A while back I tweeted this: "protocols beats people", thinking that, if one has great processes in place, that could replace the need to recruit exceptional people all the time.
The trick with that statement is that protocols are seldom exceptional, and most often they are designed NOT to help but to cover up stupidity and faults.
Case study: five days ago my cable stopped without explanation. I checked my bills and saw that everything had been paid on time. So I called the operator to ask for a solution. The reply I got was that they would come by, but I needed to be at home for two hours when the teams were coming over, anytime between 9 and 17 which is, obviously, when I am at work. Since all I have pertaining to the cable company INSIDE my flat is a cable and a cable-ending, which goes into the TV, I protested and asked to be given a reason why they would need me home. My logic went that if they came and fixed the receiver box, which is outside the flat, I would be ok when I got home. Their reply was "it's protocol". So I stayed at home and got a buzz at 9 am the day established. A man with a ladder was furiously knocking on my door. I answered and he looked in with the words "so yer cable is not working?". I nodded. He said "okay, I'll check the receiver box" [again, which is OUTSIDE my flat]. Sure enough, two minutes later the cable was working. He came back and again pounded on my door to say "it's all fixed now".
This got me thinking: why wasn't it easier for them to simply send someone to check the receiver box without inconveniencing me with three phone calls where we had negotiated the day when I could skip work. By all accounts, if the problem had not been with the receiver box, it could only mean my TV was broken or the cable severed inside the house, and that was something I could diagnose. Plus, if the TV was broken they could do nothing about it.
The only logical explanation I have for this protocol is that they need to make sure people SEE a repair person so that they cannot be sued for not showing up or not giving a crap. It's self protection, the protocol is in place to make their lives easier, not their customers'.
So then I got to thinking about how many of the things we set up as procedures are really designed to help our customers or simply to establish a pattern which is safe enough for the company...
communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.