The PROMPT: The Great Motivator for Completing Tasks
PROMPT: An important CUE or INCENTIVE — A CALL TO ACTION.
I’m amazed at how many times I’ve heard business owners and managers say, “When we ask an employee to do a certain task or action, they do it for awhile, but then forget or won’t do it consistently—sometimes, not at all!”
Here’s a recent example: One of our new software clients told me a story about how he needed an employee to fill out a special form the company had designed, which included the description and quantity of finished goods being inventoried for a customer. The employee had failed to do this consistently—so, out of frustration, my client ended up filling out the forms himself.
I could feel the tension emanating from the client and his managers as we discussed this problem. They seemed totally perplexed, that this simple task and other tasks could not be completed as a matter of course by their employees.
“Do you have a PROMPT for your employees to do certain task?” I asked.
“A what? You mean like a jab with a hat pin?”
“Or,” another offered cheerfully, “maybe a two-by-four?”
“Not exactly—thinking something a little less painful!” I suggested.
After explaining what I meant by a “prompt,” I could tell that my client and his managers had actually believed they should just be able to show an employee how and when to do something and the task would continue to carried out.
Well, tell that to the airlines!
Airline pilots would be lost without a series of PROMPTS. Now you might not think a pilot should need a prompt to remember to lower the wheels before landing, but that’s just one of the hundreds of critical steps a pilot must remember in order to take off and land a plane safely. The pilot’s checklist of PROMPTS helps to ensure that not a single important detail is forgotten.
If you’ve read my book—“System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business”—you know I am a big proponent of checklists for every employee, with PROMPTS to complete necessary tasks or actions. NOTHING is just committed to memory or left to chance. That can be deadly in any business!
Checklists should even include the time (or approximate time) of day certain tasks should be performed (i.e., 2 p..m - Production supplies ordered from vendors.).
Daily Routine Checklists—specific to each employee—are able to bring order to a business, along with other lists of PROMPTS (i.e. Quality Control Checklists, Service Control Checklists, and detailed Procedures).
About now, you may be saying, “I’ve made checklists with prompts, but some employees won’t complete or turn them in.”
OK, where is the PROMPT for them to START and COMPLETE a checklist?
Here’s how this works...
1) Give the employee one of what I would call a “full circle” of checklists, with a list of PROMPTS to complete certain tasks or actions specific to his/her job assignments.
2) Give the employee an INCENTIVE for action by having a follow-up system that monitors task completion, to ensure the employee has actually completed each checklist. We do this by giving each manager a Daily Routine Checklist. (Yes, a manager ALSO needs to follow a checklist.)
3) The manager’s checklist needs a PROMPT to do a simple review of the checklists that employees under his/her supervision are required to complete and turn in. If an employee fails to turn in or complete a checklist, then a non-conformance reporting document is submitted by the manager to upper management. The PROMPT for submitting this document should also be on the manager’s Daily Routine Checklist.
4) The non-conformance document is received and reviewed by the owner or upper management and the root cause of the non-conformance is determined.
5) Next to be determined is the action needed to prevent this non-conformance from happening again (in this case, an employee not completing a checklist).
6) The manager, as well as the employee who failed to complete the checklist, will sign the non-conformance document, which states that this was a personal error of non-conformance.
Once an employee has been asked to sign one or two of these non-conformance documents, he/she begins to see the big picture—the importance of compliance as a team to achieve the highest quality product and benefits to all—which gives the employee an incentive to complete the action or task on each checklist in a consistent manner.
Do you see how a prompt on one checklist is influenced by a prompt on another checklist? I call this completing the “full circle” of a system.
So, you’re thinking, “Whew! Philip this seems like a lot of extra work and will just slow things down!”
As I’ve said many times: MISTAKES AND REWORK ARE WHAT SLOW EVERYTHING DOWN!
Also remember, you are already doing all of the steps I mentioned above—but, I suggest, you’ve been trusting verbal directives given during impromptu meetings and liaisons in the hallways.
How’s that working for you?
If you like the “shoot from the hip,” verbal solution—and it works—fine!
We prefer a written solution that lowers waste and PROMPTS accuracy.
Successful, error-free completion of job duties, less stress, the elimination of constant apologies to customers, and a cooperative team effort is, I believe, what we’re all looking to achieve!
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.