Simple is as simple does, Forrest Gump…

 Simple is as simple does, Forrest Gump…

First: “I do not believe in simple answers to complicated problems.”

Simple answers to complicated problems never work. They have unintended consequences. Mostly, my bosses give me simple answers to problems for me to carry out. When I try to explain why the simple answer will not work one or two things happen. Their eyes glass over; and, they say, “I don’t care make it happen.” Or, they realize the error of their simple answer. Then, they ask, “how can we handle this?” you are lucky when you get this chance. The bosses above your boss will not contact you; but, tell your boss to carry out their simple answer. You now have a more complicated problem. Sometimes your boss does not know it is a simple answer to a complicated problem. So, you explain the problem to your boss; they are so confused they “know not” how to explain it to their boss. Your boss surely doesn’t want to admit to not knowing the simple answer will not work. Thus, they tell you, that’s your problem. My boss wants it done this way, “make it happen”.

If told, “this is the way I want it, make it happen”; I figure out a new process that will carry out their simple answer to the complicated problem. This, most times, is a convoluted process. I flow chart, as best I can, the new process. I consider how to communicate the new process to all the employees involved, mine and others. I write the document explaining the new process. I ask my employees to review the process. They do the work, they know if I considered all the consequences. When the process has implications for another department, I contact the supervisor in that department to review the changed process. This is important. Employees in my department carry out the changed process. The employees in the other department must be aware of the changed process my employees are performing. I must try to get acceptance of the process from all the employees involved before the process implementation.

Conclusion: When first line managers do this implementation process, the simple answer to a complicated problem may work. Sometimes this answer will not work. You may have to tell all concerned, we cannot get to the simple answer from where we are now. Again, bosses do not like that answer. Welcome to the world of the first line supervisor.

Second: “It is a complicated process to make a process seem simple.”

A group of employees from another company visited our dispatch center. They asked “What was our first consideration when we started the center?” I said, “We did not want any phone calls”. It was simple to come to this conclusion. We have only four dispatchers in our center at any time. We serve employees in the customer call centers (over 200), engineering, marketing, and twenty offices in our division. In no timely way could the four dispatchers answer the many phone calls from these groups. Our visitors said they never considered that problem.

This was a simple statement about a complicated problem. I explained what we did to solve this problem. We determined to do our dispatch center communication with departments electronically through various computer programs. We coördinated with each department we served how to best communicate information to them. This procedure was through a computer program common to our departments. We implemented these electronic communication links in our dispatch center. I made sure our dispatchers sent communications through the correct programs for each department; and, included the information these departments needed to carry out the requested actions. This was a complicated process. When we get employees from other company dispatch centers to work in our center, they don’t understand why we get so few phone calls. We tell them we planned it that way.

Conclusion: Successful processes need a lot of front end planning. When front line managers spend time to develop these communication processes, their department is very effective. This requires working with other departments to decide the common computer systems to use to make communication effective. The other departments must know how and why they will have to get the information through a common program. This is not easy; other departments will want your department to use their computer program. Programs your employees may not have access too. There is a lot of compromise involved. For example, if your company has a common customer service computer program; this is the program you may have to use. Using a common computer program makes the “no phone call” process effective. Of course, employees must issue communications in a consistent and timely manner.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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