Build Your Systems So That You Can Manage The Exceptions, Not Everything

Every business has systems; technology-based or not, that enable it to satisfy customer demand and make a profit. These systems can range from a simple paper invoice put in the mail to incredibly complex technological processes involving thousands of people. Try as we might, no system is perfect. “Zero defects” is not possible. You may not be perfect, but you can be really good at reacting to the exceptions that occur and dealing with them swiftly and properly. In fact, this capability can be a powerful marketing strategy and competitive advantage (see next week’s blog.) What this capability requires is the combination of quick reporting of exceptions, aggressive internal and external communications and a team approach that reinforces the interconnectedness of all jobs that produce customer satisfaction.  In fact that is every job in the company. What it also requires is a company-wide policy that does not penalize employees who “cry wolf.” A machine may not sound quite right. A computer program may be running slower than normal. The temperature in the office may be off. Whatever the exception is, it should be reported. Like all good intelligence, whatever the exception is may not seem important to the observer, but it could very important to someone elsewhere in the organization. The more everyone in the company knows about how things should be running properly, the better armed they are for spotting the exceptions.