How to Change A Water Jug

A couple weeks ago, while sweeping the kitchen floor, my youngest begged me to give him the broom so that he could do the sweeping. While I’m no fan of doing house chores, my first instinct was to simply tell him no so that I could get it done quickly and get it over with.

Instead of denying him of such joy – I thought of a mistake that many of us business owners are guilty of, and one that I’ve had a lot of trouble getting away from. Sure, I could sweep the floor properly and to my liking the first time – and a whole lot quicker than my 2-year-old (my wife would argue otherwise), however if I never delegate the task and teach him how to sweep the floors, I’ll be stuck doing it forever! The same holds true for running our businesses.

I often find myself doing mundane tasks or work thinking to myself that it would be much easier for me to just get it done instead of teaching someone else how to do it. However, it’s been proven time and time again, that if I would simply delegate the task to someone else, it would help high performance, automated machine.

But it goes much, much deeper than that…

We don’t just need to teach someone how to complete a specific task – we need to standardize, document and automate every single process

in a way that even a monkey could do it. No matter how simple the process may appear to us.

As an example, I was at a car dealership last week and helped myself to some water at their water cooler. Taped to the wall behind the cooler was a piece of paper with instructions on – get this – how to change the water jug! It went something like this:

Step 1: Confirm that the water jug is truly empty by ensuring no more water is being dispensed.
Step 2: Remove empty bottle.
Step 3: Remove the sticker from the top of the water jug. DO NOT remove the blue plastic cap.
Step 4: Wipe clean the cap to ensure no dust or particles get introduced to the water cooler.
Step 5: Carefully place the new bottle jug down on top on the cooler.

I stared at this piece of paper thinking to myself what the average IQ of the people working at this dealership must be if they needed instructions on how to accomplish such a simple task – and then I thought back to 1999 at my first office job, where I needed to change my first ever water jug from the office water cooler.

Here were the steps that I took:

Step 1: Removed old bottle that I believed to be empty. Turned out, it wasn’t completely empty, and I spilled some water around the cooler. No big deal, I was able to spin it upwards quick enough to reduce the amount of spillage.
Step 2: Huh, there’s this big plastic cover on this bottle which looks like it would prevent the water from coming out. Better take the entire plastic cap off.
Step 3: OK – if I tilt the bottle, water will come out fast since I took off the plastic cap. I probably just need to do this quick. No problem. On three. 1…. 2…. 3… Flip!

Needless to say, I made a huge mess and probably spilled a couple gallons of water on the floor and was left extremely embarrassed to boot. Had a piece of paper been taped near the cooler with what would appear like obvious instructions to most, I would have avoided making an idiot of myself and spending quite a bit of time cleaning up my own mess on my employer’s dime.

The funny thing is that we are surrounded by ridiculously easy processes and procedures. The next time you’re in the shower, read the instructions on your shampoo bottle on how to wash your hair, or at the doctor’s office, read the little signs in the bathroom on how to wash your hands. As obvious as it may seem to us, we need to make sure that the documentation that we create for our team is just as simple to follow to ensure that all our staff, current and future maintains a consistent level of service for our clients. My all-time favorite are the documented procedures in the backseat pockets on airplanes. The fact that they’ve documented what to do in case of emergency using only pictures and no words is an absolute work of art!

Another reason why it is so important to document all your standard operating procedures is simply so that your team has a point of reference to avoid the need to disturb you every 15 minutes on how to complete a specific task. In our case, we’ve seen a huge increase in productivity and customer satisfaction, which in turn helps our bottom line.

Let’s talk bottom line for a minute. We sell quite a few desktops, laptops and servers. And for years we would spend nearly 4-5 hours getting these systems ready for deployment. This would include removing all the bloatware, installing all the updates and any other software required by the client, transferring data, etc. It was a long, tedious and non-profitable endeavor.

Last month we implemented a new process that will allow us to shed on average 2-3 hours per deployment! While I don’t have concrete numbers, this will save us anywhere from 150 – 300 hours per year!

In fact – we’ve taken our mission to document everything to a whole new level where if one of our technicians does not resolve an issue using either a documented procedure or knowledge base article, then we flag it as such and review whether there needs to be one created. If so, we create it, and link it to the ticket in question. This in turn means that our customers receive a consistent service quickly and effectively no matter who gets assigned the task to resolve it. Sure, the person needing to write out the process will take a long time to complete it, but in the end, we end up saving a lot of time (and money) since any level of technician can easily complete this task by simply following a simple set of instructions.

Next on our radar are password resets. Would you believe that we spend nearly 60 hours a year on tasks related to resetting user accounts or passwords? We’ve been working on a new process that we’ll be deploying soon where we estimate being able to reduce that number by 75%!

Anyways – back to my son and his broom. He gave up after 5 minutes. I’ll get started on documenting house chores for him so that they are nice and ready for when he gets a little bit older…

-Mathieu