Dumb-proofing the business

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There are some daily frustrations we all face, and one of mine is simple things that continually are problems in the company. I have found that it is best to dumb-proof anything and everything that is possible to dumb-proof in order to make mistakes or not following procedures impossible. Dumb proofing, as I define it, is making it so employees have to comply and do things the way you want them done, they do not make any decisions in the process.

One such example is locks on our trailers. I found that I was constantly replacing locks that were lost which was incredibly frustrating. I started charging my employees when they lost locks. Then I would look bad and I would have to remember to make a payroll deduction and it would not resolve the issue that I still had to order new locks which took time. Just another thing to worry about. A small detail, but it was a recurring problem and frustration. This is no longer a problem.

Why? Because I dumb-proofed it. I tied the locks to the trailer door, I made it possible to not even need a system for it, because I resolved the issue by dumb-proofing.

Another example. I would constantly have to remind the employees to put the equipment where it goes in the trailer, so it wouldn’t break and smash into each other. This happened all the time. I handled it the same way; I would reprimand them as well as charge them when equipment broke. It continued to be a problem.

So what did I do? I made it so tools only fit in certain spots. They couldn’t mess it up, they had to put things where they belonged! What a miracle.

A third example is I wanted employees to put out door hangers. I would tell them to, but would they do it? No. So I created a dumb-proof system. I made it so that with our software, they couldn’t view the next job until they entered 3 house numbers. The system won’t let them move forward to view their next job until they enter 3 numbers. If they try to half ass it, I know, because they put in random numbers and I can ask them about it. There is full accountability.

So in  conclusion, I have found it is best to handle things in this order:

  1. Is the problem dumb-proofable? Then dumb-proof it.
  2. Only if the problem is not dumb-proofable, create a system to handle the problem.

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