Permanent Bandages

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Have you ever found yourself thinking:

  • “This could be so much easier if… ?”, or
  • “Why was I trained to do this task this way, it doesn’t make any sense?”, or
  • “Who decided it would be a good idea to do things this way?”

Processes are designed and defined to accomplish a task, but, over time, as systems, technologies, and people change, the processes are not updated to reflect new norms.  Thus, workarounds AKA “Band-Aids” are created as a way for people to bridge the old with the new.  Eventually, people get so caught up with workarounds that no real work gets done.  In other words, “Band-Aids” are highly inefficient and can even be detrimental to the operations of an organization.  They are only meant to be a temporary solution that address an acute pain, but never really solve an underlying root cause.  Unfortunately, “Band-Aids” often become part of the process.

As an example, we worked with a client to map and understand tier one supplier spend in an effort to improve the cost cost structure of their supply chain.  Sounds like a simple enough exercise, except for the competing definition of Cost in the engineering, purchasing, and accounting functions.  Over time, each group had figured out different tricks to adjust for other groups’ cost calculations in order reflect each other group’s numbers.  The tricks had become so ingrained that analysts were taught to make the adjustments based on who was asking for the report.

Additionally, the patchwork of “Band-Aids” created huge inefficiencies and confusion in communication.  There was additional paperwork, irrelevant quality controls to validate the numbers, and individuals dedicated to ensure the workaround performed smoothly.  Agreeing on one number required weeks of effort, when it could have just been a simple calculation done in a matter of minutes.

Ideally, one standard definition of Cost could have saved this client time and money, but peeling away the “Band-Aids” was much too painful.  Does your organization tolerate practicing old and costly habits rather than peeling away the workarounds to streamline critical business processes?

 

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