Archives for posts with tag: Process

It’s tough being a kid, especially a teenage one. It’s the one decade where you change out of all recognition. So much to learn, so much to get your head around.

It’s no wonder that kids seem to be all over the place sometimes, their poor brains scrambled as they rewire at an alarming rate through adolescence.

I know my kids often struggled with remembering to bring stuff with them, or to bring stuff back, or to give me things from school. So much going on, and so much to remember.

It’s unfair to expect them to remember everything, so you have to take memory out of it. You have to make it systematic: an automatic, engrained behaviour for a situation.

Give them a system, or a process, that they can follow until it’s almost instinctive. After all, that’s what you did when you taught them how to go to the toilet, hold their knife and fork, or tie their laces.

In point of fact, this advice works in work as well as play, for cutting down the errors, the miscommunications and the inconsistencies. A culture of system or process services us all brilliantly well. And then, on those occasions when we cut loose and get spontaneous, it’s so much more refreshing and enjoyable.


I was reminded of the hidden cost of bureaucracy the other day. Hidden, because it goes largely unreported, and the personal cost to me.

About 6 weeks previously, I had required to send off my passport as part of an application process. The process stated that if you needed your passport back by a certain date that you should detail this. Which I did, since I needed to fly to the UK for a week, building in 2 days buffer in the process. 2 days? I know, ludicrous in hindsight. In fact not even in 2 days. I was flying on a Monday, but told them the Saturday before and that I needed the passport by the Thursday.

The passport hadn’t arrived by the Tuesday. I needed it to fly with Ryanair, whose flights I had booked ages before. The government office dealing with my application had 4 telephone hours per week, yes 4, during which time the phone line was permanently busy. I couldn’t turn up in person and demand my passport back, so I sent an email into the info@ customer service email abyss.

Friday, the last day for postal deliveries before the weekend, and nothing. I had a sliver of hope, in that I was flying late on Monday so it might come that day. On the Friday I called in a favour and someone knew someone who worked in the department of the minister responsible. Nothing, until 4:30pm when an email responding to my info@ enquiry came back with a ‘When did you send your application? When did we receive it? What was the postal tracking number?’ I replied back with the information at about 5pm, and that was that.

In the meantime I had made enquiries with the chat facility of Ryanair, who said they couldn’t help, since the passport was mandatory for travel with them. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I discovered that if you fly with Aer Lingus from the UK to Ireland, and vice versa, and you’re a citizen of either, you can use a driver’s license for ID. Happy days. I booked the outbound flight for the Monday with them, at short notice prices, hoping that the passport might still come in time for me either to fly out with Ryanair or at least back with them if my family could post the passport out to me.

My week in the UK came and went. The passport arrived in my home town on the Friday, and I was due to fly back home on the Monday, first thing. I therefore booked a short-notice-price return flight and came home.

As I said to the info@ people to confirm I had got the passport back, it’s no use offering a process if you can’t then follow it. The fallout affects your customer. Not that there’s too much of a concept of the customer at a government level. I speculate that my application was unopened until my info@ email came in, or more likely the prod from a friend of a friend.

The cost of bureaucracy to me? The cost of bureaucratic failings? Why are they so often set up to fail, to frustrate? 2 additional flights with Aer Lingus at a cost of €150. I know, coulda been much worse.

OK, I’m a bit late to the party here, but I live in a rural area where we don’t have Uber, so I haven’t needed it. Today, however, I’m thinking about a trip to Dublin, so I got the app.

I found the process of getting the app a little clunky. First, I didn’t recognise the Uber logo on the app in the App Store, so I went onto the web on my laptop, and couldn’t find any consistency. I threw caution to the wind and downloaded the app anyway. There were hundreds of reviews, so I was confident I had the right app, but not 100% sure, as there might have been a global/US app and an Ireland app…

Then came the authentication process. It sent a code to my phone via SMS, which I didn’t get, so I clicked on ‘I didn’t get my code’ and it resent the code. I didn’t get that one either. So then I chose the option to complete the authentication via the web. I followed this process and it brought me back to the app to authenticate…

By the time I got back to the app, 5 minutes later, 2 text messages appeared with 2 different codes, neither of which the app accepted. Somewhat flummoxed, I tried to get a code a few more times and then gave up and started using the app.

The app seems to be working now, although 10 minutes later 3 more codes came through. I’ve never authenticated myself yet it seems to be happy it’s me. We’ll see what happens when I get to Dublin and try and order an Uber cab. It doesn’t fill you with confidence when the install and authentication process doesn’t work properly though.

As a consumer, you want to be able to consume conveniently, easily, quickly and painlessly. This applies in both the offline and online world.

The other day I was planning to take a punt on the Euromillions, since the jackpot had done that thing it does every few months where it gets up to a ridiculous amount and draws in punters like moths to a flame. It was the middle of the day so I told myself I’d do it later. After all, there was an invitation to play in my webmail inbox.

I got tied up with work for the rest of the day and was glancing through my webmail after work when I saw the lottery email. It was about 27 minutes past 7pm, and the cutoff for the draw was 7:30pm the same day.

I went onto the site, and selected Euromillions. There was 2 minutes and 15 seconds left in which to play for that evening’s draw. I logged in, picked a line of random numbers, confirmed it and paid. The transaction took 30 seconds. I could have waited another minute and 45 seconds and still would have beaten the deadline.

