Working patterns: Why do we constantly create new problems by trying to solve the existing ones? Part 2

dangerous patternThis week we continue to discuss the reasons for why do we make our own life harder by creating new problems when solving the existing ones. Here is what you should be aware of:

3.   Blurred line between delivering on time and doing things fast

Let’s admit it, our job market tends to reward people who work fast and it’s OK, because ultimately – time is money. However, time spent on correcting mistakes done in a hurry is also money!

Managers correctly see it as their job to push their employees to work faster. However, sometimes they forget that this is only a mean to an end and not an end for itself. Rewarding employees who work faster without comparing their results to those who may be work slower, but still deliver on time can prove disastrous for the organization, as constant sprinting just causes everyone to lose their breath never achieving the actual goals.

So it’s important to remember two basic maxims: 1. Doing things fast in many cases means sacrificing quality; and 2. You can deliver on time without being in hurry. How?

Plan in advance, in order to build an optimal working rhythm. Leaving enough time for every task but still keeping a general feeling that time is of the essence is a good frame for setting the pace everyone will be able to keep. You can also assign specific tasks based on people’s pace preferences: some tasks are naturally more dynamic than the others and should be assigned to more energetic people, however tasks that require a systematic approach and diligent testing should be left to more detailed oriented employees. No hierarchy should ever exist based solely on people’s working pace.

4.   Environmental pressure

Living in an age of innovation has it drawbacks. For one, it causes us to forego tested solutions to more advances, but not necessarily tested ones. Have you noticed the recent drastic changes in many software interfaces and Internet sites we use everyday? Did you like them? I mean not in a sense that “it’s a cool feature”, but did they really became more effective and easier to use? If you think “Yes”, then good for you, because you’re clearly in a minority 🙂 Professionals tend to judge their tools by their effectiveness and not by how cool they are, because they need to use those tools in order to get results. But is it really that easy to withstand the social pressure and not to innovate when everyone around does the same? It appears not, because in many cases people adopt less effective solutions strictly because “everyone around does it”. It’s really hard to believe that a fashionable solution could be ineffective.

Think about all the recent fashion of managing documentation on SharePoint or other intranet software. Did the effectiveness (not of the documentation management itself but of the work managed through this documentation) measurably grow because of it? Does everyone inside the organization know where to look and what to do with what they find? Is there a direct reflection of some “progress mark” on what people are actually doing on the working floor? Do they know what’s required of them by the documentation and what should they do to make it work? Not necessarily, however everyone’s happy because it’s what the progress marks show. Of course, only until the moment when the real situation reveals itself.

When you have to innovate, you must ensure that all the existing processes are adjusted to incorporate the new solution, because they were initially tailored to work with the previous one. And don’t rush to innovate if you don’t have to – stand up to the social pressure.

5. Poor understanding of what the real problem is

We all heard about “treating the symptoms of the decease and not the decease itself”, however many times we end up doing the same. Why? Because it gives us an immediate feeling of restored control. We know that high temperature is what makes us uncomfortable right now so take the available measures to reduce it. The cause of the high temperature, on the other hand, is not immediately known and not knowing what’s going on is a clear sign of having no control over the events. So we concentrate on what is known and don’t even try to understand the root cause, because we can concentrate on dealing with the symptoms and get a feeling that we’re fully engage with the problem at hand. In many cases, this approach causes us to neglect the real problem long enough for it to become irreparable. We may also spend all our available resources on fighting the symptoms, with nothing left to grapple with the actual problem.

The whole concept of “fast-track solutions” falls into this category. It basically means “solutions we didn’t spend much time thinking about”. If cracks appear in a dam and an inspection is imminent, they could be quickly covered with paint and someone may even get a bonus for this “genius” idea. However, whose responsibility would it be if the dam collapses? Yours, because you’re the Manager.  

If you don’t want something of a kind happen to you, I would suggest to invest more in monitoring and measurement than in coming up with constant fast-track solutions. You can potentially say that we have to apply fast-track solutions because of our failure to monitor what’s going on and think in advance.

Of course, there would always be contingencies not accounted for even in the best risk management plan, however not falling into the basic pitfalls of wrong working patterns may help you succeed even in those cases.


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