What's a good analogy for prioritizing work process tasks?
August 21, 2014 11:19 AM   Subscribe

At my company customers place orders online. Orders get selected for fraud screening and need to be worked in the most efficient way possible. Some orders take priority (customer pays for rush shipping and order needs to be screened today, so the warehouse can get it out the door). Currently orders are split into separate reports based on priority and workers are assigned to one report at a time. I want to combine them all into one report and assign all workers to that report.

By sorting all orders by priority and date/time they were placed, I believe it will increase efficiency. Others are afraid that if everyone is working on priority orders first, they will never make a dent in "normal" orders (which are the majority). What is a good analogy to illustrate my point?
posted by robadobdob to Human Relations (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you know what percentage of potentially fraudulent orders are priority?

If an employee processes, say, one or two priority orders per day, then there shouldn't be a problem getting to non-priority orders for processing.
posted by tckma at 11:25 AM on August 21, 2014

Best answer: Couldn't you prioritize all orders by due date, regardless of when they were placed? If regular orders don't really have a due date, assign them one based on the order date plus your average turn around time.
posted by soelo at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Others are afraid that if everyone is working on priority orders first, they will never make a dent in "normal" orders

This is a silly argument. If you do not have capacity to complete all of the priority orders in a day, then you will have a continuously increasing backlog of orders that never finishes. Note, this is invariant of how you treat those orders.

If those people are right, then you are overselling the "rush" service (because you can't reliably "rush" the orders due to your order completion capability), but that is true regardless of how you prioritize the orders.

The way to solve this is (as soelo notes on preview) to sort orders based on their due date and process them in that order. You will very quickly find out if you have to few resources to complete orders, because you will start not meeting due dates.
posted by saeculorum at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A good analogy is punching alligators vs. draining the swamp.

Getting through all the standing orders is draining the swamp. Punching alligators is putting all your resources on "priority" orders while the standing orders languish.

You want to have enough people punching alligators that the alligators don't eat the people trying to drain the swamp. Split up your teams -- one team screens priorities for fraud, one team process priorities, one team processes non-priorities for fraud, one team processes non-priorities not selected for fraud screening by due date.

Another analogy is an MMORPG, depending on the nerd-level of your workplace -- the warrior/tanks are killing the baddies (the priority order fraud-screens), the healers are keeping health up (the priority order non-fraud screens), the mages are warding future damage (fraud screening non-priority orders) and the rangers are behind them all, dealing damages to approaching foes (processing non-priority orders not selected for fraud screening). LEVEL UP!
posted by mibo at 6:37 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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