Follow The Friction

Follow The Friction

Instead of using a results‐driven methodology, this article will introduce a process‐driven technique to identify points of friction. This technique is based on the premise that there is no perfect process or team, so there will be points of friction.

For example, when entering into a new position, there is usually an observation period where all of the processes and policies from the previous leadership stay in effect. During this period, there will be a steep learning curve, but beyond learning how the office runs take note of any friction points:
  • Personnel friction points can manifest in many different ways, but there may be:
    • Low morale
    • Underperformers 
    • Relationship conflicts 
    • Fiefdoms 
    • Lack of ownership 
    • Lack of communication 
    • Poor working conditions
  • Process friction points may include:
    • Assumptions
    • Risks 
    • Difficulty 
    • Complexity 
    • Overload 
    • Underload 
    • Redundancy 
    • Single‐points of failure 
    • Budget constraints 
    • Ambiguous guidance 
    • Overly restrictive guidance 
    • No guidance 
    • Delays 
    • Errors 
    • Divergence from organization’s vision or goals
As friction points are identified, there should be a method to prioritize them because it may not be realistic to fix every issue. For instance, there may be budget, time, or political constraints that prevent immediate action. Tip: Arrange issues as milestones on a timeline and create a wish list.

Personnel and process friction points can be binned into three main categories: individual core, team core, and higher echelon.

  • Individual Core is comprised of core tasks which directly tie to each position’s purpose or reason to exist.
  • Team Core is tied to team purpose — in addition, there are team dynamics that cannot be addressed individually.
    • For example, there are different ways to address team dynamics such as clarifying guidance, improving workplace conditions, and team‐building events.
  • Higher Echelon friction points are the next level higher in scope, but are the most difficult to address because they are usually outside of the scope of the leader’s control.
Friction point fixes can be implemented concurrently, so we should not focus on only fixing individual problems first. Instead, the binning process helps focus our attention on the issues directly related to the office’s main purpose.

Before implementing any fix actions keep in mind that observations are based on perceptions and changes may cause additional friction. This means that we should always communicate with our personnel to get feedback and build buy‐in on any potential changes. 

Hopefully, this article helped highlight a different way to find workplace issues besides results, but if anyone has a better technique please share in the comments — we can all learn from each other.


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