Interfacing activity noise are those activities that are necessary to prepare work and transactions to be processed in the next step in the process. Research indicate that one third of organizational activity is interfacing noise.
So why does this interfacing activity noise exist and even increase?
Managers prudently insert checking steps on many interfaces to ensure everything is correct, complete, and on time. Management, understandably, also insists that the “checker” does whatever is needed to ready a transaction so that it can be processed (i.e., handed on to the next step in the business process). So the checkers, at best with some input from their team leader, will invent the activities to address these routine problems within the constraints imposed by their position and then make use of these activities when the problem recurs. Disturbingly perhaps, this means that the most junior staff design most of the interfacing steps in the process, and they do it with little or no management oversight, or understanding of the organization’s strategic priorities.
The process steps these junior staff must invent can take a lot of effort and elapsed time. Perhaps they have to track down the originator and then get the needed, correct data. Perhaps they have to invent and implement a workaround, or several different types of workarounds. Maybe the error has not been picked up or could not be fixed completely because of constraints imposed by the junior person’s status, and this leads to a customer complaint that requires even more resource to address. In the extreme, important customers may demand meetings which lead to special discounts and rebates that have to be enacted by accounting staff. All this resource commitment obviously reduces productivity—currently absorbing on average the 33.6 percent of staff and managements’ time as referred to above, and slowing processes down. These delays almost always directly and negatively impact customer service simply because they delay delivery. Errors may more seriously reduce customer service levels because the wrong service may be delivered. All this consequential interfacing activity noise will place the business at a competitive disadvantage in customer service. Sales people may have to break their carefully planned call schedule to be at the meeting to placate the angry customer. This may mean that they lose the big deal they were closing elsewhere so their bonus is reduced, which damages employee satisfaction, causing the best sales people to resign. More consequential interfacing activity noise is now incurred in recruiting and training a replacement as well as the damage done to customer relations. From all this we can conclude that leaving the design of these interfacing activities which so directly affect customer service, employee satisfaction, and productivity in the hands of the most junior people in organizations is not the ideal way to implement strategy—and this may be especially the case when it is understood that targeting the major causes of interfacing activity noise will inevitably move every business towards the best practice management principles found in the most admired organizations in the world.