Tactical Execution Warning Flag 1 – Incomplete Staff Work

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Warning Flag“The job is not done until the paperwork is signed.”

StrategyDriven Contributors

All too often, documentation of job performance is trivialized, viewed as an unimportant impediment to progress and is either not completed or not completed well. What goes unrecognized is the impact this documentation has on performance improvement, equipment reliability, and financial accounting; all of which affect a company’s bottom line.

Completed staff work or paper closure is as integral to job completion as task performance itself. Staff work includes all documentation associated with the job’s performance including:

  • status reports
  • time and expense reports
  • operations and maintenance records (as found and as left conditions, materials consumed, tools used, actions taken, meter readings, causal codes, etcetera)
  • condition/problem and cause evaluation reports
  • management observation forms

Staff work completion only occurs when the required data is recorded in such a way so as to support performance of the next process step. For most organizations, this means data is either entered into a computer system or hard copy forms are filled out and appropriately filed.

Data quality and its entry or documentation accuracy are critically important, for without these, downstream processes are corrupted. Inaccurate date flowing to downstream processes necessarily creates an inaccurate representation of circumstances upon which leaders make decisions and/or procedural follow-on activities are driven. This problem’s frequent occurrence yielded the modern cliche ‘garbage in, garbage out‘. It is important to remember that no data can be equally, if not more, misrepresenting of actual circumstances than bad data. Subsequently, incomplete staff work, the absence of documentation, represents ‘garbage in‘ and more often than not results in ‘garbage out.’

Incomplete staff work is a result of deficient processes and/or systems or the way in which the process is reinforced and executed. While not all inclusive, the four lists below, Process-Based Warning Flags; Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors; Potential, Observable Results; and Potential Causes, are designed to help organization leaders recognize whether their organization’s staff work is being completed in a proper and timely manner. Only after a problem is recognized and its causes identified can the needed action be taken to move the organization toward improved performance.

Process-Based Warning Flags

  • work processes to not direct the completion of staff work
  • computer systems, where applicable, do not reinforce complete data entry
  • staff work completion expectations are not contained within management performance standards documents
  • management observation programs do not contain provisions to review work documentation
  • performance management systems do not contain criteria for assessing an individual’s staff work performance, particularly for non-administrative personnel
  • no standard recurring self assessments exist to evaluate the impact of incomplete or inaccurate staff work on bottom line results

Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors

  • supervisors and individual contributors resist performing staff work
  • managers and supervisors do not reinforce the need for effective and efficient task documentation
  • managers and supervisors routinely press for the continuation of field work activities over the performance of administrative work
  • executives and managers do not demand that computer systems be upgraded or configured to reinforce complete and accurate data entry
  • executives and managers to not request evaluation and control processes be used to assess the impact of incomplete or inaccurate staff work on bottom line results

Potential, Observable Results

  • missing and incomplete data records
  • inconsistent data records for like objects (equipment/tools, plant components, personnel, etcetera)
  • inaccurate and/or late billing
  • indiscriminate fluctuations in performance measures
  • manual manipulation of system provided data during performance measure updates

Potential Causes

  • field workers feel staff work is an administrative task that is beneath them to perform, often because while others can perform data gathering and recording activities few can perform the associated field work
  • managers and supervisors do not recognize the business value or adverse impacts resulting from the data gathered and recorded by field workers and therefore view staff work as either unimportant or a wasteful expenditure of field workers’ time
  • managers, supervisors, and workers do not recognize that those closest to the actual work are in the best position to accurately document work results and findings
  • individuals are resistant to changes that require them to learn a different method for gathering and recording data

Final Thought…

Fundamentally, any time decision-makers are presented with an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of the state of their business or the business environment decision-making is impaired; diminishing their effectiveness in guiding the organization to its most optimal value creation.

The following list captures a few ways incomplete or inaccurate staff work can impact a company’s bottom line:

  1. a lack or incorrect documentation of personnel performance data forfeits the ability to accurately produce organizational behavior trend data; preventing analysis and implementation of optimized improvement initiatives to increase performance efficiency and reduce costs
  2. imprecise documentation of equipment operation and maintenance parameters can result in the performance of unnecessary maintenance or in the unexpected failure of under-maintained equipment; both of which result in unnecessary expenditure of the organization’s capital
  3. inaccurate time and expense or activity status reporting can result in errant billing; greatly reducing revenues if under-billing occurs or disgruntled and subsequently lost customers and the forfeiture of future revenue in the case of over-billing