My wife is a wonderful person. She takes life in stride andis so amazingly tolerant of life’s little annoyances. I am sure she is a much happier person for it.

Not me.

I am one of those folks that is constantly analyzing processes and wondering why people don’t try to make them better. I don’t like to wait and, yes, I would consider myself impatient. I did try once or twice to offer folks some suggestions to improve their processes but that generally gets met with a mixture of indifference and offense such that I no longer make any suggestions.

Here are six of my favorites – I call them my “stupid process tricks”  (yes - taken from “Stupid Pet Tricks” from Letterman if anyone didn’t catch it....).

Trick One: The Space Queue - Standing in airport security lines where there is one line that has 2 people in it and one with 25 but the guard makes you stand in the one with 25 because there is more “space.” Hey, if they have a gun, I don’t push back!

Trick Two: Equal rights - Going to the toll roads in New Hampshire where, when they first automated the toll roads, they had every lane allowing cash or “fastpass” – this effectively served to blow any possible efficiency by forcing anyone with an electronic token to wait in line anyway. It also required the same number of toll takers even though they were doing nothing – your tax $ at work. To their credit, I think they did figure this one out - eventually.

Trick Three: Keeping the insurance rates the highest in the nation process - Going though the toll booths on “the Pike” in Mass where they randomly put the fasspass lanes across the lanes so that everyone winds up in the wrong lane and traffic snarls anyway.

Trick Four: Profiting from process failure - Getting a “free” phone for my son only to find out it is “free – after rebate.” Getting this rebate entails, making a copy of the receipt, cutting 3 UPS codes off the box, going on the internet and filling out a form, waiting 6 weeks for a reply only to wind up getting a gift card that you must call another 800-number to activate but you still can’t get the cash, you have to go buy something else – my guess is that most people just give up… Unfortunately, I think this one is intentional so I just now ignore rebates in my cost comparisons.

Trick Five: The make-work process: You call the phone company and get their automated system and go through inputting your phone number, account number, zip code, password, request category, shirt size, date you lost your virginity, and about 12 others items – 30 minutes later, when they finally answer, their first question is – can I get your name and phone number please?

Trick Six: The Red Carpet Club: I walk into the Red Carpet Club at the airport in Boston. There is only one person working at the desk and they are sticklers about swiping the membership cards so I jump in line. The guy in front of me has decided that this would be a good time to book his whole family on a trip to Tanzania and wanted to compare 16 alternatives or some such thing. Ten minutes later, with the line to just get in the club stretching out the door we all revolted and just went in. I thought the United guy was going to try to have us arrested he was so upset. He saw nothing wrong with us waiting .


My point for all of this (yes there is one) is – don’t forget about process innovation!! Process innovations, in general, will have more competitive impact than most technology innovations. Technology in the absence of competitive processes is like handing the keys to your new Vette to your 16 year-old who has never driven before – it sounds exciting (for him or her) but will probably end up badly…


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