September 20, 2023 | Tim Diggs

Common Problems with SPAC (and How to Solve Them)

problems with spac

Standards, policies, and administrative controls (SPAC) are standardized work practices and rules, including company policies, procedures, and checklists.  There are many common problems with SPAC that can be alleviated with a little knowledge.

People sometimes include unwritten rules or tribal knowledge in their definition of administrative controls.  I do not agree with that.  If something is critical enough that it needs to be a standardized practice, those rules and guidance need to be written.  How can you rely on anything if all you do is hope everyone knows?

SPAC exists to establish the ways an organization coordinates and does work.  It establishes leadership expectations and is necessary to achieve desired behaviors, products, and results from the workforce. To achieve these desired behaviors and results, your workers have to know how they are supposed to do that and what is expected of them. 

Common Problems with SPAC

Understanding common problems with SPAC will help you proactively avoid them. Following are some problems to look for and how to correct them.

1. The SPAC is inadequate.

Inadequate SPAC does not accomplish its intent even when it is followed. It may be inadequate because it is too lenient, has too much leeway, or allows for interpretation from the users that delivers substandard results.

When writing or evaluating your SPAC, be concise and complete. Have and give attention to ALL the details, and do not leave anything for interpretation

Write your standards in coordination with or even above your particular industry standards, laws, and regulations.  Hold your team to a higher level.  No one ever became the best by doing the exact same as everyone else.

2. The SPAC results in unintended consequences.

Sometimes the SPAC we develop causes something to go wrong. Evaluate SPAC for unintended consequences before issuing the standard.  Find out how this SPAC affects the people who must work with it. Does this SPAC conflict with other standard work practices or intentions?  Even if you know how the job should be done, audit the current practices.  Understand why workers are doing tasks a certain way and how steps in the work process relate to each other.

How many times have you seen a policy issued with no understanding of how the work process is completed, or what specific steps are involved?  Avoid unintended consequences by conducting audits and evaluations.

  • How are the jobs being done? 
  • What exactly do you need to address?
  • Did you interview workers to understand how they complete the necessary tasks?

You can not improve a process issuing SPAC if you do not understand the entire process and its relationship to other tasks.

Standards and policies with unintended consequences do not meet their intentions.  These controls are disregarded or at best, not entirely followed by your workforce. Unintended consequences are not the only reason SPAC is not used or followed. Keep reading.

3. Communication of the SPAC is insufficient.

This is a failure to communicate the SPAC through the entire organization, from the top level all the way down.  Successful communication of SPAC not only requires formal means such as:

  • training
  • directives, or
  • oral communications

but also requires informal means of communication.  Informal means of communication include buy-in and leadership setting the example with a vigorous pursuit to comply.  You can not have a successful SPAC with a “for thee, but not for me” approach.  If a standard is important enough to have, then everyone must follow it, regardless of their position. This drives self and peer monitoring.  How great would it be for your workers to look for ways to comply and come to you with ideas to make things better?  You get that by utilizing both formal and, even possibly more importantly, informal means of communication.

4. Leadership does not enforce the standards.

Leadership, at any level, can never wear blinders.  Leaders, supervisors, and directors must all enforce the company’s standards and controls.  You cannot pick and choose, or rank one standard more important than the other.  Leadership accepting noncompliance with any standard will lead to the collapse of the other controls. 

Accepting noncompliance with certain standards is common in front-line management.  Because the front line or direct supervisors do not understand the standard, the intent, or think they have a better way.  Do not focus on the workforce alone.  You will have to educate the front-line supervision as much or more than the workers regarding your standards.  Your best results will come from gathering input from frontline supervisors when setting and writing your standards and administrative controls.  Ownership and enforcement come much easier when it is their ideas and they understand what you want to accomplish.

Learn more in TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Training

Once you know the most common problems with SPAC, how to avoid these particular problems is fairly straightforward.  Keep in mind these are the most common problems.  Complete details of every way SPAC can fail and how to install strong and effective standards that avoid all of those issues can be found in our Root Cause Tree® Dictionary.  This book is included in almost every TapRooT® Course and can also be found in investigator sets in our store.   

Relying on effective, communicated, and enforced SPAC will not guarantee success on their own. There are other things to consider and install like good human factors design, crew teamwork identification, quality hold points, and more.

To ensure you put better SPAC in place, learn all of the ways to drive desired behaviors, and reap the most benefits from your improvement programs, you should attend our TapRooT® 5 Day Advanced Team Leader Course.   

Root Cause Analysis
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