Scaling a business requires process. Large, highly profitable organizations master their craft and charge a high premium for their services. These companies minimize cost by creating systems for which things get done.
Creating process is a milestone for a start-up company, because process implies that you have a product or service that is in demand. To increase the likelihood of successful growth and development the organization must standardize the way it produces their products.
Process also reduces and minimizes error. When something is done incorrectly and a mistake is made it is easy to place blame on an individual person. The organization as a whole bears the responsibility for an error made by one of its employees, yet internal mistakes tend to be placed directly on one person. Process helps eliminate this while also exposing the true reason why errors in production occur.
Process in Practice
Recently I have been working on producing a plethora of HTML email templates for a large client. Frequently I have been making errors in production: typo’s, line-spacing issues, cross email client compatibility – each of these errors has plagued my work. In an attempt to reduce these errors and create a more efficient production flow, I have employed the 5 Whys Root Analysis technique.
The 5 Whys is a simple, straightforward and easy to use technique that helps individuals and organizations find the root cause of an issue. As Wikipedia states:
The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each question forms the basis of the next question. The “5” in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem.
Here is how I used the 5 Why’s to find a solution for my problem.
1. Why did the email template have errors?
Because our developer overlooked his errors.
2. Why did the developer not find his errors?
Because the developer relied on the account managers to find his/her mistakes.
3. Why do developers rely on account managers?
Because developers do not have a procedure for testing.
4. Why do developers not have a testing protocol?
Because testing takes away time from development.
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After the first four questions, it became overwhelmingly clear to me what the issue and subsequent solution were. Both developers, and account managers need a testing protocol.
Since time is hard to come by, developers should have a concise testing protocol and checklist that aims to find technical issues with the code. While account managers should have a similar checklist that looks for grammatical, spelling, and design errors.
Before any final file is sent to the client it must go through these two independent tests. This will initially be a time consuming and tedious procedure, yet over time it will become a part of the process, one that ensures that the company’s reputation maintains its form.