Exceptions AS the RULE
Recently I was visiting a client, in order to find the reason why they were having some difficulty implementing and keeping a few simple systems up and running. Soon after arriving I ran head on into the problem. The problem, it turned out, was a WHO—and Mr. Who was a manager of managers—yikes!
To describe our reception, when my associate and I arrived on site, I'll just say at times you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. To be fair, the new GM was more than eager for us to be there, and was excited about bringing his company to order using the power of systems; however, Mr. Who was not quite so excited.
As we sat down to get started, I asked Mr. Who what he did exactly at his company, and he responded that he was Projects Manager over two other department managers. I asked him to describe some of the specific things he did as Projects Manager, and he seemed somewhat perplexed at my question. To my surprise, he had a hard time coming up with ANY particular activity that would describe what he did. At that point I became somewhat uncomfortable and looked at the new GM, hoping he could tell me what Mr. Who did, but he also seemed a little uncomfortable. I soon realized, he really didn't know.
I pursued my line of questioning, trying to get to the root of what Mr. Who—a manager of managers—actually MANAGED. He seemed to evade my every question, going down bunny trails that had nothing to do with my inquiry. I finally had to let the question go. I was getting exhausted!
My next question for Mr. Who was, "How do you like the quality control checklists system your company is implementing?" He responded by saying it was "too detailed" and that it "took too long to do"—he said it "slowed down the crews' processing of jobs." The GM immediately shot back, that he disagreed. He believed it actually SAVED time in the long run, and it made money by prompting crew leaders to install certain special equipment for which his company could charge.
I had been there just a few minutes, and I could see this new GM had a tiger by the tail, and his name was Mr. Who!
Before I could ask my next question, Mr. Who went on to say that he also didn't like the Daily Routine Checklists System they were trying to implement, as "they also take too long."
I responded by opening one of the Daily Routine Checklists in question and assured him, "At most this should only take five to 10 minutes a day to complete—the daily routine checklist would ensure tasks are being completed." I asked him, "Isn't that what ANY manager would want happening in their company on a consistent basis?"
This actually happened...
As Mr. Who was LOOKING at the prompts on a quality control checklist, he turned to the new GM and said, "Oh, THIS REMINDS ME—we need to order some special trash bags. Joe, a crew leader, called me earlier and said they were out, and they are needed on the job today."
You see, Mr. Who, having forgotten, and having failed to order the trash bags, was now prompted by the checklist he hadn't seemed to think was necessary before. Go figure!
As I continued reviewing the Daily Routine Checklist with Mr. Who and the new GM, I noted that the first checkbox on the checklist was a prompt for the User to CLOCK IN. I asked the GM if their company had any trouble with their employees clocking in and out. He laughed and said, "Let me show you a SYSTEM we use to help our bookkeeper keep track of employee hours when they forget to Clock in or out."
We all walked to the shop area and on the wall by the time clock was a form titled TIME SHEET EXCEPTIONS. To my surprise, this form actually allowed employees to write in their OWN time, whenever they FORGOT to clock in or out, and there was no less than 10 to 12 new entries.
This was a system that allowed for, and actually encouraged EXCEPTIONS (Non-conforming events) AS THE RULE in that business.
I just looked at the new GM and smiled—there was no need for words, as I knew then that this new GM gets it!
As for Mr. Who—well, he just may become "Mr. WHO?"
Did I mention? Great Systems Work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.