Category Archives: Systems Thinking and Technology

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.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

The Secret to Great a Customer Experience

I have been reading a lot of customer experience articles and posts.  Most of it is softball stuff, lots of syrupy language and like love your customers and think about the customer experience in all you do.  Unfortunately, as I dig deeper the traditional design and management approaches make all this stuff a real yawner.  Yet, people make a ton of money telling you obvious things with speeches and writing.

Traditional approaches still are based on incentives and having the “right” data.  One is based on the flawed thinking that performance is down to the individual.  And then – of course – data is needed to figure out ways to improve the customer experience . . . bring in the IT!

Sorry folks, dead end.

Getting a great customer experience requires a better system for front-line employees to work in.  The 25 – 75% failure demand that customers experience is pathetic.  Designing the work to customer purpose and demands.  Management learning counter-intuitive truths about how system perform and that it is not down to the individual.

The fluffy and feel good customer experience gurus need more depth to what needs to happen to change the poorly designed systems.  Just using words like “seamless” and “customer friendly” advances nothing.  Some depth . . . please!

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Connecting the “IT” Dots

Information technology has become like one of those “connect the dots” workbooks I got as a child to keep me busy and not bother the adults.  Except, this book has no numbers . . . just the dots.  Makes it more difficult to connect to make a meaningful picture.

However, this is the world of IT.  Sell or solve a solution to an organizational function that doesn’t understand the root cause of what they are trying to fix.  Doesn’t matter whether the dots connect into a coherent picture, it depends on your view.  Like the optical illusion of whether you see the old or young lady.  I see only the old hag when I see IT.

The pursuit of answers require systemic solutions.  Yet, what I see in organizations are a mismatch of unconnected dots that secure the wasteful designs they are supposed to enable.  IT is like duct tape for organizations.  The functions and work design weren’t optimal to begin with and IT manages to entrap and disable the mess even more, resulting in additional waste and complexity.

Designing exceptional performing organizations doesn’t need IT to lead.  The dots must have numbers and a coherent picture has to emerge before IT can be pulled in and enable the work design.  Otherwise, we just have a bunch of dots.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

No Big Surprise – Another Over-Budget IT Project

English: The Seal of the United States Federal...

Image via Wikipedia

Public sector, private sector . . . it really doesn’t make much difference.  The continuing saga of IT projects that run beyond their budget and don’t deliver continues to grow.  Maybe we should be asking what IT initiated project actually ever works.  I have seen claims of improvement, but it is like a football replay – upon further review I have yet to see an IT victory.

Go to an IT vendor website and you would have to believe the opposite were true.  Sorry Charlie . . . but that’s a can of sucker you are reading about on these sites.  Procurers need to be asking for evidence and this is something not promoted in marketing-speak.  A little research will tell you otherwise and don’t trust other fools that have had their share of gullible pie.

You need to go to the work and see the effect on the design and flow of the work.  Management to management communications are full of assumptions and not fact.  And please don’t trust the IT salesperson, they are paid to embellish . . . can you say lipstick on a pig?

The latest is the cost over-run is with the FBI.  This one was originally be slated for 2009 to be ready.  The inspector general found “deficiencies” in the program.  Oh, and the FBI may go over the $451 million budget.  Noooo, really?

IT vendors love to use the favorite words like antiquated, modernization, automation and even sophistication to sell their wares, so be weary.  Any IT pushed on organizations is a dead end.  Your system is unique in customers, design, management etc. and need solutions unique to enabling the work of YOUR organization.  Customization to get what you need that works is better than a cheap solution standardized by what others believe is best.  Common sense?  Yes, it should be, but it is rarely 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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Software Scope Creep

In years past, I consulted with a large information technology company in the banking industry.  No hotter topic in a software development organization than scope creep.    Management was constantly trying to either limit scope creep or charge for it.  Better requirements were demanded or tighter contracts -addressing the symptom won’t stop the cause.

I decided to write on this topic because my recent Quality Digest article, The Information Technology Conundrum was critiqued on their weekly talk show Quality Digest Live! The moderators pointed out that IT projects were failing – as pointed out in my article – because of scope creep.  No, the reason is because the design of the work was flawed before the project was even conceived.  The project should never have even started.

Scope creep is smoke, but the real fire is work design and management thinking.

Fixing scope creep is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.  The ship is going to go down whether the chairs are moved or not.  Waste begets waste.  However, don’t plan on your IT software provider sharing this with you or even understanding the problem.  It is much more profitable to get paid to rearrange chairs than the harder task of saving the ship.

