Zero Tolerance and the 1%

​Reading the Friday morning blog of the rather excellent Ed Reid  this morning on how many small improvements can make a big difference I was struck that it resonated with part of my talk at the NHS event Cloud2 hosted in Manchester the day before. As with Ed’s comments, I referenced the Olympic 1% improvements approach, but I also asked delegates to think about New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Zero Tolerance programme. While Giuliani was focused on crime, mine was on the legion tiny business ‘crimes’ we allow to go unaddressed: the little delays in processes, bad habits, tolerated poor practice or slightly broken systems and the tendency of not fixing small things when you find them. All the many, many inefficiencies that not only mount up and erode business efficiency, but also create a culture for staff where larger inefficiencies are tolerated and where your team doesn’t believe things can be changed for the better because not even the little things get attended to.

This is not just in the wider context of business, but equally true in SharePoint development and acceptance of almost good enough implementations. It is so very easy, near the end of the development cycle, to leave the little things unfinished or to fail to optimise applications and the UI for the actual user (rather than the developer’s idea of what is OK for a user).

Every now and then I have a rant about people (our developer team and end users alike) not filling in things like the Description field in sites, libraries etc. in their SharePoint portals. Inconsistent metadata, variable navigation, different UI and branding, variant naming conventions, governance rules, spelling mistakes ands typos. Things that just don’t quite work correctly. It’s details like this that can make all the difference to the user experience, search, etc. Their absence or inappropriate content can stop a site feeling professional or polished and actively niggle users whenever they interact with a site of process.

The irony, of course, is that the minor things are often so easy and quick to fix, and mostly by team members themselves, if only you ask and give them the freedom to do so.

Accepting these minor transgressions become the ‘gateway drug’ to bigger cultural and business problems. But being seen to have a Zero Tolerance to little issues, of fixing the 1% problems, tends to reap massive rewards for much less effort and cost than mounting another big improvement project.

I recognise that the Pareto Rule applies, and that the last little things can take a while to fix, but not if you get everyone involved to actively help. We should properly finish what we started.

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2 Comments

Filed under Improvement

2 responses to “Zero Tolerance and the 1%

  1. I am not sure the New York zero tolerance policy is such a good example is it? Debunked in Freakonomics by Steven Levitt wasn’t it?

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