We use the word “consistent” a lot. It’s an adjective that can describe attributes in humans, animals, machinery, work tasks, decisions, and so on.
In general, businesses strive to be more consistent: with tasks, communication, routines, and the use of company processes. Sometimes, however, we don’t realize how the inconsistent use of those processes is actually increasing the risk for a worker injury, soft tissue injury, or work accident. Any of these outcomes obviously hamper productivity and increase costs in multiple areas. That’s not at all what we hoped to achieve with our processes!
Here’s an example: you’re in a hurry, pressured to complete a job. You’ve made a decision to change out a drill on a workstation. Harmless, you think. The workers know how to use all types of drills. So, to speed things along, you opt not to consult with the ergonomics team so they can ascertain how the new drill will impact that work station ergonomically, even though you know you’re supposed to. The whole process will take too long, and this drill is necessary at this work station immediately. One week after making that decision, a worker sustains a low back injury from using that new drill. The awkward posture and torque value with the body in such an awkward position created a lumbar strain, causing the worker to lose days from work.
The financial costs? Take a look at this table and run a quick mental calculation:

The costs of Inconsistently applied processes

Expensive! No?
In any facet of life, consistent action yields consistent results.
In business, the performance of a process allows us to know if the process itself is working or not. Consistency in performing or following processes or standards allows for the measurement of the efficacy of those processes. Are they working as planned? If they’re not, the steps are ordered enough to locate mistakes and correct them. Without order and follow up observation of the performance of the ordered steps, chaos and speculation result, without a solid determination and direction toward improving outcomes.
Another important aspect of disciplining ourselves to be consistent in a work process is that it develops a type of responsibility. “Accountability,” the new buzz word, is really taking the responsibility to do those things that seem mundane. Sometimes these are such small things that we fall into the pit of thinking they couldn’t possibly matter in the long run. When too many individuals have convinced themselves to take that approach (unbeknownst to each other), multiple problems arise in the very process that was designed to assist us in identifying problems and solving them.
Anything worthwhile takes time and self-discipline. Many processes can appear to take too long, or to hamper productivity or work flow. However, Lean programs and Six Sigma show time after time that when the process is followed, results are more reliable, and answers can come faster. From the overall vision and mission of a company down to the simple tasks in a production line, all come together. Happy end users, happy employees. It’s a win-win proposition. So, the next time you’re tempted to skip a step in a process, think again. It has a bigger impact than you know.