If employees are replacing an official process with their own workarounds, there’s an underlying reason that deserves a closer look. When you dig into an informal bypass of a process, you often find that it’s the path of least resistance. A workaround makes that person’s job easier, at least in the short term, but it disrupts the collaborative flow for those around them.
Why do workarounds evolve?
- A department has outgrown existing processes: If your business is growing, a process that worked for five people may no longer meet the needs of 50 people. In this scenario, workarounds arise as ad hoc solutions to meet changing needs.
- Employee turnover: If someone is stepping into a former employee’s shoes, they often must quickly get up to speed on a process that wasn’t clearly documented or was itself a workaround. To keep the process moving, they fall back on their own assumptions about how the business works. The new employee may end up creating a stopgap measure because they don’t know about or understand an existing process.
- Lack of trust: People also create workarounds when they don’t trust other employees to do their jobs. For example, they might copy documents from a shared drive and work on it locally to feel more control over the outcome instead of working directly with their colleagues.
- Habits are hard to break: Employees may be using Outlook to store documents, Excel to track projects and PowerPoint to create graphics. They may feel that they don’t have time to learn how to use new tools and that their quick fix is better. They may not want to change. Even if the new solution is clearly more suited to the job.
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