You start a new job or transfer to a different department and find that it's totally disorganised. Everyone does things differently and what was done one way Tuesday is done a different way on Friday.
It seems that nothing is organised. Nobody knows exactly how "things" are done and the place simply stumbles along with great inefficiency and plenty of frustration.
I've walked into these scenarios several times during my career and suspect it's a common challenge in numerous work places.
Fortunately, I was either a senior manager or had high autonomy and could rectify these inefficient situations. But, even if you are at the bottom of the hierarchy, you can still do something to improve your lot.
Nobody wants to go to work and become frustrated with dysfunctional systems. If your senior management won't address the issues, do it yourself.
How do you fix the problem?
Everything in business is related to processes and procedures.
A process describes a series of activities that lead to a particular result. A procedure is how you attain that result.
The process is the big picture - the overview of what happens and the procedures detail the way you make it happen.
So, to rectify organisations that are running like a dog with a broken hip, you have to identify what the processes are and then develop procedures that will get you there.
The benefit of procedures is that everyone can read how to do things the preferred way and eventually everyone begins singing to the same tune.
When new people start, they can be inducted using the procedures (standard operating procedures) of the department. Here's a case study from my own experience:
I worked as Head Lecturer at a Correctional Centre and part of my job was to purchase courses for prisoners from local training providers. (The process). When I arrived there were no standard procedures to follow to make this happen.
I set up a procedures manual for this and other activities which went something like this:
- Identify a suitable course provider (say for welding)
- Identify suitable prisoner students
- Obtain a quotation to run the course and details of the course content
- Accept the quotation and raise a purchase order to cover the cost of the course
- Purchase whatever equipment was required
- Decide on a date and time for the course
- Advise prisoners who were to attend of the date, time and duration of the course
- Get approval for the course presenters to enter the prison
- Provide a brief to the presenters about conduct requirements while in the prison and safety aspects
- Run the course
- Obtain the results from the presenters
- Authorise payment
- Issue certificates to prisoners
Because I organised numbers of courses at any time, this procedure leant itself to use of a single page checklist, the advantage of which was I could look at any of the checklists and know exactly what stage the process was at. All documentation related to the courses was clipped under the checklist.
If I was sick and someone else had to take over - which I never was - they could see at what stage of the process every course was at.
When all the admin for a course was completed, I filed the documents.
If you are faced with a similar experience, you can either go with the flow and bob around like a cork in the ocean or you can take control of the system and set up procedures to make your working life more interesting.
It's your choice.