Process Improvements

Published 3:21 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where’s your Susan B. Anthony dollar?

Years ago, I worked for Johnson Controls, Inc. at Stennis Space Center and if you have ever received a dollar coin for suggesting an improvement, then you might have worked there too.

Can you imagine what suggestions you get when you offer coinage?

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It’s not a bad ideal. The process involved writing up your suggestion to improve something in your work area, submitting it to the powers- that- be and then eventually you would receive a little certificate with the dollar coin attached.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, there was a process improvement police who would turn away some of the more ridiculous suggestions. How do I know? When my job duties slackened, I was put in charge of typing up into a database some of these brilliant mind boggling suggestions. That is when I realized, many of these process improvements weren’t worth a nickel.

Should you really suggest an air freshener for the office to improve the work environment so that the worker bees will produce better? Someone did and they received their dollar.

Let me jump up on my soap box!  Air fresheners are environmental terrorists. Yes, they attack those who have allergies or asthma and can make it unbearable for those who may not like pungent, fake tropical smells assaulting their nostrils. Remember the next time you are lighting up, spraying or plugging up exotic rain forest that the guy in the cubicle next to you may be suffering serious consequences for your addiction to scent.

Some folks confuse improving a process with complicating a process. You know the office guy that wants to suggest a better way of building a mousetrap by constructing a computer laser with titanium parts that is both expensive and  overkill to bring the demise of the mouse. After all, you just need to eliminate the mouse, not blast it into a black whole in space.

The actual definition of a process improvement according to the all-knowing Wikipedia is a series of actions taken by a process owner to identify, analyze and improve existing processes within an organization to meet new goals and objectives to create successful results.

Why does business jargon sound so wordy? Because it is.

Frankly, every home should incorporate this business model in the running of the family home. Encourage your entrepreneur-challenged children to write up their brilliant thoughts.

I can see the twins suggesting Dominoes Pizza every night to streamline dinner, replace carpet in their room with layers of dirty clothes since that is where they keep dropping them even though my continuous nagging doesn’t affect their behavior. They would also suggest that hours of video playing would keep them out of my way while cleaning.

My husband already has this process improvement thing down pat. He suggests an improvement with everything I do: the cooking, the cleaning, the clothes, the driving, the yard…. Yep, everything can use his ideal of improving it.

I am not saying that we all couldn’t use some betterment of our ways of thinking, but sometimes, I could use less suggestion and more helping.

It is like church people in which I have much experience with as a former minister’s wife, those that always have suggestions to improve but will sit right back and tell you how to do something without doing … the doing. I heard a statistic once that twenty percent of the church members do all one hundred percent of the work.

However, the eighty percent that never do, are the ones who know how to do it best.

But the organization that in my opinion that needs the most Susan B. Anthony dollars or process improvements is our government.

This battle of doing it our way or no way from both sides of the aisle has gotten us into a pickle. Sure, in Utopia, people work together, but in our voting machine of a government the guy who usually has the most money, the most power, and the most give- you- something- for- your- vote will take the seat of power every time.

My submitted process improvement would be to limit terms, cut pay of those who don’t do their jobs (like show up and vote when they have been elected to) and let them live on what they make as an entity. You know spend only what you have and quit taking mine. I would suggest an air freshener for the government. It would be to open all the windows on Capital Hill and let some of that stink out.

Of course, if I ran things we would be in great shape, but I don’t feel like doing that. I prefer sitting back and suggesting. Plus, my husband knows better how to anyway.

Please do not submit any process improvements for this column, I can’t improve it anymore. I know. I have tried.

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at her website: or become a fan on FaceBook at My Hometown Column.