ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Abrogating Responsibility to Create the Simplest, Most Effective Process

I’ve written about this before, but my experience last week at an event leaves me having to write about it again.

An intern, a young man in his twenties was assigned to add some labels to a few hundred programs (there had been some last minute donors after the original programs had been printed) and to fold the programs for distribution to people as they came to this event. The expectation was that it would take about a half hour to complete the task.

As the time for guests to arrive was nearing, the event coordinator for the event noticed that the programs were not yet ready and since I had arrived early, she asked if I would help finish the project.

I joined him and observed him slowly and carefully – too slowly and too carefully – folding the programs one by one. As I watched for a minute or two, I noticed the labels sitting on the table. There were two sets (two different people needed to be honored on the program – in two different locations on the pages.) They didn’t look touched.

He explained where they needed to go, leaving me to ask, “So, are the ones that are folded complete?” “No”, he replied “they still need to be inserted.” “So, why are you folding the programs only to have to unfold them again to insert the labels?” I asked.

“Oh” he replied. I quickly recruited two other young men to help. One to unfold, myself and another man to insert labels, and the original intern to refold – this time much more quickly since I showed him how to do it.

OK, you could say the intern was lazy and that might have been true, but more to the point, no one showed him how to do it properly – leaving him to figure out his own system. No one even checked to see if they could offer suggestions for process improvement. As usual, the assumption was that he would figure it out himself.

This happens much of the time in the business/government world. Managers think they are empowering when they assign a task without teaching a proper process. They should at least find out if the person assigned the task knows how to complete it in the most efficient and effective manner.

Time is wasted. Money is lost. People become frustrated.


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