu for my Dad so that he won’t ask me 10 times in the day what we’re eating and when?– Always a good idea. Keeping customers informed and holding yourself accountable is one way to manage capacity.