Category Archives: Systems Thinking and Management

Beliefs and Assumptions – How Damaging?

 

All too often, I hear the use of statistics like the clip from Anchorman (above).  People don’t quote percentages too often, but they do say things similar to, “most of our customers like . . .” or “that happens . . . all the time.”  The problem is what follows.  I have witnessed multi-million dollar IT and management decisions based on nothing more than a claim.  I am often assured that the claim came from a “good source.”

I do not believe that organizations do enough to challenge the beliefs and assumptions where decisions are made.  The skeptics often succumb to the hierarchy – meaning if the source of the belief or assumption is up the chain of command it can’t be questioned.

It’s funny to me that people get challenged on things like their expenses, but not on operational decisions of much greater magnitude.  Some degree of due diligence would seem to be appropriate.

Conversely, it seems silly to me that those conducting a due diligence will quote ROI numbers for new lines or IT.  Then, proceed to roll-out a large project without even a small scale pilot.

You see all projects and decisions are based in assumptions and beliefs.  Some we pick up from other people, companies, articles, etc. and others from internal sources of “authority.”  Assumptions and beliefs make up our world as we know it.  We just need to be aware of what they are and test them against reality.  You never get a full answer, but you do gain knowledge when you test things first.

The question is, “What are the beliefs and assumptions that went into your last strategic plan, project plan or decision?”  You should have a list of what they were when you made the decision or even better make the list AS you deliberate the next plan or project.  Test it on a small scale and then make a decision.  This is scientific method.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance.  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.comReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Detailed Planning is Obsolete

“The unknown and unknowable” is a phrase Dr. Deming used to describe the knowledge needed to run a comp

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d'Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

any perfectly.  Some view this statement as wishy-washy, especially those that believe the universe (or anything) can be explained.  This is old school . . . meaning that Einstein, Planck and many others have proven that there are things outside of our control.  Meaning, you just can’t plan for them.

Frederick Taylor would have loved the planning culture that exists today.  It would seem so tidy that everything could be predicted and plans could be made.  So few organizations spend the time they need to understand their own organizations as systems, customer-in.

Instead the top-down plans because they are written are set in stone.  Careers are put on the line when the plan and timeline to “hit the numbers” cascades through the organization.  Daily and weekly meetings to be sure everyone is “working to plan.”  No one can – the universe is unpredictable.

The “here and now” may not be as sexy as spending a week at some boondoggle where you can play golf and write a strategic plan. However, the results are much better when you live in a world of reality and  modern science.

One may find it more appealing that the world is not as predictable as business wants it  to be – you can always discover something new . . . if you look.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and use workers to build and refine your service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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“Opinion Data” Still Prevails in the US

When power and hierarchy run an organization ideology, opinion and assumption become the staples of decision-making.  The loud mouth with position becomes the voice of direction . . . but hardly reason, logic or truth.  I have long used the phrase “opinion data” to describe the phenomenon used in executive and other management meetings.  This, of course, is an oxymoron as no data exists.

“In God we trust, all others use data” – W. Edwards Deming

The lack of relevant data I find in organizations is astounding.  Unless you want budget/financial data or other useless data in lagging measures that can’t tell us how to improve only how to keep score.  The result is opinion data prevails in corporate America and no where is it more prevalent then in the executive ranks far away from the work and measures that matter.

Too many IT organizations are selling Business Intelligence (BI) systems that lack one important ingredient – intelligence.  More of the wrong data that doesn’t matter to customers or to what actually makes profit. Data should help lead to better decisions, work designs and profit.  Data can help uncover facts, but here in the US . . . they do not.

Data needs context and only those that interact with customers in service industry can give us context.  No knowledge of the work, will give you no useful data.  How often might you find management in the work? Never mind an executive.  No knowledge of the work leads to bad decisions, poor work designs and lower (if any) profit.  Management reports are a poor substitute for knowledge.

Conversely, I have seen multiple front-line workers find a problem or set of problems that require management intervention and the need for data to get what they need to do their job requires reems of data for justification.  Lower in the hierarchy, workers fill out forms and are scrutinized by management lackeys.  It is what Ross Perot might describe as “forming a committee on snakes, rather than killing the snake.”

Opinion data will some day be viewed as an archaic management practice.  However, where power and hierarchy rule the day . . . facts become an obstacle.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management’s Predictable Response to Trouble

Management with a conventional perspective in their approach attack problems predictably .  .  . predictably wrong. If revenue is the problem, set a target for more revenue.  Expenses to high set a target for to lower costs.

