Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

An Audit Report

Looking at things closely can be scary!The article last week was about doing a quick audit of a work place, a group or even your own work, to see what is going on–especially if things have been going wrong.

A reader, Rae T. , sent a comment saying he was going to conduct a quick audit to see why things were in a perpetual state of “SNAFU” at his work. He wrote me a series of emails about it and gave me permission to write an overview here.  (With some details changed to avoid identifying anything about the work place.)

Rae said he didn’t discover anything completely brand new, but it reinforced some things he had been told about and was concerned about.  He also noticed a couple of things that surprised and disappointed him.

As a result, he is in the process of conducting a more detailed work audit in which he is looking at the behavior and performance of each employee as well as their roles in the group with which he works.  An important issue is this: He made a promise to himself and to his own boss that he would do something about his findings. THAT is the crucial part!

Here are the key issues Rae T. noted  in his quick audit:

1. Conversations took up large amounts of time.  Rae wants employees to enjoy work and to interact with each other during the day. But he noticed that employees would go to someone’s desk to ask a small work question, then segue to a personal conversation, then general talk, then gripes about work, then more talk. An employee who says she has too much to do to get it done on time, spent a total of almost two hours in such conversations, spread out over the day in segments of twenty minutes or longer.  (The talking may be an avoidance issue, but it doesn’t help to get the work done and is noticed by other employees.) That matter is being resolved now.

2. Interruptions not only slowed work down, the way they were handled kept work from being completed.  Rae noticed that most of the interruptions (phone calls, emails, having someone come over to ask a question, etc.) seemed to frustrate employees.  He made this observation, which I thought was very interesting:

“The problem wasn’t only that somone was frustrated at being interrupted, it was how they handled the interruptions.  Instead of taking a few notes to work on later and getting back to the work in front of them, they tended to start working right then on everything brought to their attention, even non-emergency things. So, they had a whole bunch of half-finished things going all the time, which was demoralizing to them I could tell. “

Rae added this: “I noticed this interruption problem off and on through the day I was auditing.  The next day, when I was doing my own work, I realized I was doing it too. I had fifteen things going and didn’t finish any of them. Several of those things could have waited and I don’t know why I took time away from other things to work on them.”

3. Some people made work less effective for others because of their behavior.  Rae said none of the behavioral situations he noticed were surprises and he is determined to do something about them. They range from someone with a sour approach to most coworkers and supervisors, to someone who routinely irritates people with his overall demeanor.

4. There was a recurring complaint about one aspect of work. During the day, Rae heard some of the same comments made by everyone about a specific work problem. Rae said he had complained about the same thing before he became a supervisor.  He tends to think it’s a problem that is so ingrained it can’t be fixed–but he’s going to work with other people to find a solution or at least an improvement.

Look closely: Those four issues are probably common to your work place as well.  I suggested to Rae that he look even more closely, if there have been serious problems lately, to identify what else might be causing them, rather than assuming he had found the root cause. It’s like the visual you sometimes see of a high-powered microscope starting on the surface and getting down to the molecular level!

However, Rae’s quick audit provided him with the impetus to check the work even more closely–and he is involved with that now. He has his own work to do and can’t devote hours a day to auditing.  However, he plans to spend about thirty minutes every day, observing, looking at productivity and effectiveness, interviewing employees and others and thinking. All of those are great ways for him to immerse himself in the work for which he is ultimately responsible. He also is going to help employees audit their own work and encourage them to identify things they can improve on their own.

I hope you will take the time to survey your work place and find out what’s going on around there. It’s a fascinating and worthwhile activity!

March 29th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments