Saturday, 15 November 2014

Three Stages of Activity

When an unusual event occurs in a business, a REACTION occurs, and the situation is dealt with.

Over time the action taken becomes ROUTINE, often being scheduled once a day, week or month.

Finally, the action becomes RITUAL. It is still performed although no longer useful for the business.

An example of RITUAL is a detailed report, prepared for a manager who has long departed. His successor does not know why they keep receiving pages of computer output with only the last line being useful!

Another example is the filing of paper copies of documents, even though there is a perfectly good computer system which was put in place to be used instead of the paper.

People might question RITUAL activities, but only mildly: as life is so busy they keep doing them anyway.

It is often only when an outsider comes in and examines the situation in detail that management truly recognises the time and energy being wasted on these activities.


This might be where a new request for information comes in from outside. A report is prepared (often tediously) and submitted. An example might be for the sales of a particular product in the last month.


The request for information comes in again and staff remember how they dealt with it the first time. The report is prepared again – possibly a spreadsheet is set up containing the requested information, extracted from a computer system (but of course with the information entered manually). The information is now prepared every month and passed to the requesting department.

Possibly they would appreciate having the information differently presented, but because the first request was urgent, they took the information the way it was provided, and no-one has thought to go back and ask for it in a more useful layout. (“Why do they keep giving us sales when I really want deliveries?” one manager asked.)


After months or even years the procedure is followed automatically. Because the first reaction was urgent, no-one has changed the computer system to automatically populate the spreadsheet.

The receiving department possibly has no need of the information – perhaps they have developed their own way of obtaining the information they require, such as direct returns from the branches. But the originating department keeps filling in that spreadsheet!


So, does your business still practise obscure rituals perfected in the dark ages? See how many examples you can spot in the next week!

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