Tale of Two Processes

A tale of two processes

One good process and one bad process

My parents were interior decorators – so when I was a child, whenever we went somewhere, my parents couldn’t help but comment on the interior design of the place. And I mean everywhere.

We’d be sitting in a restaurant and I’d wait for the inevitable comment about the curtains or the colour scheme.

Now guess what – I can’t help but notice when I see a good process or a bad process in action (I try not to bore my family with it too much – but I probably do).

A little while ago I saw 2 processes that stuck in my mind for different reasons. One was a great process that was poorly executed and the other was a poor process that was perfectly executed.

Let’s take the great process first.

Most hotels these days have little signs in the bathroom about reusing your towels. You know the ones – they look something like this:

But more often than not, when I’m staying at a hotel for more than one night, I find I have fresh towels every day – regardless of the fact I always hang the towels back on the rack.

I think this is a great process – not only does it save money, but it saves the environment too. Literally, win-win. And you’re not asking the customer to do anything they wouldn’t do at home (I definitely don’t replace my towels at home every day!).

And in many places, I’m sure this is followed well. But I know from first-hand experience that the process is often not followed.

So it’s an example of a great process that can be poorly implemented. The remedy here is not to redesign this process, but perhaps re-train the staff to ensure that it is followed. You could also work on your signage to increase the chance of the customer complying with the simple act of hanging their towels back up.

The other example I came across was a poor process perfectly implemented – in this case, airport security.

I fly a lot and over the last couple of years, I’ve watched airports implement this process of lining customers up to various positions to unload their carry on baggage. At Heathrow for example, there are 4 positions in a row for people to step up to (when it’s their turn) to empty their pockets, remove electrical devices, deposit bags and liquids, remove electronics etc…

But the problem is that people are in a row. The 1st positions trays move through the process really well. The second position not so well, the third position can be troublesome and the 4th position – do you even get your stuff at the other end of security..?!

And more people replace each person that finishes. So you could have 3 people who were all in the coveted 1st position who’ve all retrieved their bags and are having a coffee in the lounge whilst the poor 4th position person is still trying to get their 3 trays through the scanner.

It’s a pretty stupid process – but one that is followed perfectly.

When designing a process, you need to consider these 2 things:

  • How are your customers going to use the process?
  • How are your staff going to adhere to the process?

It’s far better to have a great process that’s perfectly implemented 🙂