Monday, November 2, 2009

Does a heavier process guarantees safety?

Criticality is one of the things that justifies heavier processes, but here's an example that shows you that a heavier process could result in less safety (and of course is more costly, less user friendly and VERY annoying)

This morning, I went 5' earlier to the station cause I needed to buy the monthly pass. I (wrongly) choose the machine where nobody was in, select the appropriate options, purchase it, and.. and.... and... the receipt comes, but the ticket never comes!

I think, this shouldn't be hard. I just go quickly to the ticket office (while at the same time trying to advice the people that the machine is not working) and tell them what happened, hoping they would just go to the machine, verify that what I say is true and print my ticket (while putting a sign on that machine until is repaired).

Wrongs thoughts. There is nothing they can do. I have to call the 0800 - caltrain. "In the meantime, just give the conductor the receipt". Besides, they don't do anything to prevent other users to use the broken machine... (I don't get it)

Go to the train, talk with the conductor (they are always very kind) and he let me in (he evens tell me, 'well, with the receipt and the credit card, there shouldn't be a problem to use it the whole month..'. Nooo, I speak with the operator and she told me that the conductor shouldn't have let me in, that I should've bought a new ticket and ask for the refund sending a form that I could print through the web site through ordinary mail. Noooooooooooooooo.

Result: the process is heavier and less secure.

Less secure because a non scrupulous person could ask for a 'rebate' of its ticket, even if he got the ticket printed. How can they verify that what s/he is telling is true? They lost all the insight that could have been gained should they have gone in the moment to the machine (If the non scrupulous person tries to do the same, he would have to explain why the ticket gets printed 1' later, etc..). In the more formal way, there is no way to prove the non scrupulous person wrong and they have to refund the ticket.

The oddity is that at the same time...
- The process is more costly to the enterprise because someone has to pick up the mails, process it, etc). Worst, not solving the problem soon of course derives in other complaints.
- It is more costly and annoying for the user because I need to learn how to send a regular mail, print the form, fill it, find out where is the post office, send it and 'wait a few weeks' (as the operator kindly said) for the refund. At the same time, I need to buy a new ticket (I will go back to the old fashion employee way this time!)

Come on Caltrain guys!!! It shouldn't be that hard!

This post also comes as a result of reading Alistair's book again (my hero!). There is always these people that says 'We need to use a heavier process to be safer' and when asked 'Why?' .. Just because.....

Unfortunately (for all of us), we will always have to think.

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