The Golden Opportunity Concealed within a Common Problem

The best businesses seem to sense what the customer needs and immediately respond with value. In fact, they deliver a continuous flow of value. They know that customer wait time dissolves the customer’s trust and feeds their doubt. 

Minimizing wait time delivers bottomline results, but wait time can be tough to pin down. It’s sneaky. It hides in places like cars & trucks, airplanes, telephone systems, email inboxes, waiting rooms, meetings, hand-offs, approval queues, and missteps.

Missteps cause the worst kind of wait time. It’s the worst because it’s unexpected and causes re-work. It’s like promising to carry someone safely over a puddle, and then dropping them right in the middle. It’s painful because it makes a liar out of us.

Rework bruises our integrity and robs us of time.

But concealed within rework is a golden opportunity to become more effective. 

To cash in on this opportunity, we need a system that operates in short cycles, providing rapid feedback, like learning to skip a rock. Instead of shunning mistakes, we need to rally around them.

The system also needs to be blameless. It’s tempting to cast blame and never give people a second chance. But remember, failure is where learning happens, and besides, blame doesn’t move us forward.

To move forward, we need people. To empower our people, we need to understand where our systems failed and take action to improve them.

We need a culture that continually ratchets forward in small lock-steps—never suffering the same problem twice.

But we need to first have faith in people’s ability to learn and grow. We must create an environment that fosters learning and improvement, where questions flow freely. One where learning from mistakes is just part of the process.

The next time rework happens, invest a moment in tracking down the root cause and figuring out how to prevent it in the future. You can start with the 5 Whys Method. It makes quick work of finding the root of a problem.

In my experience, problems that cause rework are commonly rooted in the following areas:

  • Training (gaps)
  • Target / objective (lack of clarity)
  • Incentives (conflicting)
  • Work method (inconsistency)
    • Unclear instructions (need to clarify language and/or definitions)
    • Too many hand-offs (causes “not my job” syndrome)
    • No checklists (e.g., check-boxes, laminated photo, point & say)
    • Poor measurements (no feedback on effectiveness)
  • Equipment (ill-suited)
  • Knowledge (gaps—nowhere to go when questions come up)
  • Motivation (apathy)

When we develop a system (routine) for continual improvement we create a virtuous cycle that perpetually bolsters the bottom line, and that sounds like a golden opportunity to me.

Feature photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash