The Customer Sets the Target

W. Edwards Deming railed against using “arbitrary numerical goals” and there have been some concluding that targets are “always bad.”

I disagree that targets are always bad.

Arbitrary numbers are certainly an issue.  Unfortunately, they are a staple inside organizations of all kinds. Hit this financial number or this internally set target that fits nicely into achieving wanted levels of activity by misguided management.

However, you are talking about something completely different when a customer “wants it by tomorrow.”  This is a real target set by the customer and is not by any means arbitrary.  The main difference is an internal focus vs. an external focus.  The customer does not care if you hit your budget or activity targets, but they do care if you are able to deliver what is important to them.

The management paradox is that hitting customer targets always will help you achieve your financial targets and not vice versa.  Consider IT software, where meeting schedules and budgets have become the target . . . but customers want IT that works.  If you hit the schedule and budget and have IT that doesn’t work, what have you achieved?  How will this play when trying to attract new customers?  The sales pitch is we hit our schedules and budgets, but give you crappy software?

Targets are OK, you just need to understand who is setting them – you or the customer.  If the answer is anything but the customer, you are only fooling yourself.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  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.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Telecomm Still a Nightmare for Customers

I really don’t enjoy writing these blog posts on bad customer experiences, because the experience is real for me or someone else.  It would be a wonderful world if a customer could walk in and get the service expected or their problem solved.  This would be end of story.  However, this isn’t the world customers live in.

I was doing a podcast this past Monday with David Houle, a futurist and one question I asked him was, “Is the end of caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ at hand.”  His response was that companies that live without trust with customers were basically dinosaurs that aren’t surviving today’s environment, never mind tomorrows.

That same day I started working with my current carrier Sprint to get 4 new phones for the family.  I stopped into a Sprint-owned retail store to begin the exchange.  I read online that you could get a discounted price on new Apple phones.  Iwas informed by the Sprint agent that that price was only good for “new” customers.  I informed the agent of my displeasure and that moving to a new carrier now was an easier decision.

I went home and thought I would give Sprint one last chance by trying Twitter and Sprint’s @customercare, here is the exchange:

No end to the discussion.  As my last question has not been answered as of January 2, 2014.  Needless to say, I was disappointed in Sprint’s response.  I am not a fly-by-night customer as I have been a customer of Sprint for more than 20 years, but new customers are their focus.

The story does not end here.

I went to Verizon on December 30th to give them my business and was given a plan from one of the agents that fit my needs.  It was a bit more expensive, but I was a motivated buyer.  Anything to find an organization that appreciates my business.  The Verizon agent gave me a quote  and I told him I would collect the phones I had and bring them in the following day.  The agent informed me the “trade-in” value of the old phones was only good through December 31st.

The next day I stopped in at the store with phones in hand to complete the purchase.  I was informed by the Verizon agent that the agent that helped me the day before was not in and because he was paid on commission, he would have to send me to a non-commissioned agent.  After a 20-minute wait, I was passed to the non-commissioned agent.

The non-commissioned agent and I worked through 40 minutes of paperwork and checking that the phones I wanted were in stock.  We started the exchange and I was met with a fraud stoppage from the credit department.  Apparently, by buying 4 phones I tripped some fraud audit.  The agent said that my order was to be put on hold until I cleared the fraud audit and that could take up to 72 hours.  The non-commissioned agent called me January 1 (yesterday) to give me the number that was needed to clear the audit.  The saga continues . . . I will update.

I would like to think that David Houle was right and that companies had designed services that build trust.  However, my experience has been that caveat emptor is alive and well.  The consumer has to fight for themselves as commissioned sales people and having to do things on your own (as a customer) to progress an order are not user-friendly experiences.

Both Sprint and Verizon profess world-class customer service, but neither delivers on a consistent basis.  As most service organizations, they can not see themselves from a customer viewpoint.  They can only see the result of what they have designed and there is a lot of waste they are missing.  The waste is innate in the design they have chosen and will remain until they take a customer’s viewpoint.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  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.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Era of Big Data is For Real

Usually, I am the first person to reject a new fad and it is quite possible that I am misreading what “Big Data” is all about.  However, the more I understand – once the hype is taken away – the more I come to realize that Big Data is here.  This post is to provide a brief overview of what I have found and believe.

Between the beginning of mankind and 2003 the world has accumulated somewhere between 3 to 12 exabytes (exabyte = 1 million terabytes) of data according to David Houle, author of Entering the Shift Age.  By 2010, we create in aggregate 3 exabytes every four days.  Information overload, anyone?

All of this data is not useful, but it is big.  The key will be to collect only those data that are useful.  I believe that this will bring in a new era of new knowledge.  Yes, a lot of it will be waste at the beginning.  However, as I look to the future and progress on collecting data we would previously have categorized as “unknown and unknowable.”

If you remember, it was W. Edwards Deming that spoke of data that are “unknown and unknowable” – meaning we really don’t have the data we need in organizations to make good decisions.  Things like what is the price of losing a customer and how would you measure it?  What is the cost of a disgruntled worker?  These would be categorized as “unknown and unknowable.”

I am not saying that we will have the best data to make 100% decisions, but as more data are collected in the Shift Age there will be additional shadows cast on data we did not have before.  Houle sees the rise of new jobs that are data purely data focused.  This is probably true, but how we go about finding and collecting the right data still seems the most worthwhile path.

What are your thoughts on Big Data?

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organization futurist.  His organization helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer and design organizations based on new knowledge.  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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Large IT Projects Fail in Government . . . and Business

The Healthcare.gov fiasco has the Republicans calling out the Democrats.  The truth is both parties have failed national and state implementations of information technology.  The bottom-line is large IT projects are destined to fail.  They all require what IT companies sometimes call “teething pains.”

Information Technology companies answer has been to add more costs by audits, project management, and other well-meaning but budget-busting activities.  Untold fortunes in time and reams of paper are used to document and standardize in single-focused IT projects.  The waste is monumental.

In business, you see nothing that is any different.  In fact, it is often much worse.  In banking, core banking software is slammed in and then after companies “get use to” the new system they do process improvement.

Why is it that IT implementation precedes designing work? Cart before horse thinking is the magical answer being sold in the marketplace.  Work design, culture and significant measures of success are ignored.  IT staff celebrate hotting the date while workers stuck with using the (poorly designed) IT system are left frustrated and left out.

You can spend far less on IT if before you even talk about IT solutions you understand your problems.  If IT was the answer, what was the question?  Can you really afford another IT catastrophe?  Just because you don’t make talk television, the newspaper or become the joke of internet websites the waste in resources is still present . . . even if ignored.

Understanding your culture that drives your design and the customer-in view of performance should become basic to any work design.  And . . . this should come before IT.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their 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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The End of the Expert

The era of the expert has officially come to an end.

Most purported “experts” today  have decided to give themselves this label.  When you hear the words, “I am the expert” you should run.

Why?

English: Charles Cornwallis, First Marquis of ...

English: Charles Cornwallis, First Marquis of Cornwallis (1738 - 1805) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)o start with . . . it is a fixed mindset and holds a manacle on future learning. After you become an expert, where do you go from there? More expert? The mostest expert? Once you label yourself an expert there is little room to grow.

Being an expert seems to be a pass to judge others as not expert.  Calling out the non-experts as not worthy to walk the sacred ground of the expert.  You will hear things like, “everything I do is purposeful.”  Wow!  The deity has arrived to right the world.  We have been waiting for your arrival.  False prophets abound.

English: General Sir Henry Clinton, Commander ...

English: General Sir Henry Clinton, Commander in Chief of the British Forces in the American Revolution, 1778-1782. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We haven’t seen such arrogance since General Cornwallis and General Clinton traipsed the American landscape over 200 years ago.  Good thing, their overconfidence was the Americans gain  Both Generals left the US with dishonor.  Both later writing books to blame the other for their colossal failure in America.

The self-proclaimed expert has a clear message, “I am the man.”  Until something goes wrong that effects their image then the message is let’s find someone to blame.  My expert image may get tarnished.

Embracing a growth mindset instead allows the unworthy to become worthy.  All have the propensity to improve their current position and no one has all the answers – at least on this earth.

A better label would be to declare ourselves life-long learners and try to live up to this.  No one is left out with this mindset.  We all have room to improve.  Otherwise, we set the world back to the days of monarchy and elitism.  Who wants that in country where “all men are created equal.”  Unless, of course you are an expert.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their 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.Enhanced by Zemanta
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A Fourth Strategy to Change Management

The first two strategies as pointed out by Bennis, Benne and Chin are not so well known, but are often used.  They are empirical-rational and power-coercive.  They are so embedded in our minds that they play like a broken record.  The empirical rational approach is to provide empirical evidence to sway the thinking of those you are trying to change or to have a rational conversation based on logic and facts.  Some view this as the “carrot” side of change management.  The power-coercive approach is to sway thinking by power and can be viewed as the “stick” side of change management.

The third strategy (still Bennis, Benne and Chin)  is the normative-reeducative approach.  Here, successful change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.  Learning is individual and subjective, and an approach that I have been using has been to allow managers and workers to change their own thinking by putting them in places where they can unlearn and learn a better way through observation and reflection.

The fourth strategy is one that I have used off and on over the past decade and was not aware someone had discovered the same approach.  It was coined by Fred Nickols and he calls it the environmental-adaptive approach.  I spoke with Fred about this approach was inspired by Rupert Murdoch and his firing of the employees and moving them to new jobs at a different location.

This doesn’t sound so great.  However, what Fred discovered was that from his experience is that people resist disruptive change, but adapt readily  to new circumstances.  Moving people from the old way of working to new circumstances that they can adapt to sometimes may be the right approach.

The key is to move workers and management to a better system.  If the existing system is wrought with waste and bloated with bureaucracy then setting up a new organization may be an attractive way to approach change.  However, this requires different perspectives and building blocks to be embraced or you will quickly make the new into the old.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their 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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How to Praise Good Performance

Cover of

Cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Opportunities to change perspective and build a more positive organization requires hard work in scouring published materials for the latest research.

I am reading a book called, Mindset by Carol Dweck (psychologist).  Dr. Dweck identifies a couple of different mindsets that people have – fixed and growth.  She believes that if we have a fixed mindset that we are not open to feedback.  If feedback is a description of someone’s value, they may not seek feedback.  Negative feedback to a fixed mindset is a horror movie in real life.

Dr. Dweck and Dr. Claudia Mueller conducted an experiment with a group of children.  Children were complimented on ability and effort.  Those that were complemented on ability (You are so smart) were found to seek easier problems, quit sooner and overall . . . performed worse.  Conversely, those children that were complimented on effort were found to seek harder problems, perservere and perform better.

So why did children perform worse when complimented on ability?  Basically, it is because when you succeed because you are smart . . . then when you fail, you are dumb.  Persistence in a difficult task risks being labeled dumb.  Who wants that?

Praise for ability in adults works the same way according to research done by Ryan and Robert Quinn in their book, Lift. When you praise adults for their ability, they believe their ability is fixed.  Executives and workers alike may become afraid of feedback for fear of failure.  Entire organizations may get caught up in their successes and avoid negative feedback.  That is, until it is too late.

Finding ways to view your organization in a different light sometimes requires negative feedback that executives don’t want to hear.  Fear of failure can be costly.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their 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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Dell – A Harbinger of the Future?

Wallstreet . . . the bastion of gambling, quick money and short-term thinking took a hit today.  This is positive news for the masses.  An act that removes an organization from the clutches of the investment world and some of the underworld figures that run it may become a trend.  We can only hope.

David Packard -co-founder of Hewlett-Packard – echoed this notion long ago.  His sentiment about expanding a business was an equation.

“The percentage increase in sales which you can finance each year is equal to your percentage of profit after taxes times your capital turnover.  Capital turnover is defined as the dollar in sales you can produce per year for each dollar of capital you have invested in your business . . . Your capital includes working capital (that is the money to be used to buy inventory, to finance your accounts receivable, to provide some working cash, etc.) and fixed capital would be the amount of money you have spent to buy facilities, tools and equipment.”                                       – David Packard (from Growth from Performance address to Institute of Radio Engineers; April 24, 1957)

Even Henry Ford was a proponent of stockholders being active in the business.  Believing that those who were active “will regard the company as an instrument of service rather than as a machine for making money . . . Hence, we have no place for the non-working stockholders . . . If it at any time became a question between lowering wages or abolishing dividends, I would abolish dividends.” (Henry Ford, My Work and Life)

Dell has an opportunity to do the right thing and not just do things right with this move.  Making decisions based on the long term is a start.  This will allow the design of a system that does right by customers and Dell workers.

A tough road ahead?  No road is easy, but the fundamental shift in thinking leaves the door open for greater possibilities.  Go Dell!  But there will be the devil to pay if you fail.

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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Connect the Dots Thinking

English: self created, no copyrights(PD עברית:...

English: self created, no copyrights(PD עברית: יצירה עצמית, ברשות הכלל (ללא זכויות יוצרים) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a child, I remember spending hours working connect the dots work books.  The simple act of drawing the line between numbered dots wasn’t the prize, but the picture was.  It aided my education in learning numbers.  And because I couldn’t draw very well the payoff was huge – I still can draw little other than stick people.  I eventually advanced to paint by numbers – although painting between the lines was a challenge.

However, what is interesting is when I speak with organizations of all kinds . . . they still want the connect the dots thinking.  These are college-educated men and women!  Quick answers are needed for their problems and short-cuts, check-lists and Cliff notes are acceptable

This rarely ends well.

Look at what business has become . . . connect the dots everywhere with projects and project management – or what I like to call formal, scheduled connect the dots complete with schedules and a linear mindset.  The pieces must fit together!

Funny, when you view organizations as systems you realize that the organization is more (or should be more) than the sum of its parts.  We have all been tricked into thinking otherwise – its like the child within use revisits those workbooks.  “Give me an easy answer.”  All these “easy” answers lead to unintended consequences by adding complexity to the organization.

I don’t see an end to the madness soon.  Especially in the US, where financially pressured organizations continue to seek out these types of solutions to satisfy WallStreet.  There are better ways, but they will require a bit more than what we learned in elementary school.

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.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Indiana Education School Scoring – A Predictable End

State Seal of Indiana.

State Seal of Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate to say I told you so . . . but I told you so. The DeHaan school flap over changing grades for one school and not another has led to former Indiana State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett to resign his position in Florida. You can see all previous posts on Indiana Education at this link.

This isn’t a Tony Bennett issue, it is a perspective issue.  The complexity of the US education system has grown since the advent of the US Education Department during the Carter Administration in the late 1970s.  Increased complexity means more costs.  Think about it . . . more money to management types rather than money for classrooms, the advent of standardized test scores and grading teachers and schools all cost more money.  The lawsuits and time wasted are unknown and unknowable.

The State of Indiana with its super majority has the opportunity to be Republicans and shut down the Indiana State Department of Education.  This would seem unpopular politically, but would reduce complexity and move the control back to the local arenas.

For Democrats, get rid of this silly grading system which you have already identified as damaging.  Work to make Teachers (the value workers in this system) the locus of control.  The money needs to be spent on the classroom and not all these extracurricular grading activities.

Reducing complexity means spending less and getting more.

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.Enhanced by Zemanta
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The 95 Method