Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How Can I Make That Easy For You?

A consular manager whom Madam respects very much once told her, "The first thing I do when I get to a new assignment is watch. I watch how everything is done: how forms are handed out, how they're taken back in, how the customers line up and where and when, how data is entered, how interviews are performed and notes taken, how printing and handing back and filing and everything is done. Then, once I'm sure I understand the entire process, I take out of it every step that I won't be arrested for not doing. What's left, with only minor tweaking, is sudden efficiency. And effectiveness."

A somewhat old-school manager, this person also believes unwaveringly that  efficiency is not necessarily effectiveness. That is, you can do a lot of stuff very quickly and skillfully, but if it didn't actually need to be done, you just gave up a lot of time, effort and brain cells for nothing.
 And then what?

This manager freely admits that she had to learn this lesson several times before it stuck. "The time I remember most clearly," she told Madam, "was in XX. Our passport applicants queued up to get an application form, then queued up again to turn it in. That meant the not only did the customer use a lot of time standing in queues, but our FSNs had to deal with every one of them twice.

"My deputy CG asked, very reasonably, why we did it that way. After consulting with the senior FSNs, I told him it was because the forms disappeared so quickly: applicants would sometimes take a handful instead of just one. He gave me the long, patient gaze that such an answer deserved. Then he said, 'So then you put out more.'

"I sputtered, 'But they'll be wasted!' And he answered, with far more calm than this idiotic exchange deserved, 'So what?'"

The truth is that nearly every job benefits from exactly the culling that this officer now uses ruthlessly:
 Yeah sure. Bring it on.

!. Remove every step that you won't be arrested - okay, or transferred to Elephant Island - for not doing. 'Order' and 'chaos' are not automatically opposites. They can be Siamese twins. Just because it's orderly doesn't mean it's effective.
2. Rearrange the remaining steps into the most logical order, both physically and process-ly.
3. Perform every step only once. This means, as the most obvious example, that if someone checks the documents, they have been checked and they will not be checked again.
4. Make every decision only once.
5. Don't send two people to do a one-person job. One investigator, one passer-back, one waiting room monitor.
6. Whoever starts the job, finishes the job. Cases don't pass from hand to hand; each belongs to a specific individual who becomes the expert on it. This is essential for IV, citizenship and L cases.
7. Always ask yourself, "What if we don't do this at all?" If the answer is, "Nobody will notice or care," then don't do it. If someone complains, then do it only if you can't talk them out of wanting it done.

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