Would you change a process to save a mere 30 seconds of time? A half minute doesn’t seem like enough wasted effort to worry about. But, educator Karen Lewis, author at Practical Pedagogy, did the math. Lewis, who is responsible for mandatory training programs in her large school district, writes:
If I could save 10,000 employees each 30 seconds of frustration, I can add an aggregate of 5,000 minutes of productivity back into our school district.
See. Expose. Fix.
I had two big goals in writing Friction. First, I wanted to help readers see unnecessary effort from bad processes, pointless rules, etc. Friction goes unnoticed or is ignored all too often. Did any of us see the massive friction in traditional taxis before Uber showed us how getting somewhere could be so much simpler?
Second, I hoped that once they discovered friction readers would expose it. And, if it was within their power, fix it. (Want to expose some friction? Use the #FrictionHunter hashtag!)
I’m thrilled that Lewis has taken the ideas in Friction and applied them to an area I hadn’t considered when researching and writing the book: teaching.
Friction in Teaching
Teaching is a profession loaded with friction, particularly in US public schools. There’s bureaucracy. State mandates. Federal mandates. Budget constraints. Teachers have to meet high expectations but often have little control over much of the work they do and even how they do it.
Mandatory training is itself system-imposed friction. Have you ever encountered anyone, in either the private or public sector, who watched a mandatory training video and was excited by it? Or who was happy that they had been forced to put the rest of their work on hold to view it? I didn’t think so.
#Teaching is a profession with a lot of built-in #friction. @KarenLewisEdu shows how to make things a little easier for teachers. #FrictionHunter Click To Tweet
Lewis focuses on avoidable friction, those things that can be simplified and streamlined while still complying with legal or management imperatives. Hence, she focused on a few procedural changes that will save just a little effort for each employee but have a measurable impact system-wide.
All too often, staffers in central offices (in business, too) establish procedures with little regard to the impact on the collective effort to comply. “It will only take a couple of minutes to do this,” should never be acceptable. Even if the time estimate is accurate (and not overly optimistic as is often the case), any amount of unnecessary effort is too much.
Another point that Lewis makes is the need for empathy for the end users of any procedures or processes. The end goal may be important, but the system should be designed not to add any unnecessary effort to employees.
In Friction, I describe my own experience in which a time-consuming expense reporting process was “streamlined” by switching from paper to electronic submissions. No longer would the accounting team have to sort through a blizzard of little pieces of paper to verify they matched.
Unfortunately, this efficiency required everyone else to scan or photograph the receipts, label them, attach the documents, and even assign obscure account and project numbers to every item. A process that was already high friction got even worse for those who had to comply. Contrast this with Lewis’s statement:
When a process calls for inevitable inefficiency, I see it as my job to absorb as much of the blow as possible.
One other key point: when you reduce unnecessary effort for employees, they will feel less resentful about meeting requirements. They will become less likely to join the 70% of employees who are “not actively engaged” with their employer.
I applaud Lewis not just for her friction-reducing efforts but for taking the time to share her experience and insights with her colleagues everywhere.
Have you found any of the ideas in Friction applicable to your work? Do you have to waste time and effort in processes you know could be made better? Shoot me an email or tag me in a social media post. Let’s make the world a better place, one little bit of friction at a time!