02846: Surviving Contact with the Enemy

Similar to how language evolves over time through usage and other nuances, processes at work tend to change to adapt to the users. No matter how well you think you research the very methods and even test such methods as best you can, what people will actually do in real life work situations is really what matters.

One of the roles I once held during my years in the call center industry was quite literally process improvement  However it carried the rather ominous title of Audit and Compliance. It's the sort of thing that assumed there already was a best way to so things and thus it was more a challenge of getting people to follow the rules. It was an extension of a QA role and it was rather difficult as naturally people resisted such efforts in favor of what was more practical or what enabled them to do their jobs in an easier manner such that they still hit their KPIs (and thus their incentives).

I liked the nature of the work and maybe the loftier goals attached to the role but the day to day grind was not quite as fun. People largely expected you to catch defects before the client did. In the long term the role was merely trying to stay one step ahead of external auditors.

But process improvement and related functions of process engineering are actually quite fascinating endeavors. The real trick is figuring out methods that balance your ideal goals, your compliance requirements and practical day to day realities. People will instinctively reject a process if it doesn't work for them or seems to lack immediate value. If a process "improvement" is perceived to make life more difficult for them, then they'll go back to what works. And that just tells you that the method wasn't necessarily better. It failed the ultimate test of such matters - actual user acceptance.

But it remains a challenge that feels quite fulfilling in the long term once you do find a method that works. I feel that all the more now that I have a more direct hand in shaping policy at our company. Some efforts have worked. Maybe have failed because getting a team on a new process can be like herding cats, especially among creatives. But when we do find the time to pulse check and try to course correct inefficiencies, I still get pretty excited.