A bad workman blames his tools – Shift Planning and the Olympics

Posted by Rachael Pullen on September 25, 2012

London is the host city for the 2012 Olympics and with all eyes on the UK critics are wondering what fiasco will happen to create eternal embarrassment. With the issues of India’s commonwealth games fresh in everyone’s minds the whole country has been on tenterhooks, fingers crossed, waiting with baited breath, praying that nothing goes wrong. Huge amounts of planning has gone into every eventuality; and everything seemed to be running smoothly until the athletes arrived and flaws in the security planning were blown up to epic proportions in the world’s media – a blow for London just weeks before the games begin.

Security is an important feature in any industry, in today’s world the security of employees, customers and the general public is a major factor to any business. In any major public event security takes on an even greater importance and with an event like the Olympics it is one of the greatest concerns for all involved. Why therefore did London fail in such a fundamental planning element? Easy – London chose the cheapest contract option, and then the contractor employed to supply the resources, G4S, failed monumentally in the delivery of trained security staff.

G4S – a world leader in international security solutions – took the blame heavily in the media, and their CEOdecided to blame the fiasco on their scheduling software claiming it was to blame for not working efficiently, stating that the system had been hindered by people just not turning up for shifts. The outcome? London has had to draft in thousands of soldiers to protect the games at the last minute.

The traditional adage is that a bad workman blames his tools. Is it actually not a more fundamental problem when a bad workman selects the wrong tools in the first place? It’s an easy option to blame the software and use it as a scapegoat, but as another saying goes buy cheaply buy twice.

What G4S had failed to do was recognise in the early stages of planning what was needed for the long term and how they would use shift planning for the entire event not just day to day.

G4S needed to have an optimised scheduling system which is flexible and adjusts to the circumstances that occur not just day-by-day but hour-by-hour. Shift planning involves more than just who works when, it involves capacity planning and contingency cover for when issues like people not turning up for shifts occur.

The consequence for G4S has been dramatic not only do they stand to lose around £50m ($75m) they have irreversibly damaged the organisation’s reputation – a loss which cannot be measured.

So if your business is considering a shift scheduling solution, take heed of the hard lesson that G4S have had to learn and talk to the market leaders who understand the end-to-end solution and provide long term systems that work in real world scenarios.