Aug 13 2013

All organisations face problems, most will see them on a daily basis; some small, some rather large. The key is to be able to identify them as a problem quickly. When your systems & processes are designed/developed to highlight problems then these problems become much more obvious and in most cases they are identified before they grow into something that requires a major project to resolve.

What types of processes make problems obvious? Those that are well defined, with clear expectations, standards, & deliverables (to the next process). The more the process is defined & standardised, the easier it becomes to spot when something is out of standard, different than normal, not what was expected.

There are many methods for making problems obvious. Factories often use lights & sounds to indicate problems (a red light on a machine illuminates when the machine has stopped, usually indicating a problem). Forms within Information systems often flag when we attempt to input incorrect information (wrong format, numbers instead of text or vice versa, incorrect number of characters, etc.). Many organisations organise their workplaces sufficiently to identify when something is out of place using shadow boards, labelled locations, etc.).

Whatever method you chose, ensure it is sufficient to highlight any problems as soon as they arise. Some organisations think their dashboard metrics will tell them when there is a problem. If this is updated or reviewed monthly you could have 3+ weeks of problem built up before it is identified by anyone. That may be sufficient in some organisations, but not many. The ideal is to identify any problems immediately, within seconds, possibly minutes or hours but no more than a day.

There are many techniques for making problems obvious. A few were mentioned above. Whichever you chose, ensure they work. Just like a smoke alarm in the house, there is no point having a technological “alarm” for your process if it isn’t actually working (battery dead, sensor inadequate, switched off by operator).

Take a look at your systems & processes, are the “fail safes” working? If there was a problem, how long would it be before you found out about it? What problems are being felt right now by those who work in those processes? When they are highlighted, who does what? Do people escalate them to enable resolution? Or do they hide them? What does that say about your culture?


photo credit: AngSocialMed via photopin cc

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