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Bad puppy!

Well, I mentioned in my previous post that I would deal with the problems I see with the “refer back to lower-level staff” workflow step separately. Well, this here is where I’m going to deal with it.

The problem, to my mind, is the “puppy peeing on the carpet” problem. So, if you’ve ever had a puppy, you know they have accidents. And there are various ways of dealing with that problem, and none of them are particularly pleasant. One of the ways people handle doggie pee is to whack the dog on the nose with a newspaper – bad dog!

The dog may make the error once again, maybe even twice. But eventually they learn – and, except for when it’s sick, or left at home way too long between walks, the dog never soils again. There is no more need for a rolled-up newspaper as a training device.

The same happens with referrals back to the lower-level staff. They may not give you enough information once or twice, but that referral will clearly be seen as punitive (and something that can probably be dragged out of the system logs for their annual review). After it happens a number of times, they will go out of their way to document, if not over-document, everything about each item that they send up the chain of command. So, not only is that part of the workflow not used again (unless you have a new litter of puppies), staff is probably wasting time getting too much information just so it doesn’t get another referral from management.

Mr. Watchlist’s mantra is to keep it simple unless you really have to do otherwise. Referrals down the chain of command are an unnecessary frill that will probably produce unexpected and unwelcome consequences.

Categories: Workflow


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