I have seen more IT projects get launched that should never have left the port.  The ship was never sea-worthy to begin with, but launch they do with a doomed destiny already sealed.  Just remember that scope creep isn’t the problem – your thinking is and service design is a product of your thinking.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Software Development and Outsourcing

Earlier this year, I went to India on behalf of a client that had outsourced their software development.  I met with architects, project managers, business analysts, testers and developers.  What they had to say about software development was astonishing, but revealing.

I have nothing against any country.  Outsourcing is not always bad and the worse reason to reject outsourcing is patriotism.  The reason outsourcing fails is because it is not profitable.

Say again?

That’s right outsourcing is not profitable.

So scratch that concept of less expensive software developers right from your brain.  Software requires knowledge of the work.  Not better documentation, not better analysts.  The problem is the way we have industrialized software development.

There are a number of things that don’t work in traditional software development.  Prepackaged and turn-key systems sold to customers ignore the existing system customers have in place.  There is no study of customer purpose or the customer demands placed on systems.  Instead the “better” IT system is put into place.  It is the ignorant selling the plausible to the gullible.

Further, the flow of the work is not considered or if it is considered it is automated in an inefficient or as-is fashion.  Sometimes the existing functionally separated systems are perpetuated.  No one asks if the back office needs to exist, often it can be designed out and this does not require software.

Others treat software development as manufacturing.  You hear such words as “software factory” and “production line.”  Software development couldn’t be any more different than manufacturing.  However, it has been designed with different functions, where we can than outsource the pieces like testing or development.  Economies of scale gained through optimizing the pieces and lowering costs by lowering salaries.

It just doesn’t work that way or certainly doesn’t work this way very well.  But organizations continue to follow this path to its failed destiny.  Project overruns, exploding costs for IT development, late projects and software that doesn’t work or entraps workers with poor flow.  The price of admission for this privilege is expensive.  Sign me up.

Oh, and what did that conversation with the outsourcing company produce as its biggest problem in our conversations.  They could do a much better job of developing software if they could come and see the work.

Why did you outsource again?

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Technology – A History of Increasing Costs

The problem isn’t technology alone when it comes to costs, but more the thinking behind it that increases costs.  The transaction costs are very visible and for the gullible represent quick savings for companies.  And companies laden with rewards and pressure to reduce costs “quick” is an embraceable proposition – it becomes a way to achieve instant gratification and survival in organizations.

I recently had a phone call with a technology company that assured me that IVR systems – that I loathe – were saving companies millions.  No evidence but the reduction in visible transaction costs – this means each transaction cost is lower.  Systemic or total costs are completely ignored.

No one asks about how many transactions that come in the form of customer demands are actually value or failure they just look at the transaction alone . . . not whether the transaction should have occurred in the first place or not.

Reducing failure demand (demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for  a customer) becomes a huge area to make improvement and does not involve any IT.  As part of reducing failure demand, we are improving the flow . . . as economies come from flow and not scale.

Looking at the history of reducing transaction costs with a flawed mindset, we see that in the good old days we would get service face-to-face.  Telephony advances in technology allowed for a cost reduction in centralizing customer demands through contact centers.  Now, we have websites to reduce transaction costs and avoid the contact center.

The result has been worse service and more costs.  A natural extension of when the focus is on reducing costs . . . costs increase.

Outsourcing and shared services have been enabled by technology – couldn’t have either without technology.  However, both perpetuate the reduction of transaction costs as a form of improvement and ignore the systemic customer demand and flow that really are behind reducing costs.  The management paradox is that the transactional mindset is increasing costs in the form of lost customers and acceptance of a poor service design.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Pay and Performance – Two Separate Things

As the political season heats up, so does the call for “pay for performance.”  The assumption here is that it works . . . and yes, to some degree it does.  Unfortunately, it works in a manner that actually diminishes and destroys service.

Performance is dictated by the system in which you work.  This is true for front-line workers and executives.

I have often quoted W. Edwards Deming and written about the 95/5 Rule.  95% of the performance of any organization is dependent upon how well your system is set-up, and only 5% is down to the individual/  The system is comprised of processes, work design, management thinking, measures, roles and any other element that exists.

It is true that pay drives individual performance.  However, this takes away from the focus on the customer.  Organizations that are functionally separated try to give managers individual pieces of the organization to optimize which results in sub-optimization.  Sub-optimization is the enemy of synthesizing the whole – creating waste and inefficiency.

