Monday, July 12, 2010

Tracking vs. Doing and the Anal Retentive NVA

I once worked in an organization where the owner was enamored with psychology. He quickly made up his mind as to a psychological tag line for every employee. One of the engineers that did a really good job for us was very detail oriented. Poor Robert was forever tagged with “Anal Retentive.” There is always a level of detail that is necessary and I guess a level that is way beyond this was considered anal retentive.

In the safety world I frequently encounter this trait when it comes to tracking performance indicators (metrics). We set up measures that should make a difference in safety downstream performance (don’t you dare hang your hats on injury rates!!). We then begin the development of some kind of computer program that will catalogue these numbers, track where they came from and spit out voluminous reports. Next we try to build in the ability to back track the numbers to the person, shift, location, time, event…. The perfect anal retentive solution that is very expensive and even more cumbersome to use and evaluate. This approach is pure NVA (Non Value Added).

You might guess that such a solution is not amongst my favorite end results. How about we track safety accountability action completion (something like “Yes, I did what I was supposed to do when I was supposed to do it”) with little more than an employee name and a complete or not complete in the database.

But then how do we check at an adequate level of certainty if we don’t have an anal retentive database? This is actually pretty simple, it is called an audit. The manager/leader goes out into the workplace and asks the person being audited and their associates about the accomplishment of the activities to be audited. An audit with satisfactory answers is a pass and every one gets congratulated and then goes back to work. A practical check on a small percentage of items in question is the function of an audit and takes but a few minutes of face time. A person or group that fails then requires more detailed review. Such audit finding/failure proof or correction falls not on the database developers, but on the person or group being audited (where the proof belongs).

It is not the anal retentive database we need, it is the people doing the job consistently and correctly who can, in a practical manner, prove they are doing so. This likely means some managerial face time at the workface. What a great practical, effective substitute for anal retentive.

The Doc

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