Everyone Their Own Factory

We were conducting a job analysis meeting earlier this week to document work outputs, tasks, supporting knowledge/skills, etc. for two roles. (We will use the information to define the roles and map out an overall recommended career/development path.)

We do this work frequently but this time I was struck by the tension between streamlining and standardizing work and individual efforts to get each assignment done quickly…that is, following the standard process vs. coming up with your own steps and even tools to make yourself efficient.

Because the majority of the work performed by these particular roles is done individually on a computer, it is very easy for individual performers to develop their own forms, templates, spreadsheets, and so on. Depending on the assignment, they may need to deliver portions of their output early for review by other team members so they come up with lots of shortcuts…or even change the way they do downstream tasks based on the shortcuts they took at the beginning. Much of the shortcutting has to do with exporting data out of one program, manipulating it, and then importing it back into the original program. It leads to very convoluted work processes with lot’s of exceptions.

Not a big deal for our purposes…we will incorporate the “standard process” into any future training. But for the people in charge of standardizing the work, it presents a significant challenge. What is the best way? Or, should they just prescribe the sequence of outputs and let people do the steps however they want? What if the standard way results in more labor time but forcing everyone to adhere to it will allow the company to more effectively utilize their resources because they can break up the work and share it between more people…but only if they all do things the same way? Will forcing standardization reduce innovation? Should we believe that only the central organization is capable of innovation?

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