Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Process exceptions - when a building evacuation occurs and you're not in the building

If you work for a small company, you've probably encountered some processes here and there. They may be simple processes (last person out the door on Friday turns on the alarm), but they are processes nonetheless. And if you work for a large company, you've definitely encountered processes.

Now formal processes don't cover everything; some behaviors are learned outside of process. Take the MorphoTrak Anaheim walking around the building activity. Whether we were at the old triangular building or at the new rectangular one, you can observe MorphoTrak Anaheim employees walking around the building during breaks. It's even been mentioned on Glassdoor, although I'm not linking to that particular Glassdoor review because it wasn't complimentary.

So last Friday, I took a quick mid-morning break and decided to walk around the building. Not that I truly walk around the building; for me, walking around the building is mind-numbing, and I prefer to walk around other buildings, such as the building of my good buddy Liz Wescom. But that morning I actually started my walk by my own building, crossing the front parking lot on the way.

I ran across a few people as I started my walk. They were carrying big bags that I knew were associated with our official building evacuation process. We had recently received an update to that process, which I had carefully studied. So when I passed the evacuation employees, I removed my headphones (I can't remember whether I was listening to Kim Komando, Darren Marlar, or Kevin Austin) and joked to the employees that since I was the only one in the gold group who was outside, my immediate coworkers must not have made it out of the building.

And I continued my walk - not around my own building, but out to Liz's parking lot and the truck that still hasn't handed out free money yet.

And I continued to listen to Kim, or Darren, or Kevin, or whoever on my headphones. Eventually I turned around and headed toward the back end of my own building, where I encountered another member of the building evacuation team who asked why I wasn't out front.

It turns out that the other members of the evacuation team were out front because they were preparing for an evacuation drill. (California employers look here.) And since I wasn't in the building, I was blissfully unaware that the evacuation drill had actually taken place, and that all of the MorphoTrak employees were standing out front. The two gold team captains were going over the roster of everyone on our team who was supposed to be there, and I wasn't there.

So I walked - quickly - from the back of our building to the front, checked in with the gold team (who did make it out of the building after all), and stood waiting for the all clear.

But the all clear was delayed a bit because there were other people who weren't standing in the parking lot.

"[REDACTED]? She works from home on Fridays."

"[REDACTED]? She's traveling."

Eventually everyone was accounted for, and I resumed my walk with Kim, or Darren, or Kevin, or whoever it was.

But this pointed out an interesting but unavoidable gap in the process. Most employees were in the building, and presumably knew to get out. If I had delayed my walk by five minutes, I would have been part of that group; instead, I was temporarily out of the building. Now some people like me were temporarily away for a few minutes; others were away for the entire day; and for all I know there may have been people who were out for weeks or months due to maternity leave, catastrophic illness, or whatever. And what if someone left the company the day before the drill, never to return, but his or her name was still on the rosters?

Now I'm pretty sure that our process has ways to handle this. As I mentioned, my gold team has two captains, so that can help account for people if Captain 1 didn't know that [REDACTED] was traveling.

But it's all an inexact science...which is true of any process, I guess.
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