2014: Advent Quality: The Imaginative Widget-Maker

by on December 7, 2014

Once you’ve written your SOP for widget-polishing, you train it out – you make sure that all your widget-polishers have at the very least read and understood the widget-polishing procedure. For some things, reading the SOP is enough. For most things, though, some form of actual training is going to be wise. Humans are better at getting things right when they have been shown how in person and done it themselves with someone to correct them when they remember it wrong. People who can accurately follow written instructions are uncommon. People who can accurately follow written instructions and be confident in their understanding are rare. People who can be confident in their understanding of written instructions but who will, in fact, fail to accurately follow them, are plentiful. SOPs are not magical. You need to train your widget-makers to follow them.

Effectively training people is hard, and the reason it’s hard is that people are not machines. This is also the reason that people are so very useful as part of a process, so it’s difficult for me to begrudge.
Essentially, people are hard to train because people have initiative. There is nothing actually binding them to following the procedure. They are capable of making decisions. That’s why automation is sometimes an awful idea – because what you are doing requires adaptability and judgement. The downside of that is that people cut corners. They skip steps, they invent their own methods, they fudge the numbers, they forget things, they hurry, they dawdle. They improvise.

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