Crush the pencil whipping: Attain transparency and accountability with Digital Checklists.

Crush the pencil whipping Attain transparency and accountability with Digital Checklists.

Did you know pencil whipping is a major issue in compliance and safety in manufacturing?  In case you are unfamiliar with the phrase (as I was), the term originated among military personnel and auditors. It is not as direct as thwacking someone with a pencil, but its damaging impact is massive. Pencil whipping is ticking off a task as completed without, in fact, completing the task.

Let us be honest. Doesn’t everyone cut corners occasionally? For instance, if you have a task that seems unimportant or unnecessarily time-consuming, skipping it might feel satisfying. However, skipping a few daily tasks in maintenance operations can cause serious consequences. Unfortunately, forging work and ticking off undone checklists have become so prevalent that it has earned its nickname: pencil whipping. In this blog, we will explore why people pencil whip, why it is a major problem, and what you can do to combat it.

Understanding Pencil Whipping

Pencil whipping is usually driven by a sense of urgency to complete a task and move on to the next. It is widely prevalent across manufacturing, construction, warehousing, and any other industry that is dependent on forms and checklists. If companies don’t take steps to address it, it can become a severe problem—potentially viewed as acceptable and even ingrained in their company culture!

For instance, let us imagine a scene where an accident happens in a warehouse due to unsafe equipment. In such a case, an investigation may lead to a safety inspection checklist that shows everything was inspected and signed off. However, the reality was different. The inspector pencil-whipped through the process without actually checking the equipment. The results can be disastrous- employee(s) can get injured, and it can lead to worker’s compensation claims, even a lawsuit against the organization. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that the data entered by inspectors is 100% accurate for everyone’s safety.

Some of the common pencil-whipping scenarios are:

  1. Equipment inspections: Skimming through or skipping routine maintenance checks can result in malfunctions that pose operational risks and safety hazards.
  1. Safety procedures: Pencil whipping through safety procedures can result in unaddressed hazards, which can compromise human safety and result in penalties.
  2. Training certifications: Technicians who have not completed the training but are issued certifications so that they can perform the tasks greatly undermine the integrity of operational standards and protocols.
  3. Inventory checks: Reporting false stock levels to expedite tasks results in inventory discrepancies. This further jeopardizes operations by making critical maintenance items unavailable when they are required.

What causes pencil whipping?

Pencil whipping can be caused by a number of factors. The sole reason may not be negligence but a series of organizational factors.

Time pressure

When faced with strict targets and heavy paperwork, employees may resort to pencil whipping to save time and meet deadlines rather than conducting thorough reviews.

Lack of resources

In some situations, a lack of proper technical knowledge, adequate human resources, or even necessary equipment may lead the employees to pencil whip through to deal with limited resources and a tremendous workload.

Ineffective management—technicians missing the point

Poor management may cause employees to not understand the real reason behind the process, checklist, or assignment. Further, to expedite the process and stress quantity above quality, workers who lack the need for accuracy and meticulousness resort to pencil-whipping.

Pressure to improve metrics

The maintenance world is measured by metrics. It is how organizations find out if they are making improvements or not. However, when an organization over stresses numbers over its employees’ daily work reality, employees will resort to pencil-whipping to appease management. Setting unrealistic and unattainable targets for technicians will ultimately lead to tasks getting pencil whipped to maintain appearances.

Shortage of labor—overworked employees

Organizations with fewer workers (than they are supposed to) can overload them with an excessive workload, making them struggle to meet the organization’s demands. With a shortage of labor, overworked employees, such as maintenance managers or technicians, may skip crucial steps of assessing and analyzing workflows, as they need to complete their tasks at hand.

How do you combat pencil-whipping and meaningless box-checking?

Pencil-whipping is not actually the problem but a symptom of a more significant cultural problem. Whether technicians are overwhelmed or do not see the point behind the box-checking, management is responsible for conveying the motive and importance behind the work. Pencil-whipping occurs in environments where it is allowed to thrive. The good thing is, there are a number of ways to combat and eliminate pencil whipping.

Transparency and mutual respect

It is critical to have a culture of transparency and mutual respect between technicians/ frontline workers and management. This results in creating and maintaining an environment where technicians feel comfortable asking questions and voicing their concerns. Such an atmosphere builds trust and encourages open communication.

Comprehensive training and access to resources

Comprehensive training equips employees with the knowledge and skills needed for effective inspections while emphasizing the importance of accurate assessments and practical techniques to achieve them. Additionally, providing easy access to resources such as guidelines, policies, and procedures can incredibly reduce the risk of pencil whipping. Employees should easily refer to the required resources and get clarification whenever necessary. Digital work instructions in connected worker solutions streamline resources, from static documents to easily accessible and advanced instructions.

Not incentivizing pencil-whipping

Quotas are the primary drivers of pencil whipping. For example, if a safety inspector has to complete 50 inspections daily, they may resort to pencil whipping to meet their quotas. However, you require the tasks to be completed, not for namesake, but completed correctly. It is time to adjust expectations to prioritize accuracy and quality over quantity.

Fortunately, most tasks with quotas have additional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that go beyond simply completing checklists. By leveraging digital checklists and inspection software (having a wealth of information), you can find new KPIs that incentivize technicians and inspectors to prioritize precision over speed.

Investing in the right software- such as Proceso App

Upgrading to a robust platform offers several strategies to identify and address pencil whipping. First, you migrate to digital checklists that are less tempting to whip through. Additionally, they all connect to a centralized dashboard that safety managers and other decision-makers can monitor in real time. Leveraging a cutting-edge solution such as the Proceso App is a powerful way to tackle pencil whipping. It provides you with extensive data to detect and stop this risky practice before it escalates.

Crush pencil whipping with Proceso App

Let us explore how the Proceso App can actually help in combatting this phenomenon.

Real-time tracking and accountability

The Proceso App’s digital checklists transform how tasks are tracked and verified. They allow real-time tracking, with each task being time-stamped along with geo-location compliance. Supervisors can monitor progress in real-time, reducing the likelihood of pencil whipping.

Photo and video evidence

To ensure tasks are genuinely completed, the Proceso App allows the inclusion of mandatory photo or video evidence. For instance, a completed maintenance task might require a photo of the repaired equipment. The visual proof discourages employees from falsely box-checking.

Automated reminders and notifications

Proceso App’s digital checklists include automated reminders and notifications. Employees receive timely alerts for upcoming tasks, and supervisors are notified of overdue tasks, allowing them to investigate the matter.

Easy Integration with other line-of-business systems

The Proceso App can be easily integrated with other enterprise systems, such as ERP and CRM software. This integration ensures a seamless flow of data and consistency across different departments, connecting teams and enhancing overall operational efficiency. This significantly reduces the temptation to cut corners.

Data analytics and reporting

With Proceso App, organizations can access comprehensive reports and analytics on task completion rates, employee performance and compliance levels. These insights help identify patterns of pencil whipping, address underlying issues, such as inadequate training or unrealistic workloads.

With the Proceso App, organizations can create a transparent, accountable, and efficient work environment, keeping pencil whipping at bay.

Request a demo today!

Share the Post: