I dislike meetings unless they are focused and produce results.

I designed and implemented an electronic document control system for a Silicon Valley start-up. I set certain criteria for when a meeting was in order, a threshold that was seldom met. About 90% of engineering change orders were completed and reflected in the documentation within 2-3 hours of their initiation.

I handed off the process to a person I recruited and helped hire for my client. Within a couple of months, I got a call from my client saying something had gone wrong and could I dig in and find out what had happened. The system had become slower than molasses on a cold day.

The new manager decided:

  • All engineering change orders would be discussed in a weekly meeting.
  • Questions about an engineering change order would be resolved by the following week or the week after.
  • The manager of the function made a simple mistake incorporating an engineering change to a bill of material and was embarrassed. To prevent that from happening again, the responsible engineer would have to come to her desk to verify that no mistake had been introduced.

Delay, delay, delay.

The cycle time on engineering change orders had changed from a few hours to a few weeks. Instead of driving the process electronically, the process was driven in meetings.

The new manager decided to drive the process as she had always done in other companies and didn’t grasp the benefits of doing it the way I designed it. She was a social person who loved meetings and didn’t seem to grock the idea that very few engineering change orders required a meeting.

I was able to quickly get the process back on track.

What processes does your organization employ that have too many sequential steps with little value-add in each of those steps? What are you doing about it?

Photo Credit: Flickr by Hailey Toft

Thought for the week:

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker


Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, blogger and author based in Silicon Valley. He's been in the front row for the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world. Since 1992, Dave Gardner has focused on making the complex simple around people, process and technology. He can be reached through his website, www.DaveGardner.biz, or via phone at +1 408-475-7068.

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