Don’t Use a Typewriter in the Computer Age

Jan 24, 2019

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D.

It came out of the blue. It was about 6:15 Tuesday night at the bowling alley, a few minutes before my men's league team's weekly match. I was putting on my bowling shoes when she came up to me and said, "Would you like to bowl with me in the mixed doubles bowling tournament next month?"

I was shocked. It reminded me of the 7th grade when Nancy Levine asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I said, "Are you sure?" When she said she was, I told her I would be happy to bowl with her.

Now let me back up a little to put this all in context. The "she" is Diane, the wife of one of my teammates. She is a very good bowler who often enters and wins bowling tournaments. I have known her casually since I started bowling with her husband three years ago. Although I enjoy bowling, I must admit I am not very good. My 160 average is okay for a casual once-in-a-while bowler, but is one of the worst averages in our 40-man league.

But something happened to my game. Diane had heard about it through the grapevine.
What happened?

I bought a new bowling ball, and came to find out that the ball has a lot to do with how well a bowler can bowl. My new ball is weighted so that it naturally hooks into the pocket with relatively little effort. It also has fingertip grips that give me more control and power. I started averaging closer to 175 and all was well with the world on Tuesday nights.

Back to savvy Diane. The tournament is a handicap tournament, so she knows that if I continue to bowl over my average we have a decent chance of winning.

The Problem
What, you may ask, does this have to do with improving the workplace?

Our studies of more than 60,000 employees show that four out of ten workers believe they do not have the tools and equipment they need to perform their jobs well. Think of all the wasted time and effort expended by employees using computers, printers, telephone systems, hand tools, production equipment, photocopiers, and vehicles that are not performing well. Also think about how the resulting under performance of employees impacts the bottom line.

What to Do
Ask employees what they need.
   Employees generally know if their equipment is faulty or is not performing as well as it should or could. Ask them to suggest alternative tools and equipment.
1. Examine the best practices of other organizations.
Find out what tools and equipment your competitors are using. If you cannot find this information, talk to vendors about alternatives and ask them to put you in touch with their customers who are using what they recommend.

2. Conduct regular tool and equipment audits.
Just like some companies schedule routine preventive maintenance several times a year, periodically assess whether the tools and equipment your staff is using is producing the desired results.

3. Experiment
Retooling your business is expensive and vendors are always eager to sell you the latest models. But don't change until you have examined the cost versus the additional benefits. Try it on a pilot basis in parts of your organization to see if it improves efficiency and productivity. Armed with this systematic analysis, you may be able to justify spending the money.

4. Make upgrading part of your annual budget.
Instead of waiting until performance comes to a screeching halt and you have no choice but to upgrade, make improving tools and equipment a permanent line in your annual budget.

Take a lesson from my new bowling ball, my rising bowling average, and Diane's approach to winning bowling tournaments. If your equipment is not doing the job, you've got to upgrade, update, or replace.

About the Author(s)

Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. is an industrial/organizational psychologist and founder and president of Discovery Surveys, Inc. ( and the Center for Independent Consulting ( He is the author of 30 Reasons Employees Hate their Managers (AMACOM) and, most recently, An Insider's Guide to Building a Successful Consulting Practice (AMACOM, 2010).