Good Intentions Don’t Work - Mechanisms Do

Everything else is just a platitude

Good intentions don’t work.  They make us feel better for a short with phrases like “yes, that’s a problem, we should do something” give us a false sense that we actually did something, especially when done by an entire team.

But this is short lived, after a few weeks, days or even hours the same issue reoccurs and we think to ourselves “didn’t we talk about this already?” - you did, you all agreed it was a problem and that something should be done, but nothing happened.

Good intentions don’t work, mechanisms do.

A mechanism is made up of 4 parts:

  1. Process

  2. Tool

  3. Adoption

  4. Audit

Process: even if this is just 4 steps, having a start, an end and a clear picture of what must happen and in what order is key.  Process mapping doesn't have to be painful (we use and recommend Lucidchart). Without process there can be no improvement, only chaos.

Tool: whether it’s a whiteboard, a to-do list, a SharePoint site or a sophisticated ERP, you need somewhere for the process to live, to  contain your logic and data.  The tool is what guides your process ensuring predictability and repeatability.  Your tool must also contain error proofing - i.e. guide users to do the right thing in the right order, and prevent users from doing the wrong thing.

Adoption: a great process and tool is irrelevant if people either don’t know about it or don’t know how to use it.  Your mechanism need to be adopted by everyone, without exception. If there are issues with adoption, it’s likely a problem with your process and/or tool in which case it's time to change either or both.  Just when you think you've over-communicated, communicate again.

Audit: if the process is in place, the tools is working and people have adopted it then that should be it, right? Wrong.  Over time, processes degrade, adoption wains and tools become out of date.  You need to make sure that the mechanism continues to work and is iterated on.  Your audit is the basis of accountability.

Whenever you find yourself saying or hearing, "that’s a great idea", or "we should do something about that" - make sure your next sentence is “what’s the mechanism to get this done?".

Good intentions don’t work, mechanisms do.

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