Having recently bought some furniture at a big box store, those three dreaded words were boldly printed on the outside of the carton: "Some Assembly Required." As I opened the box, I wondered what I would find. Would there be lengthy assembly instructions and many different screws, bolts, washers, and nuts? Could I ignore the instructions and use my powers of logic to assemble the furniture? (Real men/women don't read instructions!) If there were many small parts and I had to follow the instructions would they be in readable English? Would they be largely in pictures that clearly showed assembly sequences? Would they have diagrams of full-size screws, bolts, etc. so that measurement with a ruler would not be needed? Would all the parts be there? Have the pieces been cut/machined correctly?
In my case there were many different screws, bolts, washers, lock nuts, and cap nuts, so I opted to use the instructions. The first instruction is always to count the parts. I wasn't going to count all those nuts and bolts! So here is a brief summary of what happened:
After the experience, I tried to relate it to possible process failures from my perspective as a customer. While there are many questions in the Baldrige Excellence Framework Criteria that are relevant to the topic, I will highlight just a few of them to encourage the thinking of people in all organizations that interact with consumers (and customers in general):
The question that particularly intrigued me was #3 about observing customers. I wonder how many manufacturers who use the words "Some assembly required" actually observe different "real" customers follow their instructions to check for obvious gaps or errors. How many have their experts who possess full knowledge of how the product should be assembled write and be the testers of the instructions?
While this blog posting relates to assembly of manufactured product, I encourage everyone to think about instructions they give (or don't give) to customers, students, patients, or colleagues. Are they clear and easy to follow? Do they lack detail or contain too much detail? Are they the instructions you would like to receive?
While you ponder those questions, allow me to return to the holiday spirit. I do wish you good luck, and......let the assembly begin!