Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weekly Tip - If it's not broke, prove it

Have you ever heard the phrase, "If it's not broke, don't fix it" and rolled your eyes. Or perhaps you've been frustrated because someone is always meddling with something you think works fine, and you've said it (or thought it) yourself, then this tip is for you!

In summary, if you believe that a process or task that you are working on is working well, or perhaps well enough, be in the position to prove it. Especially if you could improve it, but choose not to. On the flip side of the coin, if you are looking at a process or task and believe it could be improved, think about what you are asking first. In these cases, I suggest thinking about the following;
  • Take any feedback as a gift
  • Is the task that is being criticised done often?
  • Would the improvement to the task really make a difference?
  • Is there a bigger problem?
  • Are you distracting yourself with unnecessary improvements?
Okay, this seems straight forward, but these are the following things I suggest thinking about in both of these situations (I'm not taking a detailed report here - just run through this quickly in your head before making a knee-jerk reaction);

Take any feedback as a gift
It's really easy to get defensive if someone challenges your work personally, so if someone has some feedback for you, take it - and be pleased about it. Understand where they are coming from and what they are trying to say. Do you really understand what they are getting at? Remember, folk that have it in for you won't give you the feedback at all, so you might be offended, but they are actually trying to do you a favour.

On the other hand, if you want to impart some advise, but the recipient is defensive. This is probably your problem, not theirs. In the first instance, I would suggest building a relationship with the person first and think carefully what you are saying, as challenging their work can often feel personal - like walking into their home and saying you don't like their curtains... you need to have a good relationship before you say something like that! 

Is the task that is being criticised done often?
If the thing that you, or someone else is picking fault with is done once a year - is it really worth improving? Every situation can be different, and the answer isn't always no. So if you are doing a yearly task that someone criticises, or you are about to criticise, have a discussion. What would go wrong if the task wasn't done correctly?  Does it matter that it's being done inefficiently?

Would the improvement to the task really make a difference?
This one is tough. There is, of course lots of techniques that can be applied, but all things being considered, including the amount of time that it takes to scope, plan and execute the task is it really worthwhile making a change?
  • Step 1; What would happen if you stopped the activity? (If the answer is nothing, then you really need to question its value!)
  • Step 2; Assuming it is required for some reason, does the current task create an output that is fit for purpose? (And by that I mean, good enough. You can tinker with things forever!) 
  • Step 3; How much more efficient can you really make it? (If it's only a minor improvement, is it really worth it? Be honest here, don't waste your time or anyone else's - don't massage figures to try to get your way!). 
Is there a bigger problem?
I've often seen operations attempt to solve problems at a team level, that really need to be solved at a cross-functional, or even organisational level. This really is like trying to put out a house fire with a water pistol. Raising a risk or issue to the right people, that shows the likelihood and impact of that risk or issue is worthwhile. Don't be dramatic here - try to back it up with real numbers and real cost savings.

Are you distracting yourself with unnecessary improvements?
I will be honest, I often find myself trying to improve my productivity system unnecessarily. I think if I try a different note taking method, or a better task capture method that somehow I will do the tasks more effectively that are sitting on my task list.

When I catch myself doing this, I check to see if there is anything that I should be doing, but just don't want to. It's a great way to look productive, fix lots of stuff with the belief you are making a great improvement (if it's your own project, it is doubtful that you will have the objectivity to really say whether or not something you've changed is for the better or worse, so be as honest as you can when the idea pops into your head!). 

So whether you think your thing isn't broke, or someone else thinks their thing isn't broke. Prove it.

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