Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Friday, February 16, 2018

Challenge Accepted!

So, this week a number of things came up in our company, all revolving around responsibilities and roles.  In a traditional company with a hierarchy, directives come down from on high and are carried out by the rank and file – but what if those directives are wrong?

In an Agile Management environment, a scrum meeting is a perfect place to challenge assumptions, whether it’s a problem-solution discussion point, or an end-of-cycle review where we review ‘What Went Right/What Went Wrong/What We Can Do Better’.  But many companies don’t have a mechanism in place to let someone put their hand up and ask ‘why are we doing this?’.

The problem is, people feel nervous or apathetic or insecure or proud or territorial or passionate about their roles and responsibilities – we’re all human, and we are all flawed.  Some of us can have an honest conversation in our own heads and recognize our own limitations or misconceptions, but many of us have the best intentions, but may be perceived as reacting emotionally to criticism, or taking it personally.

First of all, we should challenge ideas and processes, not people.  When a new company starts up, they are inventing everything for the first time – their product, their management style, their marketing materials, everything is new.  As the company grows, the original ideals of the company should be kept, but the processes will need to change, because a company of 5 works differently than a company of 500.

So … what’s the right way to challenge something?

Well, ideally, it shouldn’t be just ‘why do we do X this way?’  And the response should not be ‘because that’s what management told us’.  That’s just being a thoughtless drone, when everyone in the company is capable of so much more.  It should be ‘why do we do X this way, and not Y?  Wouldn’t that be a better solution?’, with the response ‘great idea, let’s try it’ – whenever possible.

Changing the paper ordered for the local copier is a simple fix, but rewriting a company HR policy or changing the code in a central application used by the business isn’t – each change needs to be assessed, discussed, and either implemented, or feedback given why the change isn’t being made.  Some people will think ‘well that’s a lot of time wasted chit-chatting and reviewing things, it always has worked!’, but think of this – if someone is brave and intelligent and passionate enough to suggest a better way of doing things, does that person deserve some engagement by his co-workers or superiors, or are you going to shut them down and brush them off, and they will never offer another innovative idea ever again? 

We all think differently, and approach problems from different backgrounds and viewpoints.  Taking the time to discuss our challenges makes us better – a collection agent might have a brilliant idea for a software update (thank you Jenn!), payment processing might have some good questions before rolling out a new payment channel (thank you Amanda!), or someone might read a manual and ask why a policy is in place, or how to interpret it (thank you Samantha!).  I’ve challenged six people today in our Sarnia branch, and in turn I’ve been challenged by those people several times today about policies or processes – if it’s done properly, it’s just part of the flow of conversation at the office, and solutions fly out from different team members and the job gets done.

Below is our newest company ‘Commandment’ that talks about the challenge of ideas to grow the business. 


There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking ‘why do we do it this way?’  This can happen between any team member regardless of role – we are not perfect, but our success is because we do things differently.  If we become complacent or accept ‘this is the way we have always done it’ our success will dry up and we will become stagnant.  We have no secrets, and anyone can challenge our processes publicly, as long as it is respectful to the process manager.

When we challenge something, we should challenge a process, not the person in charge of it.  When challenged, we should not be defensive or feel our personally attacked.  Every challenge should come with a new idea or improvement, not objecting to something for the sake of being argumentative.  We should take the time to think about changes and be open to trying new things. We should seek advice and ask others how they view the process.

If a challenge proves that someone was under a misunderstanding, or there was a better way to do things, we should always thank the person who challenged us and made Kingston Data & Credit better.

As always, I’m happy to talk about Agile and Scrum management tools, working in teams, communication, or problem solving.  If you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Sarnia, ON