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Don't Bother?

One of my talents has always been to take a look at current business processes and find ways to make them more efficient or ideally to automate them entirely. I was recently at a company with which I’m affiliated and noticed that one of the employees had four different spreadsheets open on his desktop at the same time. I casually asked him why this was.

It turns out that this employee has a weekly reporting requirement, and that requirement puts him into what I call “Excel Hell.” This is one of the reasons I formed PETE. They use ODBC spreadsheets to pull their data from M2M. As I watched, he went down his long list of procedures, copying this to here, formatting this column this way, summarizing the data and retyping it into another sheet, etc. It was exhausting and mind numbingly boring. After a few minutes of watching this, I determined how I could solve this problem with a set of SQL jobs to export his information into tables and then report from them. This would take me about 12 hours to build and test. To me this was a no-brainer because the employee “wasted” over 4 hours each week on this report.

When I approached his manager with the idea, I was told not to bother. “It gives him something to do,” the manager said. This is just one more reminder why I’m so very happy not to have a “real” job. Doing something, simply for the sake of having work to do, would drive me crazy. When I asked the manager for clarification he said, “Well, he doesn’t have enough work to do as it is. I can’t do without that position for these reasons… Therefore, your ROI numbers are skewed, because I won’t be gaining any value by saving his time right now. However, I’d like you to work on…”

I suppose his reasoning is correct, but that idea just rubs me the wrong way. What do you think?

4 comments to Don’t Bother?

  • I heartily agree with you – rubs me the wrong way too! Managers like that – in my opinion – do not belong in managerial positions! They are not good stewards of the company’s nor the employees’ resources if they don’t want to allow you to use/implement such a common sense time saver as you suggested. WOW! Let technology HELP us – not hinder or emcumber us. As a trainer, I find that lack of knowledge on management’s part – most often contributes to this archeic attitude. What a shame!

  • As long as I had the time to make the changes I would go ahead and do it anyway. The manager didn’t tell you not to do it, he told you not to bother; but if you’ve got the time then it’s not really a bother *wink wink, nudge nudge*. There is always more work that can be done, something he could take over for someone else in the department that’s overtaxed on time or something that people would like to see done but “nobody has time to do it”, or whatever.

    I’ve been in this reporting fellow’s shoes before, except that I knew how to work with databases where he probably does not. I took a project that used to take my boss a full week to get only 30% of the job done and modified the reporting so that I was able to do the whole job in 2.5 days. I didn’t find that I suddenly didn’t have enough to do, instead I found that I was able to get a whole lot more done with my time that I otherwise wouldn’t have because I spent so much time doing it all by hand as my manager had taught me to do.

    When I left the company the boss asked me not to train anyone else to fill my position, but they couldn’t handle having the production level decrease so they took that report and split it between 5 people who would do it the old way as my manager had done. The only thing I changed was taking it from a drawn-out process into a streamlined one where our result was that production multiplied. When I left they took it back to the slow process and production took a huge drop. From talking to the old coworkers a few months ago they’re still doing it the old way and the 5 people that took over what I was doing have all quit, been replaced by people who also quit, and is now being ran by 5 new people who probably will not last much longer either.

    The long, senseless processes are what will cause your good employees to quit from frustration and burnout, where offering them new tools that make their jobs easier, faster, and more enjoyable is likely to result in a more pleasing and more productive experience for the employee that will make them want to stick around longer. Giving your employees the tools they need to make their jobs faster and easier is a great way to build loyalty and a sense of belonging to the team/family that the company should be.

  • Andrew

    I agree with Jason, if you can slip it in you should. Also, I just wanted to say that the blog changes look fantastic.

  • Thanks Andrew. I’ve been doing a lot of work on the blog and blog articles lately.

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