Skedsheet Blog

Where we talk about the product, calendars, organization, and business

Give us nine women and we’ll have that baby out in a month

with 2 comments

by clarity - http://www.flickr.com/photos/clairity/3229542343/ I used to have a boss who’s favorite sarcastic expression was “Give us nine women and we’ll have that baby out in a month”.  He thought throwing people at a problem was silly, but I have proof it can work – up to a point.

A few years ago, I was really shocked by a visit to a potential customer – because they were doing just that with some success.  They had a system that had let them grow their business, but without using a single computer. 

In fact, the only part of their business which required a computer – accounting – was outsourced.  What surprised me was that most of the people running the business were my age – they had grown up with computers and had computers at home.

They knew they had a problem because the small family business had grown beyond what they could do cost-effectively with just paperwork.  But they threw people at the problems, and it was impressive in it’s own way. 

Since they didn’t have a centralized database or even spreadsheets to track all of the work they were doing, they put all of their customer service reps and schedulers around the perimeter of one tiny room.  The room was small enough that all 10 or 15 people could hear each other talk, and could pass paperwork to each other.  On the left side of the door, the customer service reps answered the phones and filled out the initial paperwork.

Then, the paperwork would flow around the room clock-wise; each person would do their part of the job, filling out a section of the forms, making a copy and running it to the production floor, calling to confirm an appointment… finally the last person, just to the right of the door would take the completed work, stamp it as done, and go file it in the archives.

They knew it couldn’t last because they wanted to keep growing and they had reached the point where adding another member to the scheduling team made it less productive.  There was high employee turnover already, and locking more people in a room wouldn’t be the answer, even if it was effective. 

It turns out that sometimes you can throw more people at organizational problems – but it’s expensive  – each extra person you add makes communication a little harder, until finally you waste more time communicating than actually getting work done.

And “the rest of the story?”  – Finally, Precision Countertops made the leap, incorporated software, and now use it to accelerate their business – truly becoming a behemoth in their industry because of their willingness to adopt new technology across the board.  I doubt that any of their new employees can imagine that what gets done with a single click used to take a whole room full of people.

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Written by Harry Hollander

March 10, 2009 at 6:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Nice story Harry, I just noticed your blog, I’ll come back for more.

    ivanbohannon

    March 15, 2009 at 7:14 pm

  2. Thanks Ivan!

    Harry Hollander

    March 16, 2009 at 7:29 am


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