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The 20 Second Rule

I was sitting in a meeting the other day with a bunch of IT folks who were giving an update on a recent system implementation. Pretty much everything was on schedule and progressing as planned. Every thing but one crucial component: the single-sign-on capability (enter one password and it logs you into all of the company authorized systems at once) was taking too long. It seemed as if the authentication process was taking a whole 20 seconds to execute. Can you imagine having to wait 20 seconds for something…for anything? Count it out with me. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20. And here’s the thing: everyone at the table was nodding their heads with signs of reproach as if they had been personally violated by this audacity and that they were owed some sort of apology, explanation, and maybe even some restitution.

My first reaction was, “are you freakin’ kidding me? Is this really what our world is coming to? I mean 20 seconds, come on…go get a cup of coffee while it boots up.” But then I started to do some math (there’s nothing a good Excel spreadsheet can’t enlighten you on.) Those 20 seconds add up to roughly an hour and 20 minutes a year…time you’re not getting back. And then for kicks (I know, perverse) I ran some numbers on other stuff we wait around for in the office: the elevator, people late for meetings, miscellaneous technology glitches, etc. I won’t share my spreadsheet, but it amounted to roughly 4 days a year. I don’t know about you guys, but I can think of a lot of outrageously fun stuff I could do with those 4 days…a hell of a lot more fun than waiting for some jackass who’s continually late for meetings.

We in HR are very much in the command and control center for lots of things people ask for and then wait on. There is very little we do for our people that doesn’t require some time on their part: applications, new-hire paperwork, benefits enrollment, performance evaluations…don’t even get me started on these. Every time we refer them to a policy, they have to go look it up. Every time they have a question about their leave of absence, they have to call someone. Think of the positive impact we might have if every time an employee had to do something HR-related it took them 20 fewer seconds. You don’t necessarily have to overhaul your systems or your workflow to make this a reality. Just focus on making every transaction as crisp and clean as possible. Recognize the person on the receiving end of your services has a finite number of seconds in their lifetime. Stop screwing around with those seconds and take only what you really need.

Photo Credit: Upon a Midnight Dreary

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