Playgrounds, Checklists and Making Things Idiot Proof

idiot proof
Playgrounds, Checklists and Making Things Idiot Proof

An article in the New York Times from July of 2011 entitled “Can a Playground Be Too Safe?” discusses the trend over the past few decades of making playgrounds safer.  By reducing the height of sliding boards and monkey bars and replacing the old pavement with rubberized or softer surfaces, it stands to reason that we’ve made the environments safer, right?

Safer playgrounds?

Not necessarily.   Some studies have shown that it has not reduced the number of injuries.  Because we’ve made playgrounds so safe, children feel a false sense of security with the improved safety.  They are more willing to take bigger safety risks and end up injuring themselves just as often.

In the business world, we talk a lot about processes.  We particularly like to design repeatable processes.  If we can standardize processes to the point of being idiot proof, we hope to create an efficient workforce with consistent output.

Is idiot proof good?

It all sounds great theoretically.

But what do you do when non-standard things occur in the middle of these standard processes.  Sometimes processes are established with flexibility to deal with these situations.  Sometimes it has to be escalated to a senior manager for decision making, delaying the standard process that was designed to be so streamlined.

It’s been said that if you make something idiot-proof, they’ll just create a better idiot.

Consultants are known for implementing “process improvements” that make their clients more efficient and run leaner.  They are successful in many cases.  Software applications can be built that reduce the number of manual tasks, enabling companies to process more information faster.  Even well-designed processes can make a team work faster and more efficient.

See my related post: Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?

But designing processes without allowing people the ability to think, make decisions and call an audible when exceptions occur is a dual waste of time.  Time is wasted designing the system and time is wasted following the flawed process and figuring out what to do for exceptions.

Fundamentally, if you make a complex process so easy that a moron can do it, you’ll end up with a staff of morons.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
Do You Have Too Much Reliance On Process?
I remember growing up, watching my mother put recipes together.  She was meticulous in making sure that her measurements were exact.  And the meals she prepared were predictably consistent. A reliance ...
READ MORE
The Difference between Consulting and Managing
Consultants are generally contracted by their clients to resolve an issue.  It’s often project based.  For instance, a healthcare consulting firm may be contracted to implement a new electronic medical ...
READ MORE
What I’ve Learned From Leadership Analysis
My kids sometimes come home from school frustrated by someone who didn’t treat them well or maybe just acted like a selfish jerk. I’ve tried to teach them that people ...
READ MORE
Imagine No Employees
Outsourcing has become common over the past several years.  Nearly every organization deals with outsourcing of some sort. It is a bit controversial. When companies outsource with offshore workers, we hear ...
READ MORE
Are You Purchasing Effective Tools?
I’m pretty handy around the house.  My workshop has a decent supply of tools and I can fix and maintain most of the issues that occur in my home. If something ...
READ MORE
Tell Me Again About Your Great Leadership
We’ve all probably experienced great leadership.  Leaders that we enjoyed reporting to, were mentored by and maybe even developed a friendship with over the course of our careers. You may have also had ...
READ MORE
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?
The baseball coach was frustrated with his team. They just weren't executing. When they were up to bat, they couldn't buy a hit. The pitchers gave up too many hits. ...
READ MORE
Letting Knowledge Walk out the Door…Willingly
It’s good to have a subject matter expert on your team.  A good SME is a resource that virtually every other member of your team can rely on for valuable ...
READ MORE
Boundless optimism: We Need 16 to Tie, 17 for the Lead
My son had a baseball tournament this past weekend at a park complex that had multiple fields.  While we waited for another game to finish so that his team could play, ...
READ MORE
The Bad Decisions We Encourage
It starts at an early age.  Teachers and parents tell us that to be successful and smart we have to get good grades.  Their intentions are good.  They assume that ...
READ MORE
Do You Have Too Much Reliance On Process?
The Difference between Consulting and Managing
What I’ve Learned From Leadership Analysis
Imagine No Employees
Are You Purchasing Effective Tools?
Tell Me Again About Your Great Leadership
Good Manager, Poor Leader. What’s Missing?
Letting Knowledge Walk out the Door…Willingly
Boundless optimism: We Need 16 to Tie, 17
The Bad Decisions We Encourage