Solutions: What would you do?

Last week, I posted a performance improvement scenario and asked "What would you do?" Here's the follow-up post re-capping the responses and revealing what actually happened.  Thanks to everyone who submitted a solution!

The Scenario

Here's the scenario I asked people to respond to:

A small office controlled access to their suite through an intercom system.  The Office Manager was responsible for using the intercom to screen visitors.  She would ask visitors for their name and who they wanted to see before letting them into the office.

However, a problem was occurring when the Office Manager was at lunch or had the day off.  Other members of the office staff were not following proper security procedures when greeting visitors. Everyone seemed to understand the general need for security, but other employees often forgot to ask visitors to identify themselves or the name of the person they were visiting.

The Solutions

The proposed solutions ranged from simple (post the instructions next to the intercom) to the extreme (scrap the system). A few people suggested they'd ask a few questions before taking action, such as "What are the consequences of non-compliance?" and "Why are people not following the procedure?". 

Interestingly, the responses were split about 50/50 between simple and more complicated solutions. Simple approaches included posting the instructions next to the intercom, putting a visitor log book next to the intercom, and assigning a single person to act as a back-up. More complicated solutions included holding employee training classes or meetings, implementing a multi-faceted employee communication program, and changing the security procedures for the office.

The best performance improvement solution is the fastest, cheapest, and simplest solution that gets the job done correctly. Balancing these two can create an interesting dilemma. Overengineer the approach and you waste time and money. Do too little and the job doesn't get done correctly (creating more expense in the long run).

What Happened

My client posted a sign next to the intercom that listed the three step procedure for answering the door. Performance improved immediately and all employees began observing the correct security protocols.

There were three insights that led to this solution being successfully implemented. 

  1. Employees were already motivated to follow the correct procedure. This meant they wanted to do the job correctly, but they needed help remembering what to do.
  2. The primary obstacle to good performance was remembering a short procedure that employees (other than the Office Manager) rarely used. This meant that we needed to find a way to make the procedure accessible to employees at the time they needed it.
  3. The knowledge/skill required to perform the task was basic. Almost anyone could answer the door correctly just by reading the procedure. This ruled out the need for more complicated solutions (like a training class).