Category: Change Management
Paper, Like Comets
Pink sheet, Blue Sheets, One Sheet, Two Sheets. No, it is not Dr. Seuss. It is your dysfunctional business forms, practices and processes. The forms are often launched by employees who have done the same job for the last 40 years and last cracked a smile when Jimmy Carter was President. Paper drifts around the universe of your office like comets through the solar system and no one knows what purpose it serves. Boxes must be checked and initials applied. It absolutely must be done and every box must be checked, you see.
Sometimes the forms contain sensitive information like social security numbers and there is no privacy or security policy in existence. The document is stuffed in an inter-office envelope and launched to the next planet for more signatures and boxes to be checked. If someone goes on a two week cruise, the form sits on their desk until they return and get through the backlog of paper because only one person has the authority to sign. There are no delegates. Then the massively important piece of paper goes in a file where it remains undisturbed for decades.
We’ve just always done it this way. If I’m lucky, that statement will be followed up by my favorite punch line: I’ve been doing this since you were wearing diapers. I don’t need you to come in here and tell me how to do it.
Is my assessment harsh? Maybe. Is it true? Probably. Be honest. Does this sound like operations your organization?
We don’t take partial payments!
My father was in the bar and restaurant business. By the time I graduated from high school, I had done every job in those establishments. When I was tending bar, my father taught me to always take the money. If someone slapped a $20 on the bar, I rang up the tab and gave him change right away and provided it in denominations that provided a convenient opportunity for a tip. This is smart business, right? Take the money.
On several occasions, I have seen utility customers standing at a window (ironically labelled Customer Service) trying to pay their utility bill. They scrounged all their change from the crack in the sofa and from under their car seat and came in to pay their bill but they’re $1.49 short. We don’t take partial payments. You have to come back when you have the full amount. You don’t take partial payments because your system either can’t handle it or because your staff isn’t trained on the new feature that does allow partial payments.
You’ll Have to Come Back Another Day
Here’s another example I recently encountered. Standing in front of me at the reception desk in a government facility is a gentleman with his daughter.
I’m here for my daughter’s appointment.
You’re not in the system. We have no record of an appointment for today.
But, here is the stamped appointment card you gave me on our last visit.
You’re not in the system. You’re not on the calendar. You’ll have to make another appointment and come back.
But, I took the day off of work to bring my daughter to this appointment. It may be months before I can get another day off of work.
You’re not on the calendar. You’ll have to come back. Next Person Please!
If any of these examples describe your business operations, you have several issues to address. You need to work on your business processes as well as customer service. Poor customer service and inefficient business processes cost money. You can fix them and save money by doing so and you can read about it here. Improving quality of service lowers costs.
If you would like to discuss your business processes and ways to automate and improve them in your organization, feel free to send me an e-mail at email@example.com. You can read more about business processes and other Information Technology issues on IT Governance for Executives.by
Iterative processes seem to be all the rage in the corporate sector right now. I find this to be mildly amusing. Have no CXO’s ever taken piano lessons? Musicians, artists, dancers, carpenters, chefs and athletes have used and understood iterative processes for centuries. They live them every day.
Process Engineering from a Chain Smoking Pianist
My God, I do believe that’s the worst thing I have ever heard. Those soul crushing words were uttered by my first really good piano teacher at our initial meeting. She had trained numerous national competition winners and was one tough, chain smoking cookie. Our 1-hour lessons inevitably turned into 2-hour, brutal, extreme workout sessions while she was trying to teach me how to practice. Her English Bulldog, Max snored under the baby grand through every lesson. Learning to practice effectively took years and Max stuck it out with me.
Iterative Production Processes
It’s the same process whether you are talking about a piano sonata or an electrical engineering problem. Isolate difficulties into small packages. Practice, work out the problem in ultra slow motion. Do it again and again and again, until you get it right, gradually getting faster and better. Repeat the process with the next difficulty and start building it out one component at a time until you have the process going from end to end. That’s when you discover new macro problems and difficulties you hadn’t previously anticipated at the micro level. So, you go back and work through the new problems until you find solutions. It could take hours, weeks or months to solve the problems, depending on the scope and difficulties of the project.
Button Up Your Shirt!
I recently worked on a contract at a conservative international corporation and received a call from my manager who was working at a location about 100 miles away. “Button up your shirt” he shouted. “It’s a political thing. Just go along with me on this.”
I was stunned. I was appropriately dressed in business casual attire that was a few notches above the average employee. I thought I was looking quite posh! An HR manager spotted me working with some vendors in a common area and noticed that my shirt was open to the second button – where I always wear it. She tracked down my manager at another location and relayed the message for me to button my shirt. Several HR minions probably had to be pulled in to rectify this crisis.
If this sort of thing is going on in your corporation, your operations and corporate culture are way off course and completely broken. This is a symptom of huge organizational problems. Six figures to be a button cop? What does that contribute to the organization’s mission and how are you going to fix this sort of problem in your organization?
HR Departments in medium to large US and multinational corporations seem to have done a pretty good job at creating racial and ethnic diversity in their organizations. Their most spectacular success though, has been the complete eradication of diversity of thought in the workforce. In spite of the very superficial aspect of skin color, everyone dresses the same, thinks the same and speaks the same corporate mumbo jumbo. How can you address business problems requiring massive process changes when everyone thinks exactly alike?
There is only One True Form of Diversity
Diversity of thought is the only real form of diversity. The product of an employee’s brain is the only contribution he or she can make to an organization’s effort to produce a quality product or service. If everyone thinks the same, your business operations will always be the same. You can never improve them. From this point of view, there is no diversity at all in most large corporations, regardless of what their EEO-4 reports may state. There is no measurement for Intellectual Diversity. There is no box to check for:
☑ Thinks Differently
Tilting at Windmills
In the 12 seconds that corporate recruiters supposedly spend sizing up a candidate on paper, there is no way to assess anything except a candidate’s CQ (Cooperation Quotient). In the early 90’s I was working my way through grad school at a Fortune 500 company. The engineers complained that HR always sent them unqualified candidates. The Boss and engineers would interview the candidates, ask them a few basic questions, and reject them. They looked good on paper, but they didn’t actually know how to build and troubleshoot circuits – our department’s mission. The Boss would then send the staff engineers to job fairs to recruit the people who were eventually hired. One of the company’s top Master Engineers still hadn’t completed his BSEE yet. In the current environment, that genius of an engineer wouldn’t even get an interview. Finding the perfect fit is like tilting at windmills.
Selection for Intellectual Diversity
If corporate recruiters started considering Intellectual Diversity rather than selecting for Cooperation Quotient, companies could identify and recruit more creative candidates who would almost certainly provide fresh perspectives and effective solutions for business problems. These are the potential employees whose brains can’t be squeezed into an 8-foot cubicle. Those artists, musicians, sculptors and bakers have developed knowledge, skills, perspectives and problem solving abilities that traditionally trained staff may never be able to acquire. It’s simply a matter of applying those skills to a different metaphor, which is a fairly simple transition if your brain has already been programmed for it.
There is a huge risk though – those new recruits may not button up their shirts all the way.
If you would like to discuss improving business and IT processes in your organization, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Morgan is President of e-volve Information Technology Services and has worked as an independent consultant since 1993.
Information Technology Governance for Executives