Now that’s slick, in my book. Mind you, with millions of euros coming in every hour through the site on busy days, you would have expected them to get the process perfect. And it is, in my view.

Sadly, my numbers weren’t perfect. Not even close to perfect.

Completing the circle of a process is so important, otherwise you can’t restart the process from the right palace. This is especially true in business, sales, marketing, in fact pretty much anything involving a project or initiative.

The way to do this is to ask ourselves: how did we do? What was the actual result of the activity, against the target or goals we set for it? Too often we finish a project, a month or a quarter and then we launch into the next one, always looking ahead. But if we don’t look back and review how we did, and take on some learnings, then we don’t improve.

One area I find frustrating is in the area of weather forecasting. They’re in the business of scientific predictions. They’re always looking ahead. I’m sure they review their actual performance internally, but it’s oh so rare to hear the weather industry publicly review its performance against forecast, for the benefit of its consumers.

You could argue that economics is another one, but actually economics shouldn’t be about predicting. The role of economics is to explain what happened. They can’t accurately predict what will happen, or else we’d all be worth a fortune.

No, economics is about ‘what did we do?’ For many other walks of life and work, though, it should be ‘how did we do?’

Sometimes automation adds to a process rather than improves it. It automates the human chaos.

The first time I encountered the McDonald’s automated self-ordering system was at Dublin airport a year or so ago. It simply took too long to order my early breakfast meal so I went to the counter and did it the old-fashioned way.

I was again reminded of this fact recently in France, when my whole family was in with another family for a special treat. There’s hardly ever a queue for the ordering ‘machines’, but it took simply ages to navigate through the menu 7 times for each order, then figure out which part of the restaurant we were in so the staff could deliver our food. There appeared to be no option to go up and order the old fashioned way.

After we had got our meals I watched a Welsh family trying to order deserts and coffees. They couldn’t find the screen with the coffees. It had disappeared. They didn’t have much French, and tried to enlist the help of a staff member, who tried to do the same with her slightly broken English. She couldn’t help so then had to find another staff member to help. This staff member then said ‘the coffee machine is broken and coffee is not available today, sorry.’ Obviously someone had the ability to disable the relevant screens when a product is unavailable, but this was not apparent to the customer. 15 minutes had passed during this process.

A more traditional ordering system might have taken a third of the time, even with traditional queueing, and gone like this:

‘Hi, can I have 2 McFlurries and a coffee please?’

‘The coffee machine is broken and coffee is not available today, sorry.’

‘OK, just the McFlurries then please.’

People, process, technology. If you don’t get the mix right, you make it worse, not better.

Software can help us improve our productivity and automate our operations, which in turn can feed better revenues and increase profitability. Many of us feel strongly that automating B2B processes are the way to go. Removing manual tasks helps people focus on the areas where they can really add value.

With new software coming in, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually buying software, you’re buying change. This is where the problems start, because you need to manage change. It’s not something we humans are particularly good at it. It’s why 70% of change programs fail.

With any kind of change program, you also need to change your processes. Before you start the change, you need to audit, improve and tweak your processes. Then, with the new processes in place and properly embedded, you can bring in the new software, the change.

If you don’t do this, you’re simply spending money and automating the mess, the current mess you have.

And that’s probably worse than doing nothing at all.

You’re familiar with the phrase ‘who’s policing the police?’. One thing that has recently taxed my brain is this: who’s watching the recycling?

As a nation, Ireland is pretty decent at recycling household waste. Better than the Brits and way better than the Americans, not as good as our Teutonic friends.

Our actual waste wheelie bin is dwarfed in weight by our recycling bin, which goes out every fortnight full to the brim, if bins have brims. We’re very good, as a family I think, at reducing, reusing and recycling.

But, just because we recycle well as a family, that don’t mean a thing once our bin’s contents are upended into the recycling waste truck. What happens then?

I sure as heck don’t know. For all I know, they might be throwing the recycling into landfill. Maybe people aren’t as judicious with their recycling and are adding items that can’t be recycled. How are the waste companies sorting the different types of recycled material? Are they removing non-recyclable stuff? Again, I don’t know. We’re trusting in a process that we have no visibility of whatsoever.

We’re pleased with ourselves at how good we are at recycling, yet we’re not actually recycling. We’re starting the recycling process but we’ve no idea how it ends, or in fact how much of it ends.

Sometimes, when you’re too busy to see the work for the trees, it’s difficult to take a step back from what you’re doing and analyse if you could be doing it better.

Process is so important to what we’re doing. You have to get the right steps in place and then make sure you’re doing the steps in the right order.

When I was much younger I was staying in my Uncle’s pub for a while and I was washing his car. After a few minutes he came out and said, ‘what are you doing?’ ‘I’m washing the wheels,’ I replied. You see, the wheels are the fiddly filthy bits that I wanted to get out of the way first.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but now the water’s filthy for washing everything else. Start with the windows and glass first, then go from the top of the car down to the bottom. And start again with clean water.’

Process. You have to get the order right, and you have to do the right things too.

Workflow, as the name suggests, is about the flow of work, the process you go through. If you don’t get the workflow as good as it can be, you work slow, or you work poorly.