Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mass Scheduling Via Card Drafting Mechanic

Do you think it is easy to schedule 32 people for 96 different weekend shifts over 16 weeks?

It can be! It can be really easy! Keep reading and I will tell you how.

Ways its been done in the past: 1. Just pick dates for each person out of a hat. Good, but then you have to force people to take shifts they don't want. That leads to unhappiness.

Ok, well, just give everyone an opportunity to trade away the shifts they don't like. Good, but that could take a while, and you still might end up with people who have shifts they can't work.

2. Alternatively, have all the workers draw a draft number, and then let them choose shifts one at a time based on their draft number. This is a fair method, could take hours (approximately 6 hours with 32 workers and 96 shifts).

3. You could even implement a worker placement mechanic to gamify the process--something I've done before. Even with this strategy, it would still take way too long to schedule 32 people.

There has got to be a better way!

And, there is!

It's a somewhat common game mechanic called "Card Drafting" which could be described simply as drawing cards to your hand or play area from a common source.

Some notable games with card drafting are Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, and Dominion.

How can this help you schedule workers? Let me tell you what we did.

The New Way:

First, we made 96 cards by labeling note cards with a marker. Each card had a weekend shift labeled on it.

Second, we gave our staff a "heads up" by telling them to be prepared to make quick scheduling decisions and to bring their calendars to our next meeting. This is an important step.

On the day of the game, we shuffled all 96 cards, and put three face up on each of 32 chairs. After giving instructions about how the game was played, we had each staff member stand in front of one of the 32 chairs.

When we said, "Go!" each person looked at the three cards on their chair. They had 30 seconds to pick a card before we said, "Go!" again and told them to move to the next chair.

32 RAs picking shifts by drafting cards.

Every time we said "Go!" they had another 30 seconds. After a staff member had picked up three cards, they were done and had to go in another room to wait for everyone else.

There were only three rules to the card drafting:
1. You had to choose to pick up either one card or zero cards at each chair
2. Once you picked up a card you could not put it back down on any chair
3. You could not peak ahead at the next chair(s)

Make a quick decision: 1 or 0 cards

In our session, we only had to say "Go!" about 5 times (that's about 3 minutes total) before everyone had their three shifts selected. Then we gave them 5 minutes to make trades with each other before we had them write their names on their cards and turn them in.

For example, Player A stands in front of chair A which has three cards face up. The first card says Sept 27-28, the second says Oct 21-22, and the third says Nov 6-7. Player A chooses to pick up Sept 27-28, which means they will have to work the shift on that weekend. After the moderator says "Go!" Player A moves to Chair B, which only has two cards on it because Player B was just there and had already picked up one of them.

This scheduling game was an incredible success!

Not only did we schedule 32 staff members on 96 shifts over 14 weeks, we did it in less than 10 minutes, AND our staff members were complimenting us and telling us we should schedule this way next semester too.


This scheduling process could have been long and arduous. We could have just picked shifts and told them to "deal with it," but I believe there is always a better solution. A well-contrived game mechanic can make it possible to benefit all parties.

Some of the reasons why this works:
1. Its simple. With only three rules, everyone can understand.
2. It puts the onus on the worker to choose shifts they might not otherwise choose
3. It forces people to make decisions rapidly and to be prepared ahead of time
4. Its completely random and 100% fair

Try it. We used this game to schedule Resident Assistants at a State University for their On-Call shifts, but its application can go further.

We'd love to hear how you've adapted this game for your own organizations and institutions.

1 comment:

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