Stop Leaving Out The People!

How many times have you been on the phone in the middle of one of those quagmire calls, you know the ones, we have all been on them; you’re trying to get some help for that new software you bought, or your calling the utility company to see why your bill went up for no apparent reason, or better yet your calling your cable company to see what happen to that channel you liked to watch or any airline company, name any one; anyway you keep getting shuffled from one person to another each time, having to repeat your information; name, address, phone number, social security number (for security reasons right!) and your account number to that new person before being shuffled off to a new person once again.

You’ve been there I know, we all have. While I was going through this last Monday I started wondering why they always needed this information so many times? I already gave it to the first person why isn’t the information then passed on from person to person automatically? It just doesn’t make any sense. Then after about thirty minutes of this I as I was starting my deep breathing exercises so I wouldn’t lose my cool at the next person to come on the line, it occurred to me. This isn’t about the people on the phone, it’s not their incompetence that is making this system messy and inefficient no, not at all. It’s not the people, it’s the software! They must be using some terrible hard to use software that is making the it seem like they don’t know what they’re doing and making them appear like complete idiots.

That started me thinking about systems in general, systems that are designed by left brained people who have no idea how people think. In fact most of the time they don’t want to know or consider how people think. In fact all of the time their philosophy is that things would run a lot better if people were not involved. These geniuses develop systems that on paper look great but when used by, sorry guys, real people to help other real people they just don’t work.

Here are some examples:

This one is so easy: Microsoft Outlook invitations. We’ve all gotten them, we’ve all tried to figure them out and we all hate them. Microsoft should be ashamed of themselves. To me this is the single best example of poor left brain right brain communications. Oh and by the way Google’s invitations software is not much better. In the past two weeks I have received three Google invitations inviting me to a meeting at 10 PM on Friday nights from people who swear that’s not the time they had entered. And please don’t try to start explaining what went wrong, by then we’ve already spent much too much time on this issue. Just send me an email that says I’ll call you at 1 your time on Friday, that’s all.

My little town with all of its’ 15,000 people feels that a certain intersection is not pedestrian friendly enough, actually what has happened is an influential real estate developer rehabbed an old mill into expensive condominiums and now he wants the people who bought those condominiums to be able to cross the streets more easily. And since they are all about 87 years old they just need more time to do that. So now after spending a hundred thousand dollars and a years’ time they, the committee members and city planners (don’t get me started on city planners) have decided that they should take down all of the traffic lights and rebuild the intersection into a rotary, or roundabout or whatever BS name thy call it where you live. For those of you not familiar with what rotary is; it’s a giant circle with cars entering from all directions going around the circle until they see the street they want to take and if they are in the correct lane, take it, if not well they can go around again or get in an accident.

First of all, l here is something you are never going to hear anyone say, “I love that new rotary they just put in.” Never will you hear that. And secondly a rotary is a planners best dream, it is one of those systems that looks great on paper, does well in studies done by, yes other city planners but just does not work when people are involved. Most people hate rotaries and handle them in one of two ways. The first is not going to those parts of town that have them and the second is by just shutting their eyes biting their lips and jumping in hoping for the best. Rotaries, again are an example of left brained people coming up with a system that will work well as long as people are not involved. By the way what the people in my town should do? Have someone reprogram the light system and extend the time allowed for pedestrians to cross the busy streets. I am one of the few people who have actually left Maine. I have been to those far away western states with their very wide six lane streets (ours are two lanes) and seen how they extend the time to allow everyone old, young, walkers, joggers, mothers with strollers and people in wheel chairs to cross the street safely.

The point here is very simple. People are here to stay, people occupy the world and we have to keep people in mind when we develop systems. That’s not a difficult concept, it’s not hard to grasp right? When you are developing a system make sure you take into consideration the most important part of that system…the people, it’s only common sense.

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