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Boggs: Good Cop, Bad Cop

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Have you ever pulled up to a stop sign in the middle of the night when there’s no traffic in the road? Did you stop? Of course you did. How about a red light in the same situation? What if the red light sat red for several minutes; would you eventually drive through? 

The reason we stop at red lights and stop signs, even when there is no traffic, is twofold. First, we know there could be a police officer lurking nearby waiting to write us a ticket. The second reason is the knowledge that if we, along with everyone else on the road, sticks to the same traffic rules, we are all better off (with the exception of the collision repair industry, of course, which benefits when people don’t obey traffic laws).

I’m sure in your collision center you have all kinds of rules to be followed as well, or processes you’ve implemented to benefit all the stakeholders. The question I have is, how often do you have to reinforce those rules to make sure they are followed? 

I went to DCR systems in Ohio for a two-day interactive class on how DCR is run. If you have never heard of DCR, they are less a body shop and more of a system that takes damaged vehicles and turns them into pre-loss condition. They are the most process-centered shop I’ve ever seen. During the class, we asked the CEO Michael Giarrizzo Jr. how long it would take for the employees to stop following the processes if they weren’t reinforced. He thought for a bit and then told us it would take about eight hours before it would start to fall apart! We were shocked by his answer and gave him a second opportunity to answer the question. After thinking it over for a minute and admitting he was wrong, he changed his answer to six hours.  

I have fallen into the trap many times that once we implement a new system or process, it will stick and become second nature. I expect us to continue to do those things over and over for years to come without reinforcing them. I can’t count how many times I’ve been wrong on that one. 

I believe there are two main reasons that processes or procedures don’t stick. The first one, just like the traffic laws, is that there is a lack of enforcer. If no one is around to point out when we don’t stick to the “rules of play” we’ve designed for our company, then no one will continue to follow them. Everyone will just start doing things the way they think is best. And as Michael Giarrizzo Jr pointed out, it would take hours for that to happen, not days.  

There is a pizza place I go to often for lunch in our neighborhood. They started out as a little mom-and-pop joint and now have over 50 locations in four different states. The processes they have are impressive. I have probably ordered food there over 1,000 times and they’ve never gotten my order wrong. The main reason is the owner/manager is always there and reminds people when they fall out of step with the company's processes. He is the traffic cop. 

The downside to the pizza place is that they have a decent amount of turnover. Just like the police pulling us over to hand out a speeding ticket, no one wants to see them. Can you imagine the stress of a road trip if a cop car was behind you the entire way? 

Turnover in a pizza place is a little easier to deal with than the collision industry; it takes far less time to train a person to run a cash register than it does to weld on a quarter panel. So before we put on the badge and start writing tickets in our place, we should take a deeper look into the second reason. 

The second reason that processes don’t stick in a business is that the value of the process is not adequately explained to everyone. We all know the value of everyone stopping at red lights when driving. Can you imagine the instant worldwide chaos if people stopped obeying traffic lights? 

It’s not so obvious when we implement a new process in our shops. Far too often, the leader who is implementing the new process is keenly aware of the value that will come from the change. However, it’s easy to skip the task of explaining the value to the very people we rely on to carry out the implementation. If we take adequate steps to give the reasons behind new changes, those changes are more likely to last than if we just ask people to do it blindly or “because we said so.” People need to be made aware of how they are going to benefit from the changes.  

For some of our teammates, this can be a multi-step process. It may take a while for people to comprehend the new change, depending on how open they are to it initially. There will be a huge payoff if you are willing to take some extra time to explain it several times to people who might not be on board at first. 

Remember that as you set up new road signs and traffic lights in your shop that you will be faced with the choice to either be a traffic cop who is always on duty, or a salesman who needs to go the extra mile to make sure everyone is buying what you’re selling. 

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