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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more about business processes and other Information Technology issues on IT Governance for Executives.by