- For Your Industry
5 min read
The Cardinal Rule of Process Documentation: Read the Comments
We’re told the cardinal rule of the internet is, “Never read the comments.”
This catchphrase is used to warn users of the toxic parts of the internet. One minute you’re sharing an article, photo or video that you’re proud of. The next moment dozens or even hundreds of comments snowball into a whirling mess of meanness.
I’ve been publishing my writing online for over twenty years now, and I can attest that reading the comments absolutely has the power to make you doubt yourself and lose all faith in humanity.
True story, I remember one of my readers commented that I was “nuttier than a bag of trail mix.” That destroyed me for an entire month.
Meanwhile, communicating inside of a manufacturing company is a different arena.
When your goal is to continuously improve, empower frontline workers and transform the company for the better, one of the best habits to get into is reading the comments.
Not in suggestion boxes, sticky notes, dry erase boards or clipboards.
But with accessible and engaging digital devices.
Dozuki has always believed in this aspect of frontline communication, the habit of capturing improvement insights is embedded into the source code of our software. We ensure that our users are able to tag each other, have an open dialogue about their workflows, and make suggestions directly within the procedures. And we make sure managers are set up to be notified when someone has left feedback for their review.
One of our customers, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, was telling us about their old feedback process, which was either on paper, or via word of mouth. The problem was, their operations manager noticed many frontline workers didn’t have the confidence to share their comments. Obstacles such as power dynamics, situational pressure, language barriers, social norms and personality differences would keep operators from speaking up.
Which meant their valuable knowledge got lost.
In our experience, when you open up those lines of communication so everyone can feel heard, continuous improvement insights surface naturally and prolifically. Unlike posting videos on your favorite social media platform, reading the comments at a manufacturing company helps people understand where they fall in the range of perspectives about a particular process, task or procedure. And how to make the work better.
Neagle’s popular anthropology book, Reading The Comments, argues that such conversations can tell us much about human nature and social behavior. He writes:
“Comment is a characteristic of contemporary life. It can inform, improve, and shape people for the better, and it can alienate, manipulate, and shape people for the worse. The negatives can seem more potent than the positives, but there are many benefits to today’s comment. Comment is with us, and we must find ways to use it effectively.”
Here’s another use case from one of our food manufacturing customers. According to their director of manufacturing operations, they had thirty year old procedures with steps that simply didn’t make sense anymore, as the work instructions were more applicable to older pieces of equipment. But the problem was, their frontline employees would say:
“It’s not my job to change the procedure, I’m just an operator.”
And yet, these team members should be given the ownership to do just that. Not only read the comments, but improve upon them.
Together we helped our customer over a period of many months build out a forum. The Dozuki platform gave frontline workers a place to feel comfortable, regardless of age, experience or tech savvy, to just go in and in real time, drop a few lines and make a useful comment. Those were micro contributions, and they added up quickly.
Reading the comments can be quantifiable. We learned from our client that every improvement suggestion they received led to an average savings of $127. With hundreds of processes and hundreds or even thousands of workers, comments can accumulate quite significant cost savings each year.
As we say at Dozuki, digital transformation is an evolution, not a revolution. If you want to improve your frontline communication follow these three simple words of advice:
Read the comments.
Get into the habit of capturing improvement insights. Use digital tools to create a space where dialogue happens organically. Enable the feedback loop between authors and the floor. When frontline workers see how valuable their feedback is, they will keep the improvements coming. And with every suggestion workers make within your procedures, the manufacturing operation gets incrementally stronger.
Topic(s): Work Instructions
Written by Scott Ginsberg
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