Make Technology Work for People

[tweetmeme source=”leanisgood” service=”ow.ly” only_single=false]While traveling this week, I noticed that my alarm clock in my hotel room has a motion detector on it.  In the middle of the night it does not illuminate the time until it detects motion.  A great idea.  The room stays darker and then when you move, presumable to see the what time it is, it activates and illuminates the current time. 

However,  there is a flaw with the clock.  In order for it to illuminate, I must lift my torso off the bed.  It does not detect waving my arm only.  By having to lift my whole torso to see the time, it actually creates more work for me than the old method of just opening my eyes and seeing what time it is.  Great idea and technology but really doesn’t make my life any easier as I’m trying to sleep in a strange place!

I’ve seen the same examples throughout many workplaces.  There is a latest greatest technology that sounds great, but when actually applied makes the work harder for the employees, thus creating waste and probably increased cost for the technology.  One of the recent ones that’s been imposed upon me is a new software package to perform performance appraisals.  It takes an already negative wasteful process and makes it worse.  See previous posts here, here, and here

Yes, it makes it easier for the HR group to see what stage everyone is in doing their performance appraisals, but it actually takes about twice as long as using a good old word document!  I don’t know what the ratio of HR is to people who have to do the appraisals, but I know is a very small ratio!  It also gives us less service as you cannot paste graphs, pictures, or other documents into the system. 

Bottom line, make sure that new technology actually helps people do their jobs and reduce waste along with  improving the process.  Too many times the latest greatest technology just adds unneeded complexity, costs, and inefficiency to the process, all in the name of improvement.

Bryan

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4 Responses

  1. Good post, Bryan. These are clear examples of trying to make improvements but not talking with or listening to the people who work in the process, or are customers; co-morbidities to an improvement effort.

    The notion that technology is the answer to many of our problems seems to be bought by many of us, but how often does that technology actually hide waste? How does its inflexibility slow lead times? Yes, technology does a lot of good, but it’s not the panacea many of us are led to believe…

  2. Bryan: Talk about an alarming waste of time! Thanks for the great post. And if you thought raising your torso would wear you out, I think you’ll find that your new appraisal technology is going to “‘ware” you out even more, and you won’t be able to move a head at all! :).

  3. Great post… but you forget that this alarm clock allows the hotel to save energy… and money 🙂

    • Good point. I guess I would hope that they could do both save energy required for the clock and save my energy required to have it detect motion and illuminate. From my (the customer) point of view, I would have rather they saved energy by not washing my towel everyday that I hung up and left the old standard alarm clock in the room!

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