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Failed Processes Prevent Quality Improvements

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Unlike usual water cooler discussions—where sports, weather, celebrities, and trivia tend to take over—a story circulating around an Indianapolis office is far from exciting or whimsical. In fact, it’s down right infuriating.

Michael decided to sell his home. After consulting a Realtor, he had a routine inspection to make sure everything in the house was in working condition. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the home’s septic tank system was not draining properly. It was severely backed up and posed serious health code violations.

Concerned, Michael had his entire system replaced. It was an expensive fix, but nonetheless necessary. As the repairs concluded, he sought approval from the Health Department. After a detailed inspection, the health inspector deemed the property in great condition. So, Michael moved forward with the sale of his home.

Almost immediately he received an offer. It was accepted and contracts were in the making. All that was left to do was perform one last home inspection for the buyers’ benefit. Confident in the recent work done on his septic tank, Michael had no cause for concern. That is until he received word that the home inspector found a serious issue: the septic system was not installed properly. In less than two minutes, the inspector was able to discover that the tank was draining directly into the creek behind the home. Upon hearing the news, Michael was no doubt upset. He took action.


© Flickr user SuSanA Secretariat

Immediately he contacted the Health Department with one question: How could the work have passed inspection? No doubt, his question was quite valid and his disturbance understandable. Yet, the report was given little consideration since the only response given was a follow-up letter one week later:

Dear Michael,

It has been brought to our attention that your house contains health code violations that pose a threat to the health and well-being of both you and your neighbors. We urge you to rectify this problem within thirty days of this letter. Otherwise, you will be fined two-thousand dollars.


The Health Department

There’s no doubt that it can be frustrating to find ourselves in a dilemma such as Michael’s—where solving a problem and conjuring a fair and proper remedy is ultimately out of our hands. But in a sense, it’s all the more reason to be proactive in our efforts for quality.

Surely, someone in this situation wasn’t doing their job. The obvious candidate is the original inspector, since he gave the property a passing grade without ensuring that everything was ship shape. But, there was also the problem of the original installer not installing the property correctly. Unfortunately, it seems like one of the few people in this situation who did basically everything right (Michael) is the one who has to pay the price.

Tell us: What should the health department do to avoid this situation in the future?

To see the answer we came up with, head on over to part two of this post.

While you may not be inspecting septic systems for a living, there’s a chance your organization has similar problems that could prove to be just as messy to clean up. Do you have people in a position that they aren’t really capable of handling? Does your workflow align in a way that ensures there won’t be any errors due to a lack of attention to detail? Do you have an environment of trust that allows each employee to feel comfortable enough to be accountable for their actions? If you feel like you could use help in any of these areas, please contact the business improvement consultants at AccelaWork today.

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