Parking friction

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 5th August 2019

When I’m at my most productive, I’m focused and organised, and the world around me is friction-free. However, this was not the case recently when I tried to park my car before presenting at a team offsite.

My client contact had sent me a map of parking in the area of their new building. She suggested a car park in a neighbouring building which all seemed very straightforward.

I pulled into the car park entry and drove up to the boom gate. Only then did I see that the car park was pre-book only, which meant I was supposed to book online before arriving (Friction #1). There was no other way of getting entry. So, I had to back out, requiring the car behind me to back out too (Friction #2).

I grabbed my phone and went to the car park website. To book a spot, I needed to sign up as a member, which was not easy or straightforward (Friction #3). Eventually, I got my membership confirmation email and went to sign in and book a spot. It would not accept my password! (Friction #4). Finally, I downloaded their phone app, which did let me sign in. I booked a spot and off I went back to the boom gate.

Of course, it was not that simple. When I entered my code, the machine told me I had booked a time starting that night! In my state of stress, I had chosen the wrong time. Out I backed again (Friction #5). I calmly went online again, booked the right time, and headed back to the boom gate. This time it worked and I got in, making it to my presentation with just a few minutes to spare.

Then there’s everything that happened when I tried to leave the car park. When I finally escaped, it felt like I had been through an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Now I’m an intelligent man, and well able to navigate in this technology driven world. So why did my experience have to be so hard and full of friction? I would suggest a poorly designed process or system, and not enough communication for new users. I’m sure it will be easier next time I go there. But the system was not designed to be easy to use, and you only find that out when you are already in the boom gate tunnel.

So, there’s my rant for the week. But it is more than that. This should serve as an opportunity to reflect on the processes and systems we use in the workplace, and to question whether they cause us friction when we are trying to get our important work done. Are you frustrated by poorly designed processes or workflows? Do your colleagues cause you friction when they send you emails, interrupt you, call meetings or collaborate on projects? Do you cause them friction?

There will always be a measure of productivity friction when we work in complex workplaces, but we should not be victims of this friction. We should show leadership when we spot unnecessary friction and raise it with our team. We should build a culture that constantly strives to remove the friction from our work so that everyone benefits and can work in flow.

The challenge can be that we are all too busy to do anything about these issues, so we all just keep busily working in a less than effective way.

So, what are you going to do the next time you get frustrated by unnecessary friction? If you cannot fix the friction, I have found writing an article is very therapeutic!

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