The Power of One

I think the planning community is acutely aware of the ‘power of one’ upon a plan. However, it continually surprises me how many times an operational manager will say “it’s just one person”or an agent has no idea of the effect on service level that one or two people can have – what possible difference could it make if I just log off a couple of minutes early for lunch?

There are various creative ways of getting this point across, ranging from more presentations of scenarios to more creative fun activities that prove the point… my favourite involves balloons, what’s yours?
The point is that educating front-line colleagues on the “power of one” can have extremely positive impacts by helping them to understand the importance of schedule adherence and increasing their cooperation with the schedule process.
So what is the “power of one” and without using balloons how would you explain it? Well like in many workforce planning scenarios it depends, and in this case it depends upon the size of the operation and what you are currently achieving in terms of Service Level.
It should be pretty obvious that the smaller the operation, the greater the % share of workload is handled by any one person, and therefore the bigger the impact of one person’s contribution on Service Level.
However dig a little deeper and you find that current Service Level Achievement, also has a major impact on how much “power” the one has. The “Power of One” and Service Level achievement are not on a straight line.
In the graph below (the vertical being the Average Speed to Answer and the horizontal being the number of agents) it shows that the impact of one person would be minimal when going from 67 to 66, with an ASA increase of only 2 seconds. However, at the other end of the scale dropping one person from 61 to 60 has a 135 second impact. This means that if you are having a strong day, taking that agent off for coaching will have minimal impact, but if Service Levels are already poor that one person has more than a x100 impact.


For many planners “the power of one” can be old hat, but don’t forget that in a fluid operation there will be many people who don’t understand what the impact one person can have. Whether it’s better schedule adherence, more operational buy-in, or just better staffing decisions made in allowing off-phone activity the “power of one” is tremendously important and you neglect it at your own peril.

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