Organize, Manage, REUSE

Over the past few months I have been pondering a theme about how IT service providers think about work. As I have been refining my thoughts around how to organize, manage, and reuse work, I read an article about the Go Team for Southwest Airlines and how they responded to the recent tragedy with the plane whose engine exploded in mid-air and killed a passenger.  The article in the Wall Street Journal discussed how the airline (and I assume all airlines do the same) has a team on standby to respond to such an incident.  What stood out to me has been the size of the team and that each team member had a specific job.  Each job had a detailed outline and checklist (according to the article) on what each team member’s role and tasks are.

Reuse work, assess and update after each use.

There are a whole series of lessons that can be drawn from this tragedy and how Southwest responded to it. I am sure it will be thoroughly studied. What I am pulling out to share is the idea of reusing work.  The documented plan the Go Team and each individual member used was developed and continuously refined.  The team takes every opportunity to assess the processes and constantly refine them.

One of the biggest opportunities for businesses to improve quality and efficiency of their operations is to REUSE work.  What does that even mean?  It means creating documented outlines for recurring tasks and using themover and over again.  In our old company we had a saying “if you are performing a task that will be performed again, you should be following (and refining if necessary) a documented process or if one doesn’t exist, creating one”.  If this can be built into the organizational culture it will create the following; consistency and resource flexibility. Resource flexibility is achieved by having documented work plans and checklists which allow lower skilled resources to effectively perform tasks.  Some additional byproducts are training opportunities (skill updraft) and also fostering teamwork of mixed skill resources.  The keys to this approach are to use the processes every time, iterate improvements, and weave the individual processes together into a work plan. Another key to the culture is that everyone, and I mean everyone, uses the processes.  By insisting that even the most experienced resources use follow the documented process helps ensure that the processes stay fresh, up to date, and relevant.

This is one leg of the stool; organize, manage, and REUSE work.  Stay tuned for more thoughts on this theme.

Want more info on the subject, check out…

The Checklist Manifesto– by Atul Gawande – Amazon Link
               New Yorker Magazine – the short version, article Article Link