Inspiring best practice in your team
February 19, 2016 12:55 AM   Subscribe

If you manage a team, what are some good ways to get people following best practice rather than sloppy shortcuts? Often there are ways to do things that seems like the easiest method but they can cause problems down the line. However, those problems are not guaranteed to occur and if they do, it's normally for a different person so motivation is lacking to make effort.

I keep asking my team to do things a certain way but I can't help feeling they think I'm just being picky and anal, even though it's pretty obvious why I'm asking. I hate nagging. How can I make them just want to do things in a way that takes into account long-term needs rather than just what is quickest and easiest?
posted by KateViolet to Work & Money (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Well, do you have a quality control department?
posted by tel3path at 1:38 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

It is obvious to you why, but it may not be obvious to them. Can you have one of the people affected by these later problems come explain it?

If you want their buy-in, ask them to help design a new procedure to prevent these later problems. Even if it is just a small piece they design themselves.
posted by nat at 1:48 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

find some way to automate measuring what you want and then display a leader board with the high scores. it's amazing / depressing how much this motivates people.
posted by andrewcooke at 2:06 AM on February 19, 2016

Response by poster: Not wanting to threadsit but I think I need to clarify:
I'm talking about internal procedures, like the way a working document might be set up, with files named correctly so they can be found again, not saved on local users' machines so other people can't access them; templates set up with text styles named in a way that makes it easy for other people to edit the document in the future, that kind of thing.
It's obvious why this should be done because everyone finds it annoying when they can't track down a file or a document doesn't work properly because linked information is missing. However the people who are the worst at following standards are affected the least because they tend to work on their own stuff so don't suffer so much.
It's not the kind of thing you can QC or leaderboard for because a)no resource to check everyone's work and b)there are no easy parameters to check anyway, you just notice it hasn't been done well when you run up against it and it cause problems.
posted by KateViolet at 2:15 AM on February 19, 2016

I get my teams to write a team manual - a "this is how we do things in this team" document. Because they write it, they own it and they police it amongst themselves. It's also handy when you get a new team members.

Also, wherever you can make it easier to take the high (quality) road, do that thing. Get rid of the roadblocks. Instead of nagging your team, ask them "what are the barriers to doing this the best way" and then do what you can to remove those barriers (and a lot of the time the barrier will be "I don't know how to").

Lastly, you have to play by your own rules. If you want spreadsheets set out a certain way you have to do your own spreadsheets that way, every time. Monkey see, monkey do.
posted by girlgenius at 2:18 AM on February 19, 2016 [14 favorites]

Well, many corporations deny users write access to their own local drives and force them to save documents on a shared hard drive.

I'm not saying it's a good solution, especially when it's handled poorly. But if the problem is partly that people are keeping files to themselves when they should be accessible, that would be one way to handle it.

I'm not as familiar with version control systems for text documents as for source code. But what you need is a central repository at the very least, where work is considered not done unless it's in the repository.
posted by tel3path at 2:22 AM on February 19, 2016

can't help feeling they think I'm just being picky and anal, even though it's pretty obvious why I'm asking.

years ago I used to work for someone who came across as extremely picky and anal. I learned a lot working for her, she actually had good reasons, but in hindsight I see that what made it hard to work for her was the way she communicated to us as a team what her expecations were . She doled out info in drips and did not trust me to understand the bigger process. I felt treated like a brainless worker bee. I am not saying you do this, but perhaps consider if you might be perceived to.

So maybe review your communication style: reasons may be glaringly obvious to you, but not the individual team member. Share about the whole process (what is the overall aim?), not only the tiny piece the person is doing. Give a "bigger picture", I find it helps me to know what happens next with whatever it is I am working on and that my short cut impacts a real person further down the line and not just simply offends your sense of process.

Another point was, that she inisited on her way not only in situations it made total sense, but also in situations where it really did not matter. So pick your fights.

These days, I can be quite anal and controlling myself. While I do not manage a team on a permanent basis, I am in charge of teams for/during events, and find people's compliance to my instructions is in direct proportion to how much they buy into the overall goal. I share the "master plan", and outline my reasons for certain choices.
Eg a good example might be that I provide and expect my coworkers to provide a high level of personalised service to our guests. I expect staff to pamper them. But I explain also, that this is just one side of the coin: providing high level personal service to conference speakers and attendees enables us to keep control over the guests movements etc (sounds horrible doesn't it?).

