“Why are we having this discussion in the first place?” I asked. “What do you see, as a manager, that is creating a problem?”
Arianne was puzzled. She knew the answer, but didn’t know the words to express it. “There are all kinds of issues. I guess it’s just getting organized. Our company has grown, things are more complicated, now. It used to be, everybody did a little bit of everything, and somehow, all the work got done. Now we have more customers, way more customers, and the volume, we now do, in one day, what we used to do in a month. We started out with eight people, now we have eighty-five.”
“When you think back to when your company was small, and then you added more people, what was the biggest change that you noticed?” I pressed.
“I remember, clearly, everybody was doing a little bit of everything, and then we had to divide up the work. Some people would work on one part, others would work on another part, and someone else was assigned to find new customers,” Arianne explained.
“Well, that sounds more organized,” I observed.
“Are you kidding. That was the beginning of the first set of problems. We ended up with two people doing the same thing, duplicating work. And other work that no one was doing, gaps all over. I felt like Hans Brinker, plugging the dike with my thumb. But there were too many gaps. Too many customers, too many orders. It was a mess.”
“What did you do?”
“Somehow, we got it sorted out. We drew a big flowchart on the wall, with boxes for each of the major steps. It became easier to see the holes in the dike, and where work was duplicated. We made checklists, created push schedules. It was a lot of work, a lot of effort, a bunch of overtime, but at least we got all the work out the door.” Arianne took a breath.
“Well, that sounds more organized,” I repeated.
“Are you kidding,” Arianne sat forward. “That was when we almost went broke.”