Don’t Let Missing Information
Undermine Your Business Success
by Adele Sommers
When people lack the information they need to do their jobs, productivity and product and service quality suffer. Why? If critical procedures, knowledge, standards, schedules, facts, or data are missing, people will have to guess:
- What to do
- How to do it
- Where to do it
- When to do it
- Who should do it
- Why they ought to do it
- How much to do it
- How well to do it, and even
- For whom to do it!
Missing information is a perplexing issue that can cause major stumbling blocks for your business success. This article shows you five ways to avoid these pitfalls.
Before proceeding, we should consider what might occur if all of these information deficits existed on a greater scale. Can you imagine living in a world where everyone had so little insight into how to do their jobs? Let’s take a closer look at what could happen.
When personnel don’t know exactly what to do (or how, where, when, why, how much, how well, or for whom to do it) they might not be able to produce anything at all. Or, if they actually do deliver something, there’s a good chance it won’t work as intended — because the necessary facts, data, procedures, schedules, or standards were not available.
For example, we might see many products thrown away as scrap — because no one knew what to make or how to make it correctly. This situation arises when companies have incomplete or obsolete work orders and instructions, or none at all. (Imagine how continually scrapping products at your company would negatively impact your bottom line!)
We’d have transportation systems, such as buses, planes, trains, ships, and trucks, not delivering anything on time or according to a regular schedule — because the “when to” information was missing.
We’d have physicians, pharmacists, dentists, and other health care professionals giving incorrect diagnoses and prescriptions — because they lacked access to accurate, up-to-date facts and data about their patients.
We’d have customers unable to use products correctly or safely because the directions were incorrect or unavailable.
If these conditions existed globally, we would experience societies full of:
- Inept services
- Chronic delays
- Safety hazards
- Malfunctioning products, and
- Irritated — or even endangered — consumers everywhere!
We know that such inconveniences can and do exist, but in this day and age, we’ve come to expect so much more.
If you are at all like me, you probably tend to feel a bit impatient whenever any type of consumer snafu occurs — such as an error on a bank statement, a software glitch, or a defect in a product.
Ask yourself: In your own organization, do personnel, associates, clients, and customers have access to the information they need on time, and in the right format? If not, read on for remedies you can pursue!
Five Ways to Close Information Gaps
1. Make sure your company compiles a set of complete, current, and accurate procedures, standards, schedules, facts, and data needed to do each type of job. If your standards or regulations vary depending on the types of products you produce, publish clear instructions on when and how to apply them.
2. Be sure documentation libraries are accessible and updated regularly. Maintaining your libraries electronically — either online or in a database — can streamline the process of modifying your documentation. It also makes documents easy for employees, customers, or both to access with just a few keystrokes. By requiring your personnel to retrieve and use the latest official versions immediately, you’ll avoid problems with outdated procedures that can cause waste or confusion.
3. Overhaul any overly complex procedures by simplifying, automating, or even eliminating them. The simpler you can make your processes the better. That alone can lead to higher quality and faster delivery, a shorter learning curve for mastering a job or using a product, and far greater employee and customer satisfaction.
4. Give personnel access to job support. Examples include printed job aids, quick reference guides, online assistance, or other reminders that people can refer to quickly and conveniently — whether they work at a desk, workstation, lab, customer site, or in the field.
5. Troubleshoot any clogged communications that may be delaying or distorting critical employee broadcasts. If everyone doesn’t hear the same thing at the same time, a disorganized reaction and poor morale can result. This includes documenting and distributing meeting summaries so that everyone knows what decisions were made and who has agreed to complete follow-up actions.
Is There a Standard Cure for Every Information Problem?
Not really. Even if your organization does detect a problem with information holes, it’s critical to prescribe the right remedy for each situation. It’s very easy to specify the wrong cure when, say, every symptom looks like a nail and coincidentally, you happen to have a hammer.
For example, the wrong cure could be prescribing “how-to” information to solve a quality problem when the people already know how to produce the desired quality.
The staff simply might not have access to, or enough knowledge about, standards that should tell them exactly how well to do the work in each case. This is especially critical in industries with different levels of regulations for different products.
Training (“how-to” information) is therefore not a cure-all for undesirable results. It’s appropriate only if personnel have skill deficits — a true lack of job knowledge — or not enough job practice.
When people need more job knowledge or proficiency, you should provide training and/or more repetition on the job. But if they know how to do the job and aren’t producing as desired, look next for obstacles to productivity.
In conclusion, with a little research and careful diagnosis, you can prescribe the correct solution for each type of information gap. By systematically providing access to key information, and by using training appropriately, you can avert potential disasters, bolster employee morale, and cement a solid foundation for business success.
Copyright 2023 Adele Sommers