Addition as I just saw your update: totally reasonable goals. But how easy is it technically to store the docs centrally? Is it easier to park it on the local drive than to save it to some central internal server?
Re file names - is there like a reference sheet for naming them?
re templates and styles, do you provide them? One thing that I find is a big obstacle there is that people often do not want to admit that they acutally do not know how to create and properly name templates and styles in word docs.
posted by 15L06 at 2:37 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

You need to have a 'Come to Jesus' meeting with folks about this. I'm ALL about processes and procedures. My favorite thing to say is, "Heaven forbid I get hit by a bus, you'll need to know how to find X, Y, Z."

It's not anal and nitpicky, it's a process and it's there for a reason.

When someone fails to follow the process, say something to them, "Eugene, we were looking for last week's Frammistannie report. It wasn't on the shared drive, and you were out at the dentist. You need to be following the process and upload files to the shared drive. Put a reminder in your calendar to upload it on Monday before you leave so that this doesn't happen again."

Then inspect what you expect. This will be a PITA at first, but once people realize you are all over their shit, they'll have to straighten up. So every week, you'll need to check that Eugene has uploaded the Frammistannie report to the shared drive. When he fails to do so, you'll need to have another talk If it keeps happening make it an item in the job description and make it an issue in quarterly reviews.

You have to be as serious as death eating crackers about this. People aren't going to be motivated or want to do this shit, especially if there aren't any pain points for THEM if they don't. GIVE THEM PAIN POINTS!

Welcome to management.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:43 AM on February 19, 2016 [10 favorites]

Seconding Ruthless Bunny.

It may also be that although YOU see this practice as straightforward, others do not.

You need to rebrand and sell it as though it's new.

I suggest instead of, "We all need to be doing it THIS way," create a very clear process (change the one you want people to currently use even a bit), explain clearly how the process works with a manual and online directions or videos or whatever and introduce this *NEW* procedure to everyone as, "Here's the new process for doing this and the expectation moving forward is that ALL ___ will look like _____. I know that doing things new ways can be difficult, so I'll give us all a grace period of 2 weeks for everyone to get up to speed. The expectation, though, is that everyone does ___ like this."
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:10 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you and your team need to work on a new "definition of done" so that if somebody turns in work which can't be maintained, you can point to that and tell them that it's good, but not quite done according to your team's agreement. This should be a collaborative effort so you're not just dictating your own desires as demands but actually listening to them as well. It may be their velocity will slow down, but if the quality goes up, that's a net win.
posted by mattamatic at 6:34 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is something we sort of have to deal with in our team - we're all good people and smart people but we also get busy and are sloppy around the edges and sometimes that bites us in the butt. As mundane and excruciating as it sounds, we have begun addressing it with SOPs and checklists.

We made a checklist of all the boring shit we always forget to do (and we cheerfully acknowledge that that's what it is!) and every Monday at the end of the day we sit down together and run down it quickly. This provides an incentive for everyone to complete their assigned tasks (usually Monday afternoon, but hey). If you don't do something, it's not like ZOMG YOU ARE A WASTE OF CARBON but in general people prefer not to have to say out loud that they didn't bother to do X 5 minute task.

We also are writing SOPs for certain processes so we don't have to devote brainpower to remembering to do them. We save the heavy thinking for important things, and as for renaming that file according to the naming convention and plopping it on the server - the SOP says that's what's next so I don't have to use any brainpower remembering it. The DOING it is easy, it's the REMEMBERING to do it that's a pain in the ass.
posted by telepanda at 7:32 AM on February 19, 2016

1) ask yourself, "what are the risks I'm trying to mitigate?"

2) ask your team, "what are the right mechanics to mitigate these risks?"

3) measure results in a predefined way over a predefined period. no moving goal posts.

4) goto (1)

the idea is not for you to demand, "these files need to be named this way." instead state it like, "I need to find the right information consistently."

further, the people who do the work know more about it than you do.

last, I would never work for Ruthless Bunny, who almost seems to enjoy choosing the stick over the carrot.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:25 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

what are some good ways to get people following best practice rather than sloppy shortcuts?

Hire people who care about the quality of what they do. Sack people who don't.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Appealing to laggards' sense of letting the team down will motivate a minority of them - at best.

I mostly agree with Ruthless Bunny. If people are causing pain, then they need to be responsible for relieving that pain. First attempt should be to provide guidance that things should be done a particular way. Second attempt should be they need to fix the part of which they're responsible - and also the mess they made downstream.

Of course, setting clear expectations about what they should be doing, measuring that they did it, tying how well they honored those expectations to raises/bonuses/promotions/etc. might work, too. Not out of the question to have people reviewed by their customers (so upstream employees peer reviewed by downstream co-workers).

