Please submit in triplicate
Contrary to the stereotype that Change Managers typically want paperwork in triplicate, this particular Change Manager has always been dead set against duplication of effort, and so triplication will be right out.
Today I want to write a little about duplication, value, and how to keep the right balance.
When I think about duplication, I’m thinking about duplication of effort, not duplication of information. I don’t have a vendetta against backups!
Historically, of course, the idea of providing something in triplicate wasn’t about doing it over and over, but about providing for important documents the security and confidence of multiple copies, in multiple locations with multiple owners. That has real value, and a definite part to play in the workplace. But then again, so do photocopiers.
One of the late Bill Hicks earliest memorable routines starts with his boss on the shop floor asking him why he’s not working, and so Hicks replies that there’s nothing to do.
The boss suggests that Hicks should at least “pretend like you’re working,” and Hicks responds:
“Well, why don’t you pretend I’m working? You get paid more than me, you fantasise. Pretend I’m mopping. Knock yourself out.”
As time goes by, I’m starting to find the idea that you can run out of things to do more amusing than the punchline. That aside, whenever somebody asks me to fill in the same information for a second or third time, in some web form or application, I always question why we can’t get the machines we’re using to do that for us.
In my experience, there are three types of paperwork.
- Paperwork that helps nobody – this is paperwork for the sake of paperwork
- Paperwork that helps somebody else, and
- Paperwork that helps you
Doing paperwork for the sake of doing paperwork is almost worse than pretending to work; it’s pretending to work without the luxury of being able to use your imagination.
In practice, most people don’t resent doing paperwork that helps themselves, unless they wind up doing it for a second, or third time, for little return. Meanwhile paperwork that helps somebody else is much less taxing if you can see and even feel the benefits its providing.
We are all motivated by the notion that we’re making a difference and demotivated by evidence that suggests that we aren’t.
Of course, it’s not always possible to know how much value you’re providing when you do paperwork that helps someone else, and that disconnection can drive dissatisfaction. When you don’t see the value of what you’re doing, maybe it’s really useful, but maybe it’s just “paperwork that helps nobody” by another name. That’s a challenge that Service Based Culture should help to address – our thinking patterns should become less about tasks, and more about value.
Regardless, the one time you can be pretty confident your effort is being expended inefficiently is when you’re expending it two or three times to provide the same information.
Sometimes we are in a position where the tools we have mean that we have to capture information more than once. When it comes to Change Management we’re capturing in our Service Management Tool a lot of the same information that is also going to be in our Alerts system. It’s completely appropriate that the information exists in those two places, as they have different functions. But given it’s almost identical information, it’s a bit less appropriate that we ask to capture it twice by hand. We should improve this over time, and build an integration if possible.
However, working from where we are, one way that we are reducing duplication with Change Management is in our move to greater acceptance of standardised rollback plans, which can both increase confidence and reduce duplication. That’s two benefits while doing less work, which has got to be win-win.
As a contrast, while our Alerts system could stand to have some rough edges smoothed out, reducing duplication is actually one of its strengths. For people generating new alerts, there’s an option to use an old alert as a template with the “Copy” function. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see able to push information into Change Management also.
However, at the same time, all of the alerts serve a dual purpose. They provide communication to our end users about planned work and ongoing issues, but they also track the availability of applications and services – with a single record.