Strict Systems vs. ‘Big Brother’ - Part I
There’s a common theme to the arguments I often hear in opposition to the value of imposing strict systems for operating a business. They typically are along these lines:
- “It takes the humanness out of the job.”
- “It sounds like Big Brother.”
- “It might not be good for employee morale.”
During my own quest to systemize our company, I have to admit there were times I would get the same feeling—the key word here is “feeling.” What I know about feelings is, they are rarely an indicator of the real truth of a matter.
Until I started getting REAL data on how our systems were affecting our business and our employees, I too ran my business on feelings. I heard from my employees all the time about how they felt about this or that; often changing courses based on their feelings.
Many years ago, one of our most technically talented employees “felt sure” our company did NOT need the Quality Control System I was implementing, preferring to rely solely on his experience and talents. I must confess, I had no real data at that time to challenge his feelings.
Thank God, however, that MY feelings changed as we continued to with the implementation and fought the good fight, trying to reduce waste and the chaos it was creating in our business.
So, I started measuring those “feelings” against real, cold, hard and unbiased DATA.
When our first version of System100™ came out, I was meeting with our production administrator (let’s call him Bob) about one of the systems we were beta testing. This particular system measured the number of errors and the cost and time lost by an employee for any given period.
Before developing our software, our company’s method for measuring errors and waste had been a manual system. It took a lot of time to pull reports, as this had to be done by hand using a calculator and the findings put into a spread sheet.
Ahead of meeting with Bob, I planned to pull reports on all of our employees to measure errors made in the previous year. But, before I had the software generate these reports, I asked Bob the following question:
“Of the five employees in a [specific] department, which employee would you say made the LEAST amount of errors, and which one made the MOST?”
Bob said, “That’s easy,” and he quickly wrote down, in order fro 1-5, who he believed made the most to least errors. I looked at his list and, based on my own knowledge of that department, I agreed with his assessment, even though we were both just making our best guesses.
Now it was time to see what the real, cold, hard and unbiased numbers would tell us.
I pulled the report on all five of the employees in that department and I can tell you, both our jaws dropped. The software report confirmed that the one we “felt” had made the least amount of errors had actually made the most and the one we felt made the most had made the least. At first, even I didn’t believe the reports, and told Bob I thought there must be some kind of bug in our software.
So, I asked him to pull all the hard copies of the prior years’ System Buster/Corrective Action forms, and to calculate the number of errors and resulting cost, etc. for each of the five employees. Bob came back a few hours later with his findings and we were both stunned that the manual accounting confirmed the software’s report.
What did Bob and I learn that day? Our GUESSES ̶ our human “feelings” ̶ were wrong, and the cold, unbiased system was correct in its assessment of who had actually made the most and least errors.
If you were an employee who made very few mistakes in your work and you were up for a promotion, by what criteria would you hope to be evaluated—Bob’s and my human feelings, or an unbiased, but accurate, “Big Brother” system?
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.