Monday, September 21, 2015

I Can Hire A Monkey to do That!

“I can hire a monkey to do that!”  How often have we heard that comment, or thought it?  Usually, it is in reference to an action, or work, that is mundane, repetitive and boring (and not an insult to monkeys).  Recently, I was engaged in some repetitive work, something that we have all done.  Get some information, cut and paste into a spreadsheet, filter or create a pivot table, cut and paste into another tab, copy other information, cut and paste.  Take the same information, cut and paste somewhere else…you get the picture.  After a day or so, my eyeballs are drooping out of my head.  I knew there had to be a better way of doing this, but was it worth the effort?
Generally, I find myself and other people, when faced with this situation, have three possible solutions:
1.       If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – This always seems to be the “default” answer.  I understand that using an ice pick to chop off the pieces of ice you want to put into a drink works, but reaching your hand into the freezer for pre-made ice is easier.  What works, might have made sense at the time, however, new methods / approaches to things can make them easier, quicker to accomplish and be more efficient.
2.       Someone else can fix it – This way of thinking at least recognizes that there must be a better way to achieve the outcomes.  Standing around waiting for someone else to make things easier for you, however, leaves you exactly where you are today.  This is still not making a difference.
3.       I benefit, I do it – If I am the one that is using the process, and I know that there is a better way, then I need to take the appropriate action.  I know, sometimes the process to improve takes valuable time.  But, the time taken away from something else today to improve things, make them more efficient and ultimately gives me more time in the near future (i.e., quick return on my time invested), means the action was worth the effort.

I chose to go what is behind curtain number 3.  It ended up being a wise choice for me.  Thinking time, putting the action in place, and automating the processing the data took less time than the repetitive process that I was using.  The time that I gained back meant I did not have to work late (as originally planned), provided answers quicker and gave me time to work on something else.  While it is hard to project an outcome and we are sometimes deterred by focusing on the worst-case scenario (in this example, wasting our time).  I almost went with curtain number 1, but took the step back to figure out the correct solution.