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  • Lacy Starling

#36: Work-Around is a Dirty Word

My employees at Legion know that the easiest way to make me lose my ever-loving mind is to tell me, in the midst of discussing a process, that they've developed a "work-around." You know, this system doesn't talk to that system, so we've created an Excel spreadsheet that we have to put the data in manually. Or So-and-So doesn't remember to do this part of the process, so we do this other process in order to make up for that.


I have no problem with profanity (in fact, I'm a fan), but I've often considered creating a swear jar for the word "work-around." Because it is just a cop-out. Work-arounds develop because no one wanted to put the time and effort into fixing the system, either with technological or human means. If a piece of technology doesn't do what we need it to do, we need a different piece of technology. Yes, that means lots of work and probably some money to get it fixed, but how much time, money and effort are you spending "working around" the (probably already expensive) system you are currently using? (Also, people write off human cost all the time, but for most of us, labor cost is our biggest budget line-item.)


If a person isn't following the process set out properly, causing work-arounds down the line, then you have a management problem. As I tell my people all the time: this is the bus we're on, people. It is going to X destination, and your job is Y and if you don't follow the process and do what you are supposed to do to get us to X, you are allowed to get off the bus. No one gets a free pass because they are difficult, or not tech-savvy, or charming, or anything else. The process is the process because it works. And if it doesn't work, rather than going around it, you need to help us fix it.


I recommend that owners and managers regularly audit systems and processes at their company, actually watching the people (and technology) as it works and asking questions along the way. Why are you doing it this way? What about this process we developed? How much time does that take, etc.? By setting up a rotation of process audits, hitting each department at least once a year, you'll find your inefficiencies (they keep showing up as you grow, trust me) and root them out. At the end of 12 months, you'll have a much more efficient and effective organization. Do it for five years, and you'll be running a well-oiled machine.

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