Routine Standardization (Part 8)
Doug Bellamy / March 2017
I want to stress that when you have a routine, you’re habitual. When you standardize, you are also habitual. Each of the words that make up the phrase “routine standardization” are somewhat redundant, and intentionally so. Adopting routine standardization means that you are in the habit of doing certain things certain ways and in certain time frames, and everyone—internally and externally—knows it.
Routine standardization takes the guesswork and decision-making out of the equation, which loosens the flow and develops predictability and certainty as to what the organization does at every juncture. Predictability in business is a wonderful thing, although at times a surprise (with a positive impact) can be wonderful as well. However, if I had to select one or the other, I would much prefer predictability when it comes to organizational activities.
We may set out with one thing in mind, but then we accidentally discover much more, or perhaps something altogether different but extremely beneficial.
Last month I cited several examples of “accidental discoveries,” which are plentiful indeed. Our businesses aren’t, nor should they be an exception when it comes to this phenomena. It certainly wasn’t with the company I referred to. This particular company at the time did mostly residential drywall and, among other things, took pride in completing its work within the agreed upon time frame—consistently. They took the “schedule” extremely seriously. However, every so often the phone would ring and a customer would insist that they had agreed to complete the day before the company intended to complete. At that point, it was too late to rectify the situation. The customer’s schedule was disrupted and from the customer’s perspective, it was the drywall company’s fault.
This irked the drywall company’s management, who felt certain that based on jobsite management, the customer was wrong and the agreement was to complete the following day. So then, the drywall company’s upper management was intent on eliminating the possibility of this sort of confusion and the resulting blemish on its reputation in the future. But how?
This was the beginning of the “Completion Date Worksheet,” or CDW. Its sole function was to get a signed agreement between the customer and the company as proof as to what the completion date was. It actually began as two forms, one CDW for installation and one for finishing, paint ready. Each department would approach the superintendent and attempt to strike an agreement and then get the super’s signature.
This was something that was uncomfortable and semi-confrontational since neither the drywall company’s field management nor the superintendent were familiar with the process. It was awkward and took some prodding to get started. As is often the case, the key to implementation was upper management’s insistence on a particular path, long enough to outlast the very last pocket of resistance.
Since the drywall company was big on “anticipatory service,” over time the form fell naturally into place. It provided an opportunity early on for each department to interface with the customer and answer the typical questions, commit to the critical dates and prevent the customer from the all too often “information chase.” Each CDW for installation and or finishing listed the lot numbers to be completed, the start date, the inspection date, scrap date and completion date, and ultimately provided documentation of the agreement. Once signed, it was sent to the office.
The drywall company’s management quickly realized that the installation CDW could also be used to schedule the scrap truck, mud deliveries and to alert the finishing department. It didn’t take long to see that the CDW for the finishing department was equally useful when it came to scheduling the texture rig, etc. At that time, fax machines were all the rage, so they were immediately faxed upon receipt of the office to those departments.
I’ll interject this, since it fits so well. During this writing, I saw a documentary on TV. It was the story of Harry Coover, a research scientist for Kodak and his team of assistants that were working on a project intending to make jet cockpits stronger. As it turns out, when analyzing one of the thousands of compounds they experimented with, Coover inadvertently happened on what came to be known as “Super Glue.” At first, he was deeply troubled and very concerned about having ruined some equipment in the process. It had immediately stuck together and seemed inseparable. Ultimately, Coover patented one of the strongest adhesives known to man. Later they discovered multiple uses, eclipsing their initial amazement with much more than they had ever expected. Again, another accidental discovery underscoring the possibilities we all have as we search for improvements in our businesses.
Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought, innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.