How To Eliminate The Grit in the Organizational Gears

May 17, 2016 by

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain, author

There’s a famous saying correlating the lack of a nail leading to the loss of a kingdom. My theory is that nails ran out because someone forgot to sign a form in triplicate and get it signed by two managers and a procurement analyst.

The center of gravity should not be on administrative processes. I once heard an executive say that administrative systems should be “starved,” otherwise they will expand and smother innovation and revenue growth. Over-engineered processes (an erstwhile colleague refers to it as “adminis-trivia”) can cause grit in the organizational gears, hampering progress and frustrating employees.

  1. If the time and cost of the process is more than the value of the outcome, get rid of it. I recall a charge-back of $5 or some similar trivial cost for the use of a microphone in a conference room. This required an invoice being prepared, sent to another unit, formation of an internal transfer request (which had to be approved), and then the execution of said transfer. You don’t need a Six Sigma exercise to know that more than $5 was spent to deal with the use of a microphone for an hour in a conference room.
  2. If a process more than five years old, it probably needs a fresh set of eyes. An even better sign is if anyone says “we’ve always done it this way.” This is typically a sign of a process that has taken on a life of its own, strangling progress like kudzu. Make sure that process owners understand how to assess and lean out on a regular basis, including interacting with owners of upstream and downstream processes.
  3. If at any point in a process there is a paper report being sent out to a group of people. It’s 2016. “Paper” and “report” are two words that should not appear together. A tree is dying right now to support paper reports that will make its way from the printer to the recycling bin. (And while I’m at it, why are vendors still sending out glossy booklets or brochures? Have these people not heard of digital marketing?) Take a look at the paper moving around the organization and ask hard questions about why, and if a digital method can replace it. (There’s this thing called a website…)
  4. If nobody speaks up and owns the process, and can describe and defend it, pull the plug. Processes without clear owners are like servers without owners. Energy-draining and dangerous. Advice: Delete.

One of my learnings, that I keep in the forefront to this day, is to do the right thing, and deal with the administrative aspect afterwards. The center of gravity needs to be delivery of value to the customer.

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” – Seneca, Roman statesman

Worth a mention ….

Worthwhile: Consider employee engagement as human interaction, not a series of measurements. Don’t let the push to measure lead to neglect of authentic person-person interaction.

Worth a smile: Getting an email from Jon Snow. Is this savvy marketing from a company who knows I watch #GameOfThrones? Will I next be getting emails from Josephine March or Frodo? Watch this space.

Worthless: The vendor who will remain nameless who invited me to play golf. Do you even know if I play golf? (Answer: Only if preceded by the word “mini.”) And even if I did, in what universe do you think I have time? Donate the cost of the round to a worthy cause instead.

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