Throwing Money at a Problem Is Really Dumb

Politicians are the most egregious offenders.

Their strategy is to capture the hearts of voters by promising to throw billions at a problem they feel is important.If the number one voter priority is health care, for example, the candidate-in-waiting promises to double spending on it as the solution.Obviously, if you double down on health care spending you’re going to make epic improvements, right?Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.Most difficult problems can rarely be solved by more spending; they’re systemic issues at play that need to be fixed before deciding how much resource to apply.Throwing $250 billion at health carefor example, without changing the way it is practiced and delivered, won’t solve the essential problems.Nor will doubling the annual budget on billing eradicate the errors made on customers’ bills — in fact it will only multiply the number of mistakes made.Rewarding ineffectiveness with additional resources is crazy — may as well put your money into a boat smileAnd the craziness isn’t limited to the world of politics; most organizations have a tough time avoiding the trap of trying to spend their way out of a problem.Rather than creating a new system for some reason some people think that increasing intensity or muscle power will somehow make things right.It won’t.A current system that doesn’t deliver what is expected must be replaced with one that does and should never be the recipient of lavish spending.Re-creation, rather than making incremental changes to an existing system, is vital and is the only real solution when it comes to problems that have persisted for many years.The process involves these steps.

Dedicate ONE person to be accountable

System problems are not solved by committee; there must be single finger accountability assigned and it should be to a senior leader in the organization who has a reputation of getting tough things done.Far too often a mid-level process or systems manager is charged with the role of making the required changes and they fail because they don’t have the influence and currency in the organization that’s needed to sell the change to all the people with a vested interest in not seeing any change through.

Ask the customer how THEY want it to look

What? What do they know about systems re-engineering; about what an efficient system looks like?Well, they may not have specific academic credentials, but they definitely know how they want to be engaged with an organization.THEY know how the systems should “feel” so if you care about making it easy to engage with customers, listen up.Informal focus groups are great ways to get input to help shape your approach to reinventing systems and processes. Ask the customer how they want to be treated and follow their answer — keep the systems analysts away until you have squeezed out all the customer advice that you can.

Define the desired outcomes

What does “perfection” look like in terms of the results that the system must produce? Define the key outputs — a hip surgery in 2 weeks; a product delivery in 24 hours; same day service repair.Start anew and build the system with no preconceived notions that come from the way things are currently done.And be cautious in benchmarking best in class and copying their solution to the problem you are experiencing.Whereas their approach might have some applicability and thus redeeming value, make sure you are responding to what your customers are telling you and not a best practise that worked for someone else.

Flow chart it in a simple form

What is needed is an extremely dumbed down version of the new system; simple is good, simpler is better.And the main criteria to follow is to minimize the number of handoffs as possible.Obviously, the greater the number of handoffs, the greater the likelihood that mistakes will happen and desired outcomes jeopardized.Systems experts sometimes overly complicate their work, so be prepared to hold them back.

Examine how components of the current system could play into the new one

Even though you are starting with a clean slate and building something new, look to salvage pieces of the existing system(s) that can be integrated and not lose sight of what your customer wants.Where you can avoid reinventing the wheel do it. But be careful to not be guided by the way things are currently done; replicating components of the current system that may not be particularly effective wont solve your overall problem.

Create a “straw dog” version of the new system

Synthesize the brand new elements you have created for the new system with the keeper elements of the current one to produce a draft version of the new system.Rigorously evaluate what you have created. Beat it up and try to expose weaknesses using customer input and the desired outcomes as criteria.If the customer satisfaction criteria is less than 10/10, go back to the drawing board to make system revisions until it’s 100% perfect.

Get customer approval

Finally, when you think you’ve got it right, take the new system back first to your frontline teams and to the customer for their sign-off and approval.How many organizations would even think to get customer acceptance? Right. Very few if any.Internal stakeholders are usually consulted as the system acceptors and are expected to speak on behalf of customers, and whereas they might have a useful opinion on whether customer expectations would be satisfied by the new design, there is only one way to know for sure.Engage them in the decision making process and ask them point blank if they approve the work; if it’s a “NO!” go back and revise it again.Systems that don’t work should never be candidates for additional funding, they should be put on the chopping block and axed in favour of new vibrant approaches with a heavy dose of customer input and control of the outcome.

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