no script

You know the feeling all too well: You’ve been to IKEA and bought a new great piece of furniture. You just need to assemble it and everything will be perfect! The manual? No, I don’t need – I just need to put this thing here and then this…

10 hours and several unsuccessful attempts later you have to admit you actually need that blasted manual – just to see that it would have been quite simple if you had just used the manual in the first case. 

It’s the case with IKEA furniture as with most other things: If you follow the manual it will usually be faster and easier. So why don’t we just always do that then?

Once bitten twice shy

I’ll admit it: I was the one buying the IKEA furniture and not following the manual. When I assembled it, in the end, it was because I followed the manual to a tee. 

About the author

Hanne Rathcke is a MA(ed) Psychology . She is in charge of communications for Cobraid and teaches others about technology

On the other hand, when I had to assemble the second piece of furniture I was much faster. Only because I had bought two of the same piece of furniture. I just knew where to follow the guide, and the most of it I knew off by heart. 

Why did I need to go through the first part of the experience? Well, I took a look at the manual and thought it looked a bit complex, I didn’t understand the drawings, and it was a bit of a hassle having it out of reach. 

In other words: I had a lot of reasons not to follow the manual – even if I knew it would have been smarter. 

It takes hard work

The point is that we don’t always choose the best approach. We sometimes take a shortcut, that we know very well will be a detour in the long run because it’s easier now. If you want to take the best approach every time, then we have to work together to create a firm structure of how to do things. 

The firm structure doesn’t appear by itself. We have to agree about it, and then keep each other at bay.  When someone suggests taking a shortcut, they should be reminded of their decision and that the structure is there for a reason: To make sure we keep a good pace in the long run. 

When we know what each other is doing, we can optimize our own working processes. For example, when I know my colleagues have done their job, with the agreed upon result , I can optimize my own work flow relative to it. 

Same direction, but to different beats

Notice that I wrote “The agreed upon result” – not in the agreed upon way. When people are able to decide, by themselves, how they’ll reach a specified result – the result will be better. That way, the work flow can suit the person doing it. 

We have to make room for a task to be solved in different ways – as long as the end result is the same. 

Practical drift

It’s not without its challenges, keeping the actual result to what has been agreed upon. The American Army can vouch for that, because the “Practical Drift” was the reason why a Black Hawn helicopter was shot down in Iraq – by the Americans themselves. The events are detailed in Scoot Snook’s book “Friendly Fire: The Accidental Shootdown of U.S. Black Hawks Over Northern Iraq”.

The reason for this incident was that the actual result slowly, but surely, had drifted far away from the agreed upon result. Continual optimization,  and changes, had made the outcome so different from the agreed end result, that it culminated into a terrible accident. 

The solution: Retrospectives

The solution of course is to make sure that the actual, and the agreed upon results are the same. The way to do this, is to make recurrent retrospectives. Here,  you can make sure that you agree on what the result should be. If it so happens to need change, adjustment, or optimizing then you can do it together, and ensure you all agree what the end goal should be.  

It’s simply about giving room and time for aligning what we think we do, versus what we actually do. Additionally, making sure everyone is on the same page. That way ,you both make a firm structure and make sure everyone knows what it is. Then you are ready to speed up!

How was you last experience with ikea?

How did it go last time you assembled a LISABO? Or a YPPERLIG – the couch, not the cushion. Or have you tried a BODBYN – an entire IKEA kitchen? 

Leave a comment about your last IKEA adventure – then we can both smile about it together, and share a good story.