Staying on Track
“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once,” said Albert Einstein. Like time, printing is essentially a linear experience, a process that cannot happen all at once, but must be broken down into a series of discrete steps, each occurring only after the one before has been completed.
An order comes in, a file is received, proofs are prepared, a job is printed, folded, trimmed, bound, and delivered or mailed. When the order for the next job comes in, the process begins again. Because most steps in the process pass through different hands (or devices), we use another process—paper forms, software programs, white boards, etc.—to track each step and ensure that nothing is overlooked or mishandled.
But what happens when the linear process is disrupted? When a client who has approved a “final” proof, for example, makes a panic “stop the presses” call to add new changes? When steps that were supposed to be in the past pop up again in the present? Suddenly, tracking the work may become an added process layer that gets in the way of actually getting the work done. And that’s where the human element may be critical.
Keeping a handle on a complicated workflow is essential, but taking precious time to conform the task and employees to a complicated tracking process can be counter-productive, especially during a time of bare-bones staffs and demanding clients. And trying to impose a static process on non-linear work, fitting client needs and demands that come in from all sides at any moment into an inflexible model, may be like trying to squeeze a square peg in a round hole.
If you find that some of your forms and formulas are getting in the way of your productivity, maybe it’s time to review how you handle various parts of your operational processes. Being able to depend on a trusted employee to cross every “t” and dot every “i”—even, or especially, when things get a little sticky—may ultimately be the most effective tracking process of all.