Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Small changes make a Big difference

My last visit to the hospital pharmacy provided me with a pleasant surprise. The pharmacy had got a credit card machine. This saved me a trip to another counter to get my card swiped. This small simple change gave me so much happiness. Finally they are listening to their customers, I thought, and making changes to improve the service. Small simple changes can make such a huge difference in perceptions.

Speeding up the processes

So why are processes so complicated? And even if they are, why does it have to take so long to get through them? When I travel abroad, I get a chance to stand in many queues, mostly airline counters but a few others too like supermarket, banks etc. Standing in queues is frustrating everywhere, even abroad. But there since everyone seems be disciplined enough to wait for their turn, I also stand and wait for my turn. The person at the counter usually provides full attention to the customer and will not listen to you if you break the queue, even if it is to make a small enquiry. Back home in India (my hospital experience mainly), I noticed that the person at the counter was handling at least three transactions at any given time. So while he was making an entry into his computer for the person in line, he was also responding to another query by someone who broke the line, and yet another who came from behind the counter. In the middle there was someone who came and stuffed more paper in his hands said a few things and left. And of course I pushed him to swipe my card (just a card swipe you see, nothing more... I smiled as I handed him my credit card).

Amazing multi-tasking capabilities one would imagine. But is it speeding things up or slowing things down? I broke the queue and got my card swiped and left. Didn’t have to stand in the queue I smiled. Then when I had to get my bill printed (and stand in the queue this time), I muttered under my breath about all these line breakers who were delaying the person at the counter to get to my papers.

Is this also what happens in our work environment? Are we on too many transactions at the same time? So if I am working on writing a chapter, or creating graphics or testing a module, are there are too many other distractions? Do we have many queue breaking activities that interrupt the work? What are these activities, events etc? Wouldn’t things get done faster and better if the process was followed in the first place and we didn't break queues?

Silly processes

Hospitals are strange places. I am not completely sure how to deal with them. Are they sacred places where noble people cure ills or are they business houses where I am a customer and expect to be treated like one? Given the way most hospitals are run and the fact that many are listed on stock exchange, I tend towards wanting to be treated like a customer. Well, in either case what’s important is it that it should be easy and simple to run through their various “processes”. If I am a customer, I should get the required attention, and if I am at a place where noble deeds are done to ailing human beings, things should be in such a manner so as to put ailing and emotionally fragile people at ease. Alas, easier said than done.

I need to take my mom to the hospital regularly and I am still struggling to find a way to work through the hospital procedures. So first there is blood test to be done, based on results of which the next step depends. So I need to consult a doctor there. To consult a doctor, I need to first pay the consultation fee (stand in queue) and then give receipt to get a number to be in another queue to see the doctor. Then based on doctor’s prescription, I stand in another queue to get admitted. I need to take the admission paper and give it in the ward. They will then hand me a prescription for medicines that I need to get from the pharmacy. If I need to pay by credit card, I need to go back to the billing counter to get my card swiped. Back to pharmacy and I carry the medicines and other stuff to the day care. Finally the procedure of administering the therapy starts. At the end of the day, the day care hands me a hand written receipt with amount that I need to pay. I first need to get a discharge slip made at one counter, and then make the payment at the other. And on the day of the therapy, the doctor’s consultation fee is considered part of the therapy charges. So in the final billing process, the billing guy will first return my initial payment and then take money for the final payment. Then I need to return a copy of the payment bill to the day care. Finally yet another trip to the pharmacy, billing counter to get my card swiped and back to the pharmacy to get medicines for the coming weeks.

On an average I stand in queues about 8-10 times and spend about two hours before the therapy process actually begins and another one hour or so before I can leave the hospital again. Each time I go, I get frustrated by the back and forth I need to do between various counters and queues. “It is the process” I am told each time I express my irritation. I have never been so frustrated by “process” than when I go the hospital.

In some of my conversations I am told content development involves too many processes. I am sure you have encountered silly mindless process that are completely redundant and make work more difficult. Post your comments here and share your experiences and suggestions. Tell me which processes really make you tear your hair out.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.

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