I was at the Olympic Games yesterday. As an ex-Ops manager and as someone who delights is seeing a good system working, I was fantastically impressed.
My daughter and I managed to get tickets to the Hockey yesterday and decided that, since the first match started at 8:30am we needed to be there early (we both hate to be rushed). We arrived at the main venue just before 7:30 and already the volunteers (sorry the 'Games Makers') were there, cheerfully guiding us along and getting us ready for security. There seemed to be hundreds of security staff ready to check us and get us onto the site and we didn't seem to stop moving at any time. Alright, we were very early, but even at that time, there were plenty of 'in case it gets busy' people. The organisers certainly seemed to understand that the best way to avoid queues is to never let them start.
In the site itself, the organisation was staggering. Thousands of people (and there is absolutely no exaggeration in that number) - all in the right place at the right time with the right things to do their job. Most impressively, they had all been trained well. They knew why they were doing the job they were doing, they knew the answer to most questions, they knew who to speak to if they didn't know an answer - and all the time they were polite, cheerful, and interested in us.
By the afternoon, there were tens of thousands of people on the site. All seemed to be moving in the direction they wanted, all seemed to get food and drink when they wanted and seems to find any queues acceptable. I did hear one fellow spectator saying to a friend that it had taken her an hour to get to the hockey stadium and wondered if the system was slowing down under the weight of numbers. It turned out, however, that it had taken her less than an hour to get from Stratford tube station to the venue - say 10 minutes from the tube to the park, 30 minutes walk from Stratford Gate to the hockey venue which is at the other end of the park, 5 minutes to get into the venue and 10 to find her friend. So about 55 minutes in total - I'm not sure that there was a queue in there at all. Impressive.
Anyone who has worked in Operations understands that it is, and it should be, a forgotten field since if it is working well it is invisible. If you have gone to the Games, please just take a moment to look around you and to think about the complexity of your experience - the people, the venues, the technology, the cleaners, the signs. Everything. I salute the Operational Managers of the Games - well done!