Individual pay for performance creates competition between workers where cooperation needs to exist to improve any system.  Further, individuals learn to manipulate the system to survive or gain reward.  What this boils down to is that the system loses when pay is tied to performance.

I have seen organizations go out of business while everyone is still getting bonuses for performance.  How can this be?  Some claim it is just the wrong measures and miss the point.  The problem is that pay is tied to performance in the first place.

Improving performance requires redesigning our organizations be they governments or private companies.  Working on the 5% is just dumb and wastes what little time we have already.  This requires a shift in Western mindsets about how we think about work.  It wouldn’t hurt to have governments start to learn this with teachers, police officers and other government jobs.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

Management Infatuation . . . The Large Project

What is it about large projects that is so attractive?

Is it the ability to put a large project on a resume?  Or the feeling of power to have introduced massive change?  It is hard to figure out the answer to this management paradox.  Maybe there isn’t one.

Service organizations and governments love the large project.  A lot of them involve information technology, but these projects certainly aren’t just IT.  IT just seems a good way to fund it.  No one will argue with large projects that are the future.

However, large projects seem to fail at unbelievable rates.  In fact, I am yet to see a successful one.  All have begun with great pomp and circumstance.  Executive speeches given, resources allocate, Gantt charts populated on hundreds of pages and the master plan is unveiled.

Two months later and the ADD management has usually already lost interest.  Funding for other things is poured into the financials of the projects.  Large projects do represent a great way to hide costs.  Our software developers put in 500 hours last month into your project . . . and you got one line of code – if you are lucky.

These days I remain amused by those that promote their company or themselves as large-scale project managers with years of working on large projects.  All that experience that has delivered so very little in tangible improvement.

The problem is really quite simple, the need was never really there to do a large project.  Egos and assumptions play a larger role in these decisions than need.  The truth is that most of the time value can be created by small changes on the front-line.  It just isn’t as glamorous.

Before the next big project kicks off, take a couple of deep breadths and do the following:

  1. Get knowledge – leave the egos and assumptions behind
  2. Improve the work and pull IT

There are more to these steps, but if you are reflective on this you will discover a much better way than big projects.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin

IT Workers – Let’s Get the Outsourcing Argument Right

Former IT workers at Molina healthcare have started a firestorm with a lawsuit (see Outsourced and Fired, IT Workers Fight Back).  The article is an interesting read and I side with the former IT workers . . . but not for the reasons that keep being used.  They claim discrimination and they may be right, I don’t know.  The court will have to sort this one out.

Regardless, discrimination or even the patriotic message of protecting American jobs will not resonate with corporate America.  Heartless . . . maybe.  But workers – and not just IT workers – need a new tactic.

Plainly said, almost all outsourcing I have seen in contact centers and IT is not profitable.  Yep, that is correct . . . it is NOT profitable.  This is a message that corporate America will understand.

Yes, I know the wages paid to foreigners is much lower.  However, reducing wages 30 – 50% or more isn’t enough to make up for the poorly designed IT when you separate developer and the work that IT is supposed to enable.

IT executives have made IT in the form of production plants in manufacturing.  I even hear words like “software factory” when I speak to executives.  Software is not manufacturing and to treat it as such is foolhardy.  This is economy of scale thinking and is used in an IT outsourcing strategy.

So what is wrong with the design?  The flow of the work – economies of flow.  Traditional software process: project planning, feasibility studies, systems analysis, requirements definition, implementation, integration, testing, installation, deployment and then maintenance.  There may be derivations of this, but who came up with this crap?  Why has this become best practice or the “one best way.”  IT projects have stunk up the place for a long time.  New thinking is needed to save jobs, profit and improve IT in general.

The traditional approach allows for the functional separation of work.  Project managers, business analysts, testers and other roles for the most part are non-value adding.  Most outsourcing seems to go after the developers, because they are expensive in an executive’s mind.  But developers are the only ones that do the work that adds value.  They have been hidden away as too expensive to interact with those workers that add value in the eyes of customers.

Developers are the only workers that can add value.  Having them away from the front-line employees that interact with customers is expensive.  Instead they have phone calls, meetings, requirements documents to facilitate their work.  Flow is disrupted and costs are increased . . . a lot!

Functional separation of work and economies of scale thinking leads to higher costs.  Outsourcing the pieces makes sense with this line of thinking.  This is why executives embrace it.  It is wrong thinking familiarize yourself with the arguments I have linked to in this article.  If you are in the midst of having outsourcing companies learn your system to get rid of your job, give me a call.  New thinking that is more profitable may be your only chance.

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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Share This:
facebooktwitterlinkedin