Ah … golf in February. We thought that picture might draw your attention, especially if your yard happens to be full of snow right now. Actually, that picture illustrates a clever analogy in the excerpt that follows below. This is a part of the "Tech Talk" article on workforce management by Charter VP Operations Engineering (and SCTE At-Large Director) Tom Gorman, which will appear in the March issue of Communications Technology. For the actual tips from Tech Pro Gorman, please stay tuned for the March issue. Meanwhile, maybe this teaser from Gorman’s article will get those of you with experience on the operations side of the fence thinking about how to improve workforce management (if not golf game): It happens every day. Tens of thousands of installers, service techs, contractors and maintenance techs leave the office with a handful of work orders to install, upgrade, disconnect and provide service to cable customers from coast to coast. Supervisors then retreat to their offices, check email, attend planning meetings and believe that their work force is doing all it can to provide service to their customers. In many cases, employees are managed by the "no news is good news" method; if no customer calls to complain, we must be doing a good job. But the truth is, there is limited visibility into our field force workday. One of the basics in management theory is called MBWA, or "management by walking around." The idea is that in a factory environment, the mere fact that a supervisor is present will cause an increase in work productivity. But the field supervisor doesn’t have that luxury. Each individual is driving a truck and is, in effect, his or her own boss. Automated workforce management systems have matured to the point where there are great proven results in productivity improvements. They are not, however, a panacea that will cure all the ills of supervising a field force. As a matter of fact, they may only serve to automate bad habits. Here’s an analogy: If I went out to the golf store and bought a $500 driver, expecting to go on the pro tour, I would be sadly disillusioned. The truth is, my swing is really bad. I should be interested in buying that driver when my desire is to shave two or three strokes off my game because I’ve got everything else working right. So it is with automated systems. They will certainly "shave strokes" off your game and make for a much improved operation, but consider a few things that can be done in a nonautomated fashion to improve performance and productivity.