Saturday, July 28, 2018

Process Drives Predictable Results, Lower Risk and Costs



In the recent article Ebola Shows It Is Process-Not Technology-That Will Protect Us on wired.com, Jeanne Roue-Taylor discusses how technology alone is insufficient in controlling the disease. She further discusses how process breakdowns increased the risk of transmission. From Eric Duncan not properly being screened before boarding his plane to his first hospital visit, following a properly planned process could have stopped the subsequent infections, where process again broke down. She concludes that process and not technology will best control the spread of this disease. The same can be said when dealing with any issue in business, to achieve success, we need to use technology as a tool to implement well planned process.

Delving into the Ebola comparison further, the CDC underestimated the risk of transmission from the beginning. I believe this caused a false sense of security and possibly contributed to lax safety protocols and a patchwork of standards. In the case of Dr Craig Spencer, who volunteered with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, he was allowed to self-quarantine. A protocol that he did not adhere to when he used public transportation including the subway and Uber. Subsequently, the bowling alley that he visited the night before being diagnosed had to temporarily shut down due to concerns over infection.

Following Spencer's diagnosis, New York and New Jersey felt compelled to institute a mandatory quarantine of all healthcare workers coming from West Africa; a move that is criticized as an overreaction, uneducated, and political. All may or may not be true, however, time and again it seems that it is human nature to down play or dismiss worst case scenarios until either they actually happen or we catch a glimpse of what may happen that scares us into action. The natural response is to then overcompensate in the effort to both "learn from our mistakes" and show others that we are now taking proper action.

In the business world and life in general, the concept of process is a boring and unpopular topic. Nevertheless, when we view proper planning and implementation of process as integral to our success, mishaps, unexpected outcomes and unforeseen risks are minimized and ultimately avoided. In our business, the smallest step skipped can result in time spent resolving avoidable issues later which result in unexpected costs, downtime and customer dissatisfaction. I do not know the price tag for the treatment the infected patients and sterilization of their homes and the venues they visited. I would be willing to gamble that proper training, planning and implementation of process and safety protocols would have been less costly and controversial. As in the case of Ebola in the US and even minor everyday tasks, technology can make us more efficient but, without process, the results cannot be accurately predicted.

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