Windrows Scheduling and Communications Progress and Plans

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Princeton Windrows Technology Committee

Tech Committee
Bricolage Lab

Windrows Scheduling and Communications Progress and Plans[edit | edit source]

Draft as of 6/1/24

Bob Paulson, Bruce Jeffries Fox. 

The Tech Committee has been evaluating how to improve Windrow’s Scheduling and Communications. This is a challenging but important project that will substantially improve staff productivity and the quality and accuracy of our communications. However, our work on this important project is not finished. Even so, it is time to summarize what we have learned about calendar planning to date and outline our proposed improvements.

Current Status[edit | edit source]

Calendar planning today is driven by the monthly Grid at Windrows. The current planning approach can be summarized as follows:

  1. The Grid is still the dominant scheduling tool at Windrows. It is primarily a monthly listing of all scheduled events, meetings, and activities.
  2. Each monthly paper Grid takes significant staff time to prepare the new draft, gain approval from other staff and committee members, and finally publish and release the new Monthly Grid. This normally happens near the beginning of each new month.
  3. During Grid preparations, many of the regular meeting calendars and activities are incorporated from the prior month.  This reduces the staff workload, but it can cause activities and classes to be publicized incorrectly or changes and cancellations can be missed.
  4. Once the Grid is published, information from the Grid is used for other planning purposes. Selected information is posted on the Website, the inhouse electronic boards (i.e., Digital Signage System), TV, Channel 1978, mail postings, transportation schedules, etc. Unfortunately, this normally involves manual retyping, reprinting, or copying with the inevitable risk of human error.
  5. Attention is focused on the coming month, rather than a longer period of several months, since some staff members resist posting future events until all event and transportation details are settled in detail. We have suggested posting longer range events beyond the Grid month with a notation stating: “Save the Date - Details to be Provided."
  6. The scarcity of available meeting rooms also is a complicating factor since collectively residents may want to hold more meetings than we can accommodate with the available meeting space on a given day. Adjustments and changes must be made manually to a space planning map.
  7. Because event planning and rescheduling continues during the month, changes in the published Grid are unavoidable and frequent. Each change must be entered into the various related schedules, often causing delays and more confusion about times, dates, locations, etc.
  8. Changes come from many sources and the change process seems informal.  As changes are approved and then made, staff must enter them into the Red Book, Grid, website, electronic boards, bulletin boards, transportation schedule, and related other uses.  These changes happen gradually, and timing and accuracy can vary.
  9. As the second half of the current month approaches, the staff and committees must gear up again to produce the next Monthly Grid.

Proposed Improvements[edit | edit source]

We believe that there is a simpler and more efficient approach, but it will require learning some new approaches.  We believe that planning accuracy and efficiency can be substantially improved by the following:

  1. All planning should be done with one master calendar that covers several months into the future and is routinely updated as new events are decided. This calendar could be typed once and then maintained and updated constantly.
  2. Digital information could be extracted and reformatted as needed for other postings and uses.  We need to learn if the various formats, programs, and traditional postings of today can be adjusted to avoid frequent retyping. Eventually, all of the subsequent uses of calendar data must permit digital transfers and not manual retyping.
  3. One or two staffers should be named “The Keeper(s) Of the Calendar.”  That person or persons should keep one master electronic calendar up to date for all planned activities. This calendar should cover at least 12 months into the future on a rolling basis. At this point, the calendar maintained on the Windrows website will become the “master calendar” for the entire property. It will be kept up to date and maintained as the source for all calendar planning.
  4. Any changes or corrections should be submitted by email to the Calendar Keepers. Only the authorized staff members will be permitted to make official changes to the calendar. New events or activities should be submitted on a Calendar Request Form for approval by the master scheduling staffer. We need a paper trail for all changes.  Each Calendar Request Form would list all the needed information (e.g., date, time, brief description for publicity, headcount limits, sign up process, etc.).  
  5. Verbal changes, comments, or requests will not be accepted, but simple changes can be requested by email.  We need a paper trail for all changes, and calendar additions.
  6. All related calendars that depend upon this master calendar data should be modified and improved to use information that can be copied digitally from the Master Calendar. Data should be extracted and reused electronically without retyping.  Since we currently use many manual formats and specialized programs and templates, we must shift to more integrated and shared electronic systems. Current specialized or manual formats must be replaced or modified. This will require more research.
  7. For comfort, the master calendar could be “Printed” for those who are paper dependent.  This printed version can be issued monthly as an improved version of the “Grid”. Each printing should cover a minimum of the next 4 to 8 weeks. It can be printed and circulated prior to the beginning of each month. Alternatively, any resident can access this official calendar on the website and print a version starting with any chosen date. However, residents cannot change the website calendar but can send a request to the Calendar Keeper staff. (We will confirm that the calendar digital format will permit digital posting to the website without retyping and that printing of a paper version is also possible.)
  8. A “Monthly Highlights” summary of the entire calendar will be featured on the Website and the printed version of the calendar to draw attention to new or important events. These Monthly Highlights will be used as a monthly preview or summary page on the Website calendar. Also it can be included with the printed paper version of the master calendar that replaces the former Grid.
  9. The Red Book should be replaced with an electronic tablet (with a red cover). This Red Tablet will still be available at the front desk as one more way to sign up for activities and transportation. The front desk staff will be trained to assist residents and new users. The Red Tablet signups will be electronically and immediately entered into a combined database of all signups, no matter the method of signing up (e.g., website, smart phone app, Red Tablet, or staff entries.)

Needed Next Steps[edit | edit source]

This interim summary is a work in progress. More work must be done to revise this plan and complete this work. Some useful next steps would include the following:

  1. Interview all staff members directly involved in Grid preparation and planning to gain additional insights and more proposed improvements.
  2. Evaluate the existing planning documents and systems to determine what immediate changes are needed to create a more integrated and perpetual calendar that can be adjusted and shared in digital format.
  3. Preview these plans with all Tech Committee members and the Board.
  4. Request that our website vendor review this entire plan to assure that all the desired changes are feasible. Also, request that they provide a budget for any needed work by them.
  5. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation to explain current and proposed calendar actions and costs to the Board.
  6. Prepare extensive materials to announce, explain, and train the residents about the new approach to planning and communications.
  7. Make the needed changes on a test basis. Once the new formats are proven, begin extensive resident and staff training.

Our work to date suggests that our calendar planning can be much more accurate and efficient. Many other organizations routinely use a master calendar. The improvement listed here should save substantial staff time for Windrows and improve the overall accuracy of our planning.