All the soft approaches aren't bad either - if the process is open to change or input. If it's not, then asking for ideas or open ended statements read mostly as condescension. Say what you want out loud. Make the consequences and rewards obvious.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:16 PM on February 19, 2016

We had a similar concern around working practices in one of my teams and we did four things as part of the next work cycle:

- We explained that there was a historic problem around doing xyz. We had people who'd had to fix these problems last year at the end of the process getting up in front of the group and talking about the problem, the impact it had and how painful it was for them to fix the problem at the end of the process.

- We laid out a plan of what we would do this year to avoid xyz. We also presented a detailed manual on the new process. We asked everybody to review it and ask any and all questions they had on it. The idea was that everybody should be very clear on the requirements.

- We explained that our expectation was full compliance. We explained that people would be picked up on non compliance by their supervisors. We also explained that repeated non compliance would be reflected in performance reviews. We highlighted that the changes we asked were small but vital for the sake of keeping on top of a large amount of information that had to serve a lot of different purposes. We explained that the information had to be identifiable easily and that it was everybody's responsibility to ensure we could control this and that it was in everybody's interest to succeed here, both from a teaming perspective and working well together but also because

- We defined full compliance as one of our team goals for the year, to be rewarded at the end of the process.

> As a result they took the new procss very seriously and mostly got there pretty quickly. In fact they did a really good job after a bit of reinforcement and direction from the supervisory group. We did highlight this as a big achievement throughout. We also did have a nice team event at the end to celebrate both this and a number of other achievements that year.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:01 PM on February 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to work retail. Because I wanted overtime, I'd work in different shops doing different things, such as working the delivery or covering the tills or locking up or whatever. At one location, there was an individual who had been with the company for YEARS who basically didn't care about inventory. I'll call her Susan. Susan liked doing the jobs she liked doing, which included the "fun" bits like making pretty displays, but didn't want to do any of the "not fun" bits, like putting stock away correctly in the stockroom so other people could find it. It had been clearly explained to Susan that doing the not-fun bits was part of her job.

I got called in to tidy the stockroom up. It took me over a week to single-handedly get everything where it should be. When I was done, Susan's boss was really pleased. A fortnight later, I got another phone call, asking me to go in again and tidy everything up. I wound up doing this four separate times. Each time, Susan had simply been lazy and not done things correctly. It wasn't that she was physically incapable of moving the stock, as she moved full crates of stock into the warehouse before leaving them in a pile instead of working them onto the shelving. It wasn't that she was mentally incapable of understanding how the stock was stored, as she could find it easily enough when she wanted it to make a display. She didn't want to be bothered, is what it amounted to.

On my fifth visit, Susan's boss called Susan and myself into the stockroom, and explained very clearly to Susan that Susan was now responsible for the stockroom and that I was responsible for creating pretty displays. When Susan had demonstrated that the stockroom could be kept tidy, she'd be allowed to create the pretty displays again. Susan wasn't best pleased with this, as you can imagine, and was even less pleased when she was told to find the stock for me to create the display with, from inside the gigantic pile of crates she had created. Susan left the company just over a month after this final incident.

tl;dr: Have the person who is creating the problem be the person who solves the problem. If Alice isn't uploading the file to the shared server, get Bob to phone Alice every time there's a problem downloading the file. Get Carla and Deborah and Enid to call her too. Let Alice know that it's her responsibility to get the file uploaded for everyone to use and that if she doesn't, all of these people are going to hassle her until she does it correctly. Make it more of a problem for her to fix after the fact than before the fact. People will generally follow the easiest way, so make the easiest way the hardest.
posted by Solomon at 3:07 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is plenty of good advice in this thread so far. My two cents:

1. Have a checklist for when a document is created/stored. This checklist is partially filled by the author and the rest by a reviewer/approver of the doc. Don't have more than 6-8 questions in the checklists (of the yes/no type)

2. Constitute an audit team with rotating team members. They audit the documents for the kind of things you are looking for and issue a point for each time something is not right. Every quarter or 6 months or annually (whatever suits), review the points and work with each individual to help them get better (or tie it in to their annual performance reviews)

Whatever you do, be pig-headed about it. Don't let the actions slide because you are busy.
posted by theobserver at 1:24 AM on February 20, 2016

I think you should delegate this. You may have an idea about the correct template or file storage, but let someone from the team work with you on a version, then be responsible for implementing it. Part of being a manager is to give your staff growth opportunities, and projects are growth opportunities. Doing it your way - the 'right' way - might be faster, but delegating will also get more buy-in. You can be all tough saying hey team, you need to follow Chris' lead on this; it's important. which gets more traction than Do this my way. The goal is for it to get done effectively, not perfectly. Same with other processes.
posted by theora55 at 10:58 AM on February 21, 2016

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