The real question that eludes such approaches is ” by what method?”

Subordinates are left with new targets and no method.  This is not good management.  Can we even call this management?

Conventional methods for increased revenue call “pushing” sales to customers.  Some so dysfunctional in one telecomm that customers are pushed products for mobile phones that don’t even fit.  However, revenue gets recognized and the cost problem created (returns)  is for another month or another group that is responsible for costs.

Reducing expenses?  Cut back on travel, office supplies, maintenance, outsourcing and if things are bad – heads must roll.  All short-term thinking and lead to increased costs later.

They above examples are the scarcity mentality we live with today.  No real growth or understanding of where costs manifest themselves.  Innovative methods to address revenue and cost issues are lacking.  Yet, the more service organizations that I study I find literally hundreds of opportunities.  However, most organizations don’t know how or where to look.

Work design, flow and an understanding of customer demand are where the hidden gems lie.  Six Sigma and Lean have  tools to get to these gems, just they are usually the wrong tools for the job.  Knowing how and where to find the gems allows you to go find them and quite simply  . . . pick them up.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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EA Sports – Worst Company in America?

What makes a company the worst in America?  The Consumerist website has determined EA Sports is this years winner of the Golden Poo award – for the second year in a row.  EA Sports soundly defeated perennial powerhouse Bank of America.

I like to read the Consumerist as you get some really good info on what problems organizations have in delivering product and/or service.  I see many of these problems with organization obsessed with revenue and costs – where they should be focused on the customer and let revenue and costs take care of themselves.  Unfortunately, too many executives only get targets for revenue and expenses that lead to bonuses.  This leads to a short-term focus and an internal view.  Consumers feel the pain.

There are few companies (and I haven’t found one) that deliver really good service and mostly for the reasons I have noted above.  All organizations in the US are struggling with an environment that has been shrinking.  The shrinking has to do with our collective approach to management and a scarcity mentality.  Budgets are part of this thinking.  Growth and innovation takes a back seat to budgets and shrinkage.  Businesses fight over market share rather than ways to grow.

This is a disease that began here in America.  EA Sports in the eyes of consumers that frequent the Consumerist have spoken.  However, so are your customers – are you listening?  Do you know how?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Trust – Your Obstacle to Increased Revenue and Lower Costs

I have often talked about the zero-sum game in my articles and blog.  The belief that good service costs more and cancels out any benefit.  “Customers”, they say, “should not be trusted or they will screw us out of every penny.”  If your organization thinks this way it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fact, service organizations strike the first blow with poor and cumbersome service.  A customer having to wait on hold, navigate an IVR, and gets transferred around to different agents is bad enough.  If it only ended there, customers have to arm wrestle with technologically hand-cuffed agents that are scripted like robots.  All this costs money but management thinks it less costly then giving customers “what matters” to them.

Trust has to be built into what we do.  Starting with enabled agent that can actually help the customer.  How absurd would that be?  Customers that get good service not only cost less, but they bring more customers.  Good service is a diamond in the rough and giving it to customers attracts more customers.

Customers already trust you by giving you their business.  It just costs less to deliver it when trust us present.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The US and Our “Average” Workers

I am still baffled by the article from March 6th by CNBC titled, ‘Average’ Workers Plague US Businesses: Execs Survey.  The knock on the American worker is that they lack critical thinking, creativity and communication.

WOW!!  Imagine that the American worker is now the problem.  Never mind the American worker has been outsourced, marginalized by poor work designs and subjected to outdated management thinking.  However, clearly the worker is the problem?

What’s missing?  According to the survey  . . . “highly developed skills in making decisions, the ability for workers to transmit their ideas in oral and written form, being able to collaborate with co-workers, and the foresight to be innovative and make something happen when action needs to be taken.”  Let’s take a look at these:

  • Highly developed skills in making decisions – How often do executives actually allow a worker to make a decision?  On anything?  Compliance is the name of the game for a worker – written procedures and rules see to that.
  • The ability for workers to transmit their ideas in oral and written form – Other than the outdated “suggestion box” when is an executive really interested in what a worker has to say?  The strategic plan and projects restrict any ideas of relevance this is a management problem not a worker one.
  • Being able to collaborate with other workers –  Deeper issues here, reward systems pit one worker against another in too many cases.  Competition is cited as the best path, not cooperation.  Again, a management issue.
  • The foresight to be innovative and make something happen when action needs to be taken – Again the system workers are laboring dictates how much innovation is achieved.  Workers are restricted by the system.

