Ready to Grow in 2016: Five Ways to Reduce Rework
You are in your second airport of the day. On the way to the gate, you order a burger, fries, and a soda. Back in the concourse traffic, you peer into the bag—you got a chicken sandwich instead of the burger. Annoyed, you go back to the counter, where the mistake is “fixed”: an employee tosses out the chicken and hands you a burger, with a smile. How much did that cost you and the burger joint?
Your plumber fixed a leak in the shower last week. You get home from your business trip to find your fancy showerhead dripping again. After several voicemail exchanges, you get it fixed—again. How much did that cost?
Your team is under pressure to get a programming project done fast—the customer has set a tight deadline. The team works like crazy, puts in overtime, and finishes on time. Then the customer tells you that two important features aren’t working. You go back to the team for more overtime, which results in more stress. How much will this cost?
All of these scenarios involve redoing work that was incorrectly executed the first time. Rework derails schedules and budgets, and its price is not trivial: rework consistently costs about three times what the original work cost. In addition to the hit on the budget, there are other costs:
- Opportunity costs (you have to redo work instead of moving on to the next project)
- Dissatisfied customers (who now have lower trust in you)
- Frustrated employees (who may start eyeing the exit sign)
- Exhausted managers (who are tired of dogging their employees)
Major causes of rework, such as unclear instructions, excessive overtime, employee skill deficit, and inadequate supervision, are embedded in human resource capability. Successful companies enhance management capability to overcome these problems and reduce rework. These five tips will get you started:
1. Hire managers who are well suited for management. Find managers who care more about the team’s success than their own needs, who plan the team’s work effectively, who stay calm, and who enjoy handling different kinds of challenges. These managers have what it takes to lead a team to success.
2. Ensure that managers can clearly describe what good performance looks like and the standards against which the work results will be measured. Effective managers make sure that each team member knows who is responsible for what and how success will be evaluated. After laying out expectations, good managers make sure team members have the information and training they need to align their work with expectations.
3. Make sure each team member understands her work responsibilities. Struggling teams may be chasing too many goals and trying to do too many tasks, trusting that it will all work out in the end. They need managers to prioritize goals and help the team align their work efficiently. Managers need to be ruthlessly clear about goals. It is often hard to explain goals simply, but with a shared understanding of them, a team can move mountains.
4. Ensure that managers have an effective way to track a team’s progress and to spot and solve problems early, before the project blows up. (Side tip: Asking, “So, how is it going?” is not management.) If they don’t have tracking software, successful managers set up simple systems so they get specific and regular (at least weekly) updates on every team member’s progress and results. A shared spreadsheet where everyone enters their results data helps managers keep up with progress and quickly spot where the work is falling behind, so they can take action before rework builds up.
5. Hire managers who manage. Management is more than taking attendance and making work assignments. Good managers are active and engaged in the success of their employees. The best managers meet regularly with each team member and with the entire team—these meetings don’t have to be long, but they have to be structured and recurring. Through these meetings, the manager can build trust, provide specific feedback, teach team members what they need to know, and help solve problems. When a manager is in the boat rowing with the team, success is more likely and rework more easily avoided.