Comparing Back Office WFM to music.

January 14 –

One of the great privileges of my childhood was being able to take music lessons. I was involved in choirs and took violin, and piano. I was not the best at music and music theory, but it was fun, and it taught me a lot about practice, discipline, and even math. The timing in music is a sort of equation. Notes must add up to equal the beats in a measure. You have to know the speed, beat, and temp of each measure and bar. Music also has incredible variety. You have some works that are complex with orchestration, harmonies, and vocals; others are simple songs with merely a single instrument, or vocalist. However, they are all songs, music, and works in their own right. No two pieces are exactly the same.

In many ways that is like the contact center and back office WFM Community. There is no one type, no one standard, but there is one language. A trained musician can pick up any score and translate notation into sound that corresponds to the notes on the page. In the same way a workforce professional can take data, skill sets, and trends and translate them into a workable plan for an operations team to execute. However, for a musician to translate music they have to know and understand rhythm and timing, as well as the genre of music so that it sounds right, not mechanical.  The same is true of a workforce professional. If you don’t know your genre, your plan will miss the soul of your organization, and it will fall flat.

No two scenarios or organizations are alike. Each has its own rhythm, its own timing for workload, demand, and staffing.  Workforce theory and best practices define the common methodology for planning, the same way notation and rhythm define musical expression commonly. In order for a conductor or musician to bring the notes to life they have to understand the unique nuisances and rhythms of the piece at hand. In the same way the workforce professional has to understand their context.

Your notation and rhythm are your demand and arrival pattern, shrinkage, attrition, and AHT for task. Looking at raw numbers you can get an idea what’s needed. However, understanding the intricacy of how the rhythm that underlay your inputs are applied is what delivers your masterpiece. There are many ways to become fluent in your rhythm. Reviewing historical data is one. Others include spending time with the agents who do the work you are planning for. Also embedding yourself with operations, quality,  and training allows you to translate the raw numbers to an insightful plan, that transcends just data. Knowing the rhythm of your center or group gives soul and context to your planning.

In short, get to know not only the cycles of your organization, but what drives it. Create for yourself a way to score the harmony and timing of what is coming and going. Spend time understanding training, call types, skills, the issues agents face, and any forms of time demand placed on associates that pull them from primary tasks. When you do this, you can become the composer you were meant to be, and then operations can conduct your masterpiece, because it is better tailored for their needs. Know your story, know your song, so you can create the right rhythm for your business. Once you can compose fluently for your organization, you’ll all create great music for your customers, members, or clients.

Note:  This week’s tip was provided by SWPP Board Member Marshall Lee.   He can be reached at