by Lauren Hisey
“We need to put the people back into technology.” – Lauren Hisey
“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”- W. Edwards Deming
Frequently, many of us forget the convenience that technology has provided us. From the first automobile to roll off the assembly line to the latest Tesla, some tool, technology, or machine was used to assist humans in making things. As time has moved, so has the evolution of technology. From the inventions of electricity to the phone, electronic cars, and mainframes to cell phones, it would be an understatement to say that we rely on technology for everything in our modern lives. Even with all these advances, we still forget the people and processes that go along with this technology. To succeed in today’s world, regardless of industry, we need to connect people, processes, and technology. One can not exist without the other.
Too often, companies will want to use technology for a quick fix. That’s the problem we often run into in Continuous Improvement after someone throws technology at the problem, only to discover that it makes the problems worse. I’ve had numerous clients that threw technology at difficulties only to find out the following issues begin to show up:
• Longer cycle times
• Lack of adoption
• Increased costs
• Increase defects
• Increase rework
• Unhappy employees
The list goes on and on.
Many of my clients come to me after experiencing the above issues. I often wish they have come to me sooner so I could help them avoid these issues and remove their distaste for the technology they bought. One client threw RPA (Robotic Process Automation) at a problem process only to discover that RPA made the process even worse. They did not understand why the cycle time was longer with poor quality, causing their employees not to use the expensive RPA.
Most employees want to do a good job, but only if the environment allows it. As we move further into unpredictable environments and markets, companies are not in a place to lose valuable money and resources to technology projects that do not provide an ROI. Often CFOs and CIOs decide to scale back on technology projects because the failed automation projects did not provide an ROI (Return on Investment). But we need to remove that fear of technology. When technology is used correctly, it can help create efficient processes that enable employees to work on more strategic things within their companies.
Throughout all the ages of time, technological advancement has been a tool to help solve problems. With technology advancements every day, we need to change our mindset on how we use technology. Instead of thinking of technology as a solution, we need to think of it as a tool.
Instead of making things better, technology made things worse. Throwing technology at a problem without the root cause creates havoc. You have a lot of wasted human hours and frustrated employees.
So how do you use technology?
How do you make sure that you are not making things worse?
How do you learn from the failures of throwing technology at the problem?
How do you make sure that you are using technology right?
What are the right processes and areas to use technology?
These are the questions that executive leaders will ask when they have failed to use any automation or implement a new system into their business.
Companies head down the wrong path without understanding the strategic way to Digital Transformation. We all want the new “shiny” object, but sometimes those new objects cause more problems than we realize. I’ve had friends who bought the latest mobile device only to wish they had waited because they loved their old mobile device better. The same thing happens with new technology.
New technology is not bad. It needs to be used correctly to make your processes efficient and to allow your people to perform to the best of their ability.
So how do you use technology when connecting people, processes, and technology?
The simple answer is to slow down, understand, and start small!
Sometimes we need to slow down first to speed things up.
While we may have looming recession brewing in our future, it is still important to slow down. You do not want to make rushed decisions about the short term. You need to keep your eye on your business objectives and goals. Just as seasons change in nature, they do the same in business and economics. Things ebb and flow all the time.
One of the first crucial things is understanding their current state. Assessing the current state helps you to understand what is happening and paint the picture of what is truly happening. It is like putting the puzzle together to know how things are today. It shouldn’t take too long to understand the state of the business or the process. Strategically seeing how things are the first step, no matter how big or small you think something is. Understanding the root causes of the problems and issues helps you better solve what is happening.
Second, we devise a plan of attack after the assessment and pick the smallest area first to improve things. Yes, the smallest area. While many want to go after the big fish first, It is more important to solve the minor things first. Call it “low-hanging fruit,” but this is the best way to experiment. Continuous Improvement teaches us to test and start small first to help us see if things are working. But the impact of that failure is less devasting and shows us the right path to take. But on the flip side, successes will be vast and impactful because you will start to gain traction.
As the failures become successes, you can move through your plan of attack. This is where you start to see process improvement and the use of smaller forms of technology begin to mold your people. They get excited when it happens in their area because their work becomes more meaningful and impactful.
It is all about the people! People need to be happy because they want to do their very best. They want to feel valued, and they want to do meaningful things. We have all learned in the past 2.5 years what is more important to us. Returning to the old ways of doing business will not move us forward. Nowadays, people do not want to spend all their time at work; they want more balance. People want to spend more time with their families and their hobbies instead of working. While we spend most of our day working, we want to ensure that we have time to do other things besides work, even if a person loves our job. They do not want to watch the world pass them by; they also want to be a part of it. That is why it is crucial to connect things.
The best way forward is the connection. The technology used as a tool rather than a solution enables more efficient processes and process improvement. Efficiency allows people to do a better job and become more productive. They can begin to work on more strategic things that make them feel valued. They will feel more connected to their job, the other people in the ecosystem, and their company’s mission. With this connection, you will have more revenue because you will also have more satisfied customers.
There are all connections in how this all works. If you throw technology at the problem, you will not get the desired results; instead, start thinking about how you can connect people, processes, and technology. While you may want to move fast, it is better to start slow down. Remember the simple answer: slow down and start small with all the connections.
Lauren Hisey is not your typical consultant or coach. She uses a calming influence, Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, AI knowledge through regular conversations to help create effective change within any business. Lauren helps businesses to improve profitability and culture to drive sustainable growth. She has spent 13 years living and breathing Continuous Improvement as a coach, consultant, trainer, and speaker with different sizes businesses, universities, podcasts, and various networking associations. She has a passion for Continuous Improvement and loves to show others how to use it effectively in their businesses and personal life.