Tools often amplify underlying behaviours, failures and disconnects

Tools often amplify underlying behaviours, failures and disconnects

Oh a new toy!

Robocop, Movie, 1987

It can be a slippery road to go down as a manager when you start to rely on technology to solve problems that you don’t fully understand. Without knowing your problems deeply it’s possible that tech solutions will only worsen your current predicament.

Technology is a huge enabler but it can typically amplify underlying behaviours, failures and disconnects. It makes these underlying problems more deep rooted and harder to solve.

  • If people don’t talk to each other at the boundaries of work – a tool will likely give them even more of a reason to not speak to each other. They will often rely on the tool as a mechanism for communication. It will deepen the rift and disconnect.
  • If the process of on-boarding customers is really poor – then a tool will likely not help. It will only make the poor process faster and possibly expose more flaws in your approach.
  • If your processes for releasing software are flawed, time consuming and fraught with risk – then a tool will likely amplify this.
  • If people don’t like to share information with each other or co-operate – then no global chat solution will fix that problem. It requires levers of change such as co-operation and more consistent management.
  • If your process is just downright broken then you may find you cannot even implement a tool as the process needs to be fixed first.
  • If your data handling and data management is poor then a CRM is likely to just make things worse, deepen the data problems and codify the underlying flaws faster and deeper in to the tech.
  • If your culture is one where people feel they are treated as commodities and “costs to be managed” – then no single engagement software will help with that.
  • If you have a poor customer service ethic then social media will merely amplify this too.

The best way to use technology is to use it to amplify all that is good and working. Use technology to enable you to achieve more greatness, not less suckery (is that even a word?).

Tools are there to empower and help you achieve more – but your job, as a manager, is to make sure that it is more of the good stuff and not just less of the rot, or in some cases – more of the rot.

It is easy to get sidetracked with new shiny toys and the promise of productivity and efficiency from tool vendor salespeople, but your job is to hold fast and focus on solving the problem you have – not the one you think you have, or the problem someone else is telling you you have.

Here’s a brilliantly simple way to make sure technology serves you and doesn’t amplify all that is wrong.

  • Identify what problem you are trying to solve (hard to do – and requires studying and time and data)
  • Solve it as best you can without technology or without rolling out new technology (in my experience most problems are merely communication problems or management problems – and require very low tech solutions like talking, post-it notes, good management and more active listening).
  • Ensure you have solved the problem by using appropriate measures and feedback mechanisms to confirm your predictions and results
  • Then roll out IT to amplify all that is good and working.

Process improvement is really hard and even the term turns many people off, but you need to focus on the problem you have before implementing solutions that may make your problems worse.

If you’re struggling to improve problems in your workflow then maybe I can help.

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