04 May 2016
Peter Rowand
Marketing and Business Development

Don’t whip it good: How to combat pencil whipping

You’re trying to run a business. Within your daily operations you have a series of routines which make sure your organization’s assets are well maintained. You also have your crew and employees that you need to make sure are safe in the workplace. Facets of these routines are required by regulators or insurance providers, and those that aren’t, you do because you want to set a standard of excellence.

As management you’re constantly looking for ways of driving business, predicting trends, building revenue opportunities, and you make decisions using actionable insights from your data.

So, what if your data is wrong? It’s hard to believe because it’s entered by your own people. They go through routines, run checklists, and enter all the readings. Besides, it’s their job and it has to be accurate right?

‘Pencil Whipping’ is a boon to the accuracy of any human driven data. Your employees aren’t bad people, it’s mostly a product of their working environment. Timothy Ludwig of safety-doc.com writes a great piece that looks into the anatomy of pencil whipping and the mentality behind it (check out the link below).

I’ve collected some great tips to share with you in order to combat pencil whipping on your front lines:

  • Provide good instruction and time frames for tasks. Minimize rushed situations.
  • Vary your routines slightly and frequently so that your crews actually have to read the checklist they’re filling out.
  • Increase or introduce narrative in the information you’re asking people to collect.
  • In your quality assurance checks look for indicators for pencil whipping.
  • Talk about pencil whipping as an organizational problem. Make sure everyone’s aware of the elephant in the room.
  • Remind your employees how important they are in the process. Let them know that filling out these bits of info that the company makes decisions based on the data they are collecting – yes, that safety checklist is data.
  • Reward the recording of accurate data – this practice incentivizes accurate observations. What’s more, when people know they’re being observed they’re more likely to do the right thing.
  • Try digitizing your workflow. Why? All of the above. Successful workflow platforms must have high usability, however they also need to enable users to accomplish work faster, more efficiently and record data more accurately.

Everyone knows the old term: ‘garbage in garbage out’. The information you extract from your data is only as good as the credibility of the people entering it. Generally your staff are all good people, and they all mean well. But if they’re working in an environment that allows for pencil whipping then they’ll pencil whip. Enable them to do the right thing for your business.

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