Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lessons from a Paperboy: Create the Right Process For Your Work!!!

We all use processes - specific sequenced steps - to accomplish our work. However, very often our processes are painful, inefficient, and ineffective. Perhaps the example below will illuminate.

My First Work Process
I first used a work process when I was a newspaper boy in the 8th grade. The process looked something like this:
  1. Wake Up Late - Get up later than you need to, freak out, and move blearily into action.  
  2. Assemble and Load - On the kitchen table, assemble the separate parts of the newspaper, bind them together with a rubber band, and place them in the bag.
  3. Deliver - Using GIANT brand mountain bike, deliver papers to the appropriate houses.
  4. Deal With Dogs - Curse at the various dogs on the route, attempting to kick or otherwise injure the small ankle-biters. Bike like hell to avoid attacks from the large ones.
  5. Arrive Late to School - Walk in late to Ms. James' 8th grade typing class and receive a lecture about the importance of school and the relative unimportance of having a job as an 8th-grader.
  6. Receive Additional Lectures - Later in the day, receive a phone call from Stewart Reese of the Newspaper Agency Corporation to chat with you about the need to deliver the papers in a more timely manner. 
Here is a newspaper delivery boy. This isn't me, though. I didn't live in Toronto in the 1940s. I did my delivering in Kearns, UT in the 1990s. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper_delivery#/media/File:Toronto_Star_paperboy_Whitby.jpg
As I look back at my experience delivering newspapers I have realized that (a) there were definitely things I needed to improve my process, and (b) I continued doing many of the wrong things for years.

Creating the Right Process
As professionals, we all use processes to perform our work, and these processes should be designed to minimize worker difficulty, create efficiency, and increase quality. However, just like my 8th grade self, many people and organizations continue to use processes that are painful, inefficient, and do not deliver quality results. And just like my 8th grade self, we continue to use these processes!

To be effective, you must select and create processes that minimize worker difficulty, create efficiency, and increase quality. What processes do you use in your work? Are they relatively painless? Are the efficient, or do they take more time than they should? Are they effective in meeting the goals of the organization? Analyze and document the processes you use and if necessary restructure and improve them. I would certainly have enjoyed my experience as a paperboy much more had I worked to improve my process. This is not to say that the dogs would have been interested in changing their own processes for attacking the paperboy...
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