American management is what plagues the US, not the American worker.  Something American management has not come to grips with yet.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Dr. Deming’s Seven Diseases Still Haunt the US

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am reading Joyce Orsini and Diana Deming Cahill’s new book, The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality.  I have not read the entire boo, but thought it would be good material for a series of posts.  The book is an accumulation of Dr. Deming’s articles, papers, etc.  As Out of the Crisis was not a “How to” book, neither is this book.

Early in the book, I am reminded of American managements’ failures.  The decline of American competitiveness and how managing by visible figures alone is fundamental to this decline.

The seven diseases and obstacles that went with Dr. Deming’s 14 points still ring true:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis of short-term profits
  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating and annual review.
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Management by use of visible figures.
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of liability

Go into any organization worldwide and you are bound to see one or more of these diseases and obstacles obstructing the path to transformation of management.  The real issue is most organizations see these as good things.  The damage is to far removed from management blinded by a combination of financial and operational reports.

I am also reminded that unemployment is a direct result of bad management.  Management is good in finding excuses for their inability to manage.  Reorganization and downsizing is often the answer for managements failure or if you are a consultant you become the target – you have to blame someone.

As many of you know, I am long disappointed with the fads of quality that are steeped in copying the Japanese or even using them as the standard by which we measure good and bad.  Seems we would be better off going to Rosetta Stone and just learning the language as this creates as much value as these fads.  They create a smoke screen to real improvement.

Dr. Deming warned against models for improvement, “none are perfect, some are useful.”  Having seen many methods I have learned the same – all methods can be improved upon.  This, after all, is the challenge of continual improvement.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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American Overjustification

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

The Overjustification Effect . . . the act of doing something for mere pleasure is compromised by rewards.  When first reading Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards, I came across the concept.  We see it in everyday American life.  The evidence is that in organizations, there are a lot of people that either expect something extra for doing extra or won’t do something unless there is a reward involved.

As Americans, we have grown up with this concept.  Most of my friends and many that I have spoken with were given rewards for good grades.  Money, pizza, McDonalds and more were our incentives.  This later morphed into “what will you give me” when asked for any favor from friends or family.  The satisfaction of just doing to help has been erased.  The entitlement mentality we see in America today is certainly connected to this thinking.

It was also Kohn that talked about rewards and their effect on people.  Yes, they drive behavior . . . the wrong behavior.  It was also Kohn that pointed out that B.F. Skinner did many experiments on animals, but wrote his papers on people.

However, extrinsic motivators are part of everday American organizations and so many organizations violate the 95/5 Rule (where the individual is at the mercy of the system they work in). Rewarding the individual, doesn’t make sense when their performance is dictated by the system.  Unless, of course, they have found a better method.  Even then, organizations have to be careful that the individual doesn’t hoard the method for continued reward.

As Americans, we need to find our way back to the days where we did things because they are the right things to do.  We have become overstimulated by rewards.  Overjustification has been woven into our fabric and needs to be purged.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Organizational Whipping Boy – The Vendor

I’ve been reading and writing a lot over the past month, just not much on my blog.  Most reading about organizational purpose.  In this case, not just customer purpose, but a higher calling to benefit mankind.  Certainly, we want to respond to customers and create an environment that they want to engage and embrace.

However, there are other elements in every system that need nurturing.  One overlooked area is the treatment of vendors.  Many organizations focus on the customer and improvement, but treat their vendors like, well . . . dog poop.

Pounding the vendor for the lowest price, they don’t become partners, instead vendors become a whipping boy.  A whipping boy was a young boy assigned to an equally young prince and when the prince did something wrong the whipping boy got the punishment.  If you have been a vendor long enough, you will find yourself a whipping boy for unevolved organizations.

This is usually driven by management fear of not hitting their numbers.  Sometimes the hierarchy is used as the next rung down gets the blame.  More convenient though is an outsider that can be blamed . . . a whipping boy.  Deflecting blame to vendors has become an art and a science.

All that hard work to impress customers, but you don’t pay your vendor in the promised timeframe which negates all the goodwill you accomplish.  The system is out-of-balance and treating one better than other can only result in long-term consequences.  Vendors have other relationships and influences that can influence future customers.  What goes around come around.

Treating vendors fairly is always a good policy.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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