Clear Instructions Save Time and Money
Poor communications and instructions create stress and problems in a company!
My wife and I own a 10-acre farm property in Liberty, TN, about an hour from our home. The other day, a man with a pronounced Southern accent (I should talk?) called me on my cell phone asking, “Are you the one that’s got teenagers in Liberty?”
My children being grown, I was puzzled. “Teenagers?” I repeated, “No, I don’t have teenagers—sorry!”
“OK, ‘bye!” the man said, and hung up.
Teenagers in Liberty? I shook my head, wondering what that was about.
A short time later, a woman called and asked, “My husband just called you...aren’t you the one with a 10-acre property in Liberty?”
Teenagers — 10 acres. My wife and I had a good laugh over that. Good thing I wasn’t anxious to sell the property!
Some years ago, when I began systemizing my company I realized that, if we were going to bring sustainable order to our business, I had to consider all aspects of my operation. That meant evaluating everything—production, accounting, personnel, administration, equipment, purchasing, maintenance, sales and marketing, technologies, shipping and receiving—and especially how we communicate with one another as a team!
A few years ago, a friend—who never misses an opportunity to introduce me as a “Systems Guru”—sent me an article he’d found about a well-known airline that had developed a unique “Maintenance Complaint System.”
It seems that after every flight, the airline’s pilots fill out a form called a “Gripe Sheet” meant to CLEARLY inform mechanics about any problems the pilot might have had with an aircraft. The mechanics are then able to fix the problem and to document any repairs on the same form. Pilots later review the “Gripe Sheets” before their next flight. Good systems like this are serious matters for airline safety!
It’s also safe to say that certain ground crews appreciate a good laugh now and then.
Below are some “actual” maintenance gripes submitted by the airline’s pilots (marked “P” for Problem). The Solutions (marked “S”) were recorded by maintenance engineers.
You may have read this story before, but I thought it worth sharing again—a humorous example of the more serious problem of poor communications that can cause trouble in a company:
P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in Altitude-Hold mode produces a 200 feet-per-minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspect crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Funny handles replaced with more serious handles.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
But, seriously folks—how we communicate with our employees and others costs companies large amounts of time and money each year, especially with regard to written communications.
In my book—“System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business”—I shared a story about a Civil War general and a not-so-bright private. It explains how the general fine-tuned written orders to his front-line commanders by having this particular private read the orders first.
The general made certain the private could read and repeat (in the private’s own words) EXACTLY what the orders meant. The general did this over and over until the verbiage was so clear, even this slow-witted private could understand. Good communications can make the difference between success and failure.
In the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Easy reading is hard writing.”
Although we can’t be sure the “Gripe Sheet” story is altogether true, it does demonstrate how we can give people instructions and they can completely misinterpret them. When writing procedures, policies and control checklists for your company, they must be fine-tuned so that all of your employees can understand them.
Once the chaos in your business is eliminated and all forms of waste are reduced by more than 70 percent, you just might find time for a good laugh!
Did I mention—Great systems work!