Cascading events have a relationship. In our case, the sequence of how we handled a particular type of transaction that seemed doomed to fail.
First, the fax machine went silent. Initially, nobody seemed to notice. It rarely runs continuously, so when does a normal break between incoming faxes become a problem? A minute stretched into ten, and onto an hour. Somewhere around two hours, someone asked the question. “Where are the incoming faxes?”
All eyes turned towards the fax. Blissfully unaware of the emotions, it continued to sit idle. The manager turned with an air of familiarity and gave the machine three hits on the side of its face. The machine bumped a bit to the right with the hits and woke up. Within seconds, it was spitting paper with a 90-minute old time stamp.
Our backlog just got worse.
The next day we replaced the fax machine with a new one and ordered a second one as backup. With full confidence, I assumed that we were now safe. As the machine spit paper all day, the chaos of routing the physical paper with appropriate logs, checks, and balances quickly overwhelmed the young team’s discipline.
Our backlog got even worse than before.
The next day, discipline and fax machine in order, the paper flowed as planned between the fax machine, signature check, and call back personnel. As the day began, everyone was hopeful! The pool of transactions waiting grew along with the number of impatient processors waiting for call back personnel to hand over the paper. Soon, random individuals were sneaking in to steal a piece of paper or two.
Our backlog turned into another problem, duplicate transactions.
An old father, trying to stay warm, “had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on.” (Acts 28.4) Natural events sequenced into unintended consequences.
Sequences and backlogs – while we tried to solve the problem nobody had yet to ask the question – why were volumes high?