Wait. What Delays?!

If you do not focus on delays, going faster will always be as good as your slowest part of the system!

So I call to make an appointment to service my car and the service rep who I’ll call Joe tells me, “We are pretty busy but you can come by and I will try to get you in.” Sounds great, I am thinking to myself. So I arrive at the service center and there are about 30 people in the waiting area. Joe greets me and asks me a few questions then have me sign the work order to get the work started on my car.

While I am sitting with him, he gets a phone call and I hear him saying, “Well, we are pretty busy but you can come by and I will try to get you in.” Ha! I think to myself, this is not good. How many “work orders” can he really squeeze in without drastically increasing the “wait time” or cause delays for customers?

It is not YOU. It is the SYSTEM.

A Bad System Will Beat a Good Person Every Time. — W. Edwards Deming

Joe seems to be doing his best to get customers in and out as quickly as he can. He takes another work order and add it to the stack of work orders on his desk. As I go to take a seat in the waiting area, I realize that I need to grab my phone charger from my car since it looks like it’s going to be a long wait.

I go to the area where the cars are being serviced and ask if I can get my key to get my charger. They tell me these cars are waiting to be serviced (In other words, Work In Progress or WIP) and we don’t know what technician will be working on your car so they send me back to Joe (my service rep) who might still have my key. I run back to see if Joe has my key and as I approach him, I hear him saying to a frustrated customer “there’s no reason to be upset with me, I am doing my best” and the customer replies, “It is not YOU. It is the SYSTEM!”.

I am about to ask Joe for my key when a technician interrupts and says, “We don’t have a work order for this car. Can you get us a work order?” and the Joe responds clearly frustrated, “This car has been waiting for 2 hours, you just now realize that it doesn’t have a work order!” I guess in the midst of the busyness, this must have slipped through the cracks.

Throughout the whole time, I see Joe hustling and trying his best to joggle between greeting customers coming in, writing up new work orders and delivering keys for the cars that are done. The harder he tries to joggle however the more frustrated customers get. For example, I see my car back at the front where it is “Ready to be delivered” but it took an additional 30 minutes (plus 2 hours of wait time) to get me out the door. This is because Joe was busy with another customer getting a new work order in so he didn’t turn in my paperwork for me to pay and get my key.

Metrics Drive Behavior. What are you measuring?

Customer survey example

Although I get a survey at the end of every visit asking me to rate my experience on several categories, I don’t necessarily get the chance to fill the survey.

I imagine that the main incentive is revenue translated by how many work orders were completed per day? That would drive the behavior of taking on more work orders than the system capacity would allow. I suppose this could help the bottom line in the short term or the long term especially if there is not much competition in the area but the real measure is: Would customers come back if they were given a choice? Would they recommend you to their friends or colleagues?

The Status Quo Cycle

Managers who don't know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure. — Russell Ackoff

If we only measure what we can measure, we tend to lose sight of what needs to be measured. And if we lose sight of what needs to be measured, it will be hard to change or make improvements.

As long as the metric (incentive) is the number of work orders completed (or stories completed) over time, I highly suspect this behavior will change anytime soon! What do you think?

If you enjoyed this article, please consider recommending it. Feel free to follow me on twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.