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Processes and Systems with Human Face

Rajendra Babtiwale Sep 03, 2012

empowerment deviation Process exception standard Business customer system

Satish was traveling in Europe. He was traveling by a train and had reserved his tickets for 2nd class compartment. Train arrived and he found out that one 2nd class compartment out of two, was closed for passengers as its AC wasn’t working. Remaining one compartment was full of passengers as everybody was accommodated in it.

Ticket checker of that train saw Satish and found out that he is coming from different country than his and is at inconvenience for no fault of his. Though there were other passengers like him, he decided to shift Satish to 1st class. Logic expressed by Ticket checker was simple. He said, “You are guest in my country and it is my job not to put our guests at inconvenience. Please enjoy your ride”. Satish not only enjoyed ride but also had free lunch. (This story is about none other than our Satish Chavan when he visited Europe recently)

Very famous writer Mr. Shirish Kanekar was visiting US once. He had some hand luggage and was trying to fill in some form asking for details about the host, residence address, contact person’s name and contact details, which was the requirement at US airport. It was getting difficult for him as he had to search for all those details and looking at it, lady on the counter smiled at him and said, “Forget it. It is very difficult to fill in that form. Isn’t it?” She let Mr. Shirish Kanekar go accepting half-filled form.

Both stories above have something in common and I would like to elaborate on that commonality in this article.

Systems are defined and established to bring in the standardization of work methods amongst different people at work. It is expected that no one in the organization should deviate from the standard thus established. If there is a need to deviate then approval from the senior should be sought beforehand. Such deviations should be exceptions and should not become a rule. If these deviations become a commonplace activity then consider your process is dead and needs rejuvenation. The process needs a re-look and improvement.

What happened in the above examples is the person working chose to make a selective exception and he or she knew that they are authorized to take that decision. In other words, they were empowered. This part most process organizations forget to implement as they fear about rampant deviations, which to some extent is true. These organizations do not have a system to monitor such deviations and are afraid that people will take undue advantage. At the same time Ticket Collector or the lady at the immigration desk did not deviate from this process for everyone but for select person when they were sure that they can justify that deviation.

Nowhere the message is that we can do away with the process, however selective exceptions are allowed in the interest of the person who is receiving the service (Customer). Organizations need to understand dynamics of the market place, operational environment and need to be flexible to accept such deviations. At the same time smart organizations take the input from such deviations and modify the process to reduce pain, in this case making forms simple and training people on the instances they can deviate.

There are number of such stories in the work we all do, when we do deviate from established processes. However the question is do we do it for customer or to take a shortcut? If it is for shortcut then remember in future we will have to pay the price for it. To follow process is natural and logical but emotional upsurge to help people, which are body and flesh, is more natural. I think we should let our right brain overrule our left brain once in a while. Cautious note is, do not make it a habit. Exercise this choice with restrain in the best interest of customer, organization and yourself. My suggestion will be to learn from such instances and try to build the learning in the processes.

Then only we can call our processes and systems are perfect and they have human face.

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