Don’t Hate the Player
Businesses often reach out to us for help with their digital systems integration. We get on well with robots. The value our clients are often surprised to gain from our support is the work we do with integrating the human components of any company with the robots in a well-designed ERP network. As humans, we don’t have any API documentation or any specific XML specification. At Sitech Industries, we start with people.
There is a scenario we come across regularly with our clients. In which the design of software, or of processes and workflows used to leverage that software has been focussed almost entirely on making sure the automated systems function and interact properly. It can leave us humans and how we interact with those digital systems as something of an afterthought. This of course undermines their functional excellence.
Some issues might be literally cosmetic, which can be easy to identify, change and improve. Some might be more complex problems relating to real-world workflow problems. Others however, can be the tip of an iceberg revealing a negative company culture, ineffective internal communication and feedback structures, or leadership which lacks flexibility and kindness.
Let’s have a look at a case study. We were working with a client recently and were sent a message from Alex about Sam (not their real names):
Please don’t talk to Sam about that. They have very little grasp on anything data-led.
Our Case Study
The statement was an indicator to us, so we wanted to analyse it a little deeper. Helpfully, we’ve worked with both Alex and Sam closely in the past.
Sam is known to be a very pragmatic, critical-thinker who has notably helped provide valuable perspective on problems through objective analysis. Someone very data-led in that regard (or data-driven at least, the difference is not relevant in this context). So what was Alex referring to?
The difference between them we know is that Alex has excellent cognition and visual acuity, Sam is dyslexic. Specifically for example, we know they rely on word-shape (or bouma) for effective reading cognition.
Sam and Alex have developed different learning strategies for themselves. There should be professional tools provided and workflows, processes and training designed to support all team members to complete their jobs. The way these operational systems were set up means Sam has likely not been supported to fully realise the potential value they can offer the business. Alex blames this on Sam.
All of us have had a different experience throughout our lives developing learning strategies: To make sense of complexities of the world around us. To process, store and respond to our surroundings in a way which is most effective for us personally. The learning strategies we build for ourselves, in many scenarios might give us strengths and weaknesses in different professional areas. But they shouldn’t prevent us from doing our jobs effectively.
We should mention that in reference to our case study, dyslexia is classified as a disability in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. So this particular issue needed resolving as a priority. But the motivation for improving systems and workflows to support flexibility and accessibility goes far beyond what is required by law.
We can build our ERP network to be flexible and accessible. The design of our workflows, our systems and our company culture must be responsive to our teams’ needs. In fact it’s a fundamental responsibility of anyone in an operational management role to make sure they are.
How can we do that in a small business?
If Human Beings Cannot, or Do Not Use a Tool, It Doesn’t Work
In a very small business, it is easy to work very personally to tailor systems. As a company grows, it is not efficient to tailor entire systems and workflows to individuals in the same way. It’s important to build flexibility and universal accessibility into the design so that individuals are empowered to tailor their own workspaces and tools as far as possible.
Working towards solutions starts with leadership and company culture which fosters collaboration with your team. We tend to understand other people’s perspective by starting with a model of our own. We can’t really avoid that, it’s a bit of a paradox. But by being wary of it when we do we’re off to a really great start. By asking the right questions, and challenging our own experiences; we reap long-term, sustainable benefits in our businesses.
In our case study, we looked at some of the tools the team were using for collaboration. We identified tools which more effectively and universally supported not only for Alex and Sam, but anyone with different learning strategies. By implementing new workflows for this team, we were able to be a lot more effective working towards simpler solutions to other, more complex problems.If you are interested in some specific ways to support members of your team with dyslexia, Dyslexia UK have some excellent resources and tips.
Alex made assumptions about Sam by misinterpreting the reason they weren’t data-led. Most importantly though this was a symptom of a wider issue.
A brief aside from our case study; a pet-peeve that nonetheless, is worthy of the title of the article. An example of how a simple policy can make a big change perhaps. If you need words to stand out, and accurate readability is a priority. (Which is arguably, in industry, every time you use written words.) Do not use all caps…
Here’s some other examples of ways to make specific phrases or words jump out.
- Do not use all caps (bold type).
- All caps is bad (a different colour).
- Everyone can read proper case (adding a highlight).
Starting to develop and reinforce your systems, processes, workflows and training systems can be daunting. It’s important to start getting ahead of your business’s potential to ensure you can grow, and do so sustainably.
Drop us a line in advance of your next development project. Consideration and advice for supporting different learning strategies is not an extra service. It’s part of everything we do. Sitech Industries can help build and execute a strategy that supports your team. Your company culture and infrastructure can enable them to do what they do best and reach their potential.