Designing tools and systems for front line team members

When we developed our customized point of sales system, built according to the needs of the plant staff, we never foresaw the implementation challenges. Our plant staff, though enthusiastic and smartphone literate, has never been trained to work with formal systems that require careful documentation. Even after breaking down the system into baby steps, we found that staff members were making mistakes in data entry because of carelessness. This was affecting the integrity of our data and the utility of our system. One intervention that has worked has been instituting a system of daily penalties for non-compliance, which are posted on a white board for all to see. The team has immediately responded with more diligent data entry. 

Working in communities with high levels of illiteracy and little experience with formal systems pose two challenges for organizations like Sukoon Water. First, how do we design systems that are as simple and intuitive as possible. Human centered design plays a key role here, which involves spending hundreds of hours working alongside and observing plant staff. However, as we have learned, penalties (and incentives) also play an important role in forcing adherence. Playing upon the principle of loss aversion, these penalties make doing the wrong thing much more costly. As Sukoon expands its operations, developing a strong understanding of the right balance of rewards, incentives and penalties will be crucial for success.