Inconsistent working is such a common problem. Generally, the larger the organisation the more scope there is for people to do the same thing in different ways, but it’s a problem for small organisations too. Basically as soon as you get two people doing the same thing, there is scope for them to be doing it differently. And you can generally bet that they will be!
So if you've ever sat back in your office chair and asked yourself 'how can I get people to work consistently?' This article is about to show you how to motivate your employees consistently.
The problem with inconsistent working
The problem with people working inconsistently is all a matter of degree. I think that we all like to bring some individuality to our work and no one likes either working as an automaton or being served by one, however the problems arise when too much inconsistency creeps in. Then the following main problems arise:
- Inconsistency of outcome
- Lack of control
Inconsistency of outcome
If people are working in different ways, what they produce will alter. This is frustrating for the customer, and has a very negative effect on trust. This is bad enough if the customer is in a different part of the same organisation – getting, for example, differently reported figures depending on who is collating the report - but if the customer is the ultimate, external, customer it can be very damaging.
Image from www.billhogg.ca
Customers of an organisation expect roughly the same process and the same end result regardless of who they are speaking to and if they don’t get this, they feel really frustrated. I think we have all had the experience of calling up one day and someone saying something, but when you call back the next time, someone else says something different. It’s infuriating and if the end result is different - say in what you are charged for a call-out visit – you lose all confidence.
If two people are doing the same thing, but in different ways, it is unlikely that both of them are doing it equally efficiently. One will be working more efficiently that the other. So waste is being built in immediately. In addition, if the outputs are variable there will be inefficiency at the handover point – with the internal customer mentioned above having to spend time working out how to deal with a different set of reports each time – and the external customer perhaps complaining.
To take this inefficiency out you not only need people to work consistently, but you also need to be able to identify best practice and have sufficient control over the process to be able to improve it.
Lack of control
If people are working inconsistently there is very little control over the process. It is therefore very difficult to improve it or change it to either address the problems already discussed, or to address other issues such as risk mitigation.
So it is definitely a problem to be addressed, but how?
Change culture. Change employee work ethic. Document!
If we want people to work consistently we have to document what we want them to do and we have to make it easy for them to find it and follow it.
A recommended way to document what we want people to do, is to process map it.
What is a process map?
A process map sets out all the steps and decisions in a process in diagrammatic form. It has benefit over a text based set of instructions in that it captures the steps taken to deliver the process, rather than the tasks. This means a process map is appealing to the eye, easy to follow and doesn’t come over as too detailed or patronising.
Below is a map setting out the process for baking a cake. It clearly shows how the various ingredients (inputs) are transformed into a cake (output). The information is quite high level (so not patronising) and it is easy to follow and understand. If additional detail is needed (perhaps a written recipe or a video showing the cake being made) this can be linked to from the map.
The output or outcome is clear, as is the process to get there.
With the current way of doing things captured, there is also a mechanism to measure and control the process and most importantly improve it.
Is that it?
And that is almost it.
Document the correct processes and explain that everyone must follow it.
But not quite…
Will people follow the process?
Yes they will, but not just because they are told they must.
It is really important to involve the people doing the work in capturing the process and agreeing what the best practice approach is. This is the one that should be adopted as the process to be consistently followed and if people have played a part in agreeing it, they are much more likely to follow it.
Also the documented process must be easy to find – on the intranet say – and easy to follow, with quick search and easy navigation. The agreed process will only be followed if doing so is easier than not doing so.
Business Process Management
The culture of the organisation also plays a significant part in whether people consistently follow the documented process. If there is a heroic culture where people are used to ‘blagging it’ or ‘saving the day’ then it is going to be hard to get them to follow the agreed process. A culture of process management is crucial.
How to achieve this is covered in depth in this article:
Here I will just say that it is both worth it and essential for long term sustainability.