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Consistency is the key…

Consistency is the key…

I’ve recently been rather busy (hence the lack of posting this week) on a project at work. It’s the first time we’ve used this method to populate a website (I need to be a bit vague for obvious reasons!) and a couple of things came up during the process that have prompted me to write this post.

Basically what got my “goat” and sparked this post was the lack on consistency in the information we were dealing with so instead of having one type of information we ended up having 4 types and therefore 4 times the work. Not good when you’re working to a tight budget (which we overran coincidently).

The thoughts that I have put down below could easily be applicable to many parts of your daily life, whether it be building a website, sending a memo to a co-worker, writing a presentation or just having a bit of banter down the pub.

Simply put it’s “Be Consistent”

If you’re not consistent then people will get annoyed, fed up or just ignore you.

Think of consistent as “Espy”:

Expectations
Situation
Perceptions
energY

Expectations

People always have expectations, whether they (or you) realise it or not. If something has been done in a set way before they will expect it to be like that the next time.

Now, I’m not saying that this is a good thing of course, after all variety is the spice of life! However being inconsistent within the scope of what you’re currently doing can be really bad for productivity – it adds confusion and doubt into the mix.

Say for example your boss has always expected his weekly report in a certain format and you decide to change it around a little bit. If he’s got 50 reports to look through and yours is different how can he be expected to find the information he requires quickly?

Or, if you always meet your mates on a Monday night at 7.30pm to watch the football, don’t make it 7pm the next week and 8pm the week after that, no one will know where they stand!

Situation

Okay, so the above example was a little strange, it is good to be spontaneous after all but in some situations it doesn’t fit. You can’t just suddenly decide to completely reorganise the way the filing system works for no apparent reason and then expect people to be able to find a TPS report from 2001.

Every situation will have a different level of consistency required and attached to it. Feel free to make changes if:

  1. They’re required
  2. They’d improve the process
  3. Everyone who matters agrees
  4. They’d be more efficient (in terms of time, money etc.)

Don’t make changes for the sake of change – just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean to say you have to!

Perceptions

If something is consistent then it will be perceived to be reliable: “Good old Bob! He’s always in at 8.30am, he’s the most reliable guy in the department”.

It doesn’t matter that “Good old Bob” sits around for 30 minutes doing absolutely nothing, he’s still “reliable” because he’s in early every day.

If something always happens a certain way the it’s also perceived to be the norm and anyone changing it is simply rocking the boat. Again, I’m not saying that rocking the boat is a bad thing but you have to make sure that it fits in with the situation you are in.

energY

Trying to keep up with something that changes all the time is tiring. People get fed up and then give up when their energy levels start to wane.

Being consistent helps people be more energetic as they’re not expending all their time and energy chasing around after something that should have been (and usually is) done.

If you’re constantly running around after your co-worker because she’s not sending out her monthly report consitently you’ll soon get tired of it. Your enegry levels drop, you hate your job and before you know it you’re reduced to a sobbing heap on the floor.

Fixing the problem

Tell them
Sometimes people simply don’t realise they’re being inconsistent until they’re told. Try telling them (gently) and explain why it’s not good for them, you, the company – whoever is affected.

Ensure the correct process is in place in the first instance
Perhaps they can’t be consistent because the process doesn’t allow it. Make it as easy as possible for them by giving them sample documents, guidelines, spreadsheets etc.

Change the process
Even if there is a process in place, it may not necessarily be the correct one. Do a process audit and get rid of the unnecessary steps and add the necessary ones.

Take a look at yourself
Are you (yes, you!) making unreasonable demands? Reflect and check that what you want isn’t a step too far.

Reach a consensus
You need everyone who is involved to agree on the processes and what is expected. Hold meetings and get everyone to put their 2 pence in, keep on rehashing the ideas until everyone is happy, “on-board” and “on the same page” (oh! how I hate Management speak!).

Forget about it
Sometimes the consistency isn’t needed it’s just assumed it’s needed as it’s always been that way. Do you really need everyone to fill those forms out in triplicate each time? If not, or you can change the process drop it!

Final Thoughts

Being consistent is, to put it simply, another way of being polite. It shows respect for people, the situation and organisation.

But remember, just because something’s always consistently been that way doesn’t mean to say it’s right!

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