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A Caution about Instant Improvements

While the analyst cannot match the employees' detailed knowledge of what happens at their workplaces, it is not at all difficult to discover some things that those people are unaware of, things that involve multiple workplaces. During data collection, opportunities for improvement of a certain type surface immediately. Some of them are outstanding. The analyst discovers, for instance, that records and reports are being maintained that are destroyed without ever being used. Time-consuming duplication of unneeded records is found. Information is delivered through roundabout channels creating costly delays. The only reason these opportunities were not discovered earlier by the employees is that the records had never been followed through the several work areas. These instant improvements simply weren't visible from the limited perspective of one office. The people preparing the reports had no idea that the people receiving them had no use for them and were destroying them. The people processing redundant records had no idea that other people were doing the same thing.

These discoveries can be clearly beneficial to the organization. However, they can be devastating for the relationship between the analyst and the operating employees. The problem lies in the fact that the analyst discovers them. This may delude the analyst into believing that he or she is really capable of redesigning the procedure without the help of the employees. "After all, they have been doing this work all these years and never made these discoveries. I found them so quickly. I must be very bright."

Most people spend a great deal of their lives seeking confirmation of their worth. When something like this presents itself, an analyst is likely to treasure it. It becomes a personal accomplishment. It is perceived as support for two judgments, "I am a lot better at this than those employees." and "Employees in general are not capable of seeing these kinds of things." Both of these judgments are wrong. The credit goes to the fact that the analyst was the first person with the opportunity to follow the records through their flow. If any one of those employees had done the same thing, the odds are that the results would have been the same.

The analyst is apt to alienate the employees if he or she grabs the credit for these discoveries. If this prompts the analyst to proceed with the entire redesign of the procedure without the help of the employees, he or she will be cut off from hundreds of finer details, any one of which could seriously compromise the effort.

Taking credit for these early discoveries can also alienate employees even if they are invited into the improvement activity. For instance, it is not uncommon for an analyst who is about to go over a new process chart with a group of users to start by telling them about the discoveries made while preparing the chart. This can appear very innocent, but the fact is, the analyst does this in order to get the credit for the discoveries before the team members spot them. Instinctively, the analyst knows that as soon as the employees see the chart those discoveries will be obvious to them as well.

An analyst who realizes that the enthusiastic involvement of the team members is much more important than the credit for one idea or another will want to keep quiet about early discoveries until after the employees get a chance to study the chart. In doing this the analyst positions himself or herself to provide professional support to knowledgeable employees. Soon they make these obvious discoveries for themselves and this encourages them to become involved and excited about the project. It makes it theirs. In the end the analyst shares the credit for a successful project, rather than grabbing the credit for the first few ideas in a project that fails for lack of support.


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