in Higher Ed

Who does your process benefit?

Challah (Recipe)
Image by Ruthieki via Flickr

The other morning, I stopped at a chain bagel joint to get a bit of breakfast. I’d never been to this particular place before, so immediately upon walking in, the process was a bit jarring.

How things are supposed to work are: You walk in, someone takes your order and gives you a ticket. You take this ticket to the register to pay and then you wait for them to call your name to pick up your order.

I can see what the people who designed this system were thinking.

1) The ticket ensures the person’s order is right and that the customer can see a copy of it, before the register person takes it. Minimizes error and less angry customers who complain you got their order wrong, because it’s right their hands. 2) More customers are processed quickly and then people who just order something fast, aren’t waiting for people with more elaborate orders. More happy customers processed, more money made. Cha-ching.

Except when the process fails to work.

What happens when the order taker isn’t there to take an order? And you have no signs above informing neophyte customers of “the process?” Oh right. Signs are bad. Because it then makes the customer feel like they’re being herded like cattle. Instead, don’t have signs. The regular customers will figure out the process after a few times, because even though it might be jarring at first, the food is worth it and they’ll keep coming back.

Right? Probably when you’re a chain and can afford to roll this process out in enough places that people begin to learn and it stops being a problem. But what if you’re a minnow and can’t afford to make this happen with your processes? What happens when the process breaks down?

Someone doesn’t know the rules and mucks things up? Do you penalize the customer for not knowing the process? Some processes make sense. You need a passport? There’s a process for that, steeped in some pretty logical reasoning. The stakes are high and if you can’t follow the rules, you can’t get what you want.

Does anyone test these processes before foisting them onto the world to deal with? Probably, but who’s perspective are we looking out for? The person who has to used these systems? Or the people building them? Do we align our offices or our programs aimed at a particular audience (e.g. students) with those people in mind and making the process efficient and yet, easy for people to use? (Judging by most educational forms, I’d argue the answer is no.)

Who do your processes benefit?

  1. We actually talked about this in our staff meeting last week!

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