Tag Archives: business improvement

Can you have Improved Service Design without Management Change?

There is one certain way to ruin months of good work on service design, customer experience and user experience work.

You fail to make the necessary management improvements to support the new design.

AddtoCartIf change is to occur, it shouldn’t mean everyone needs to change except management. The new design will simply fall back into the old design without a change in management perspective. This means all the work to get an improved experience for your service is negated by old management perspectives – like Frederick Taylor’s scientific management (from Deming’s Profound Changes).

  1. Belief in management control as the essential pre-condition for increasing productivity.
  2. Belief in the possibility of optimal processes.
  3. A narrow view of process improvement.
  4. Low-level sub-optimization instead of holistic, total-system improvement.
  5. Recognition of only one cause of defects: people.
  6. Separation of planning and doing.
  7. Failure to recognize systems and communities in the organization.
  8. View of workers as interchangeable, bionic machines.

Substituting this thinking with Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge and his 14 Points will give your design fighting chance. Otherwise you risk having a shiny new car with an engine that can’t make it move – it looks pretty, but doesn’t accomplish much.

Just as you work to design a better customer experience – you must design-in better management thinking and design-out old management practices.

What if you tried different design principles in your organization? Would you discover a better way to improve your service? The 95 Method is about giving you and your organization a method to help you answer these questions. You can start by downloading our free ebook or booking our on-site workshop. Tripp can be reached at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt

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Standardization: A View

Blog Pictures 092Allow me to give you a view on standardization.  As part of this view, I will give you my background which will give you some insight into why I see things this way.  Gone is the moniker of “Lean basher” or being part of a group that takes pleasure in being experts, but not very helpful.  I represent only myself and what I have learned.

I started my “organizational improvement” journey back in industrial distribution in the mid-80s. I was influenced by the work of W. Edwards Deming as his message was far different than what I had learned in my MBA program.  I made lots of mistakes (and still do) and continue to learn.  I do not believe there are experts when I consult, the true experts are those doing the work.  I can only offer what I have experienced and learned.

I’ve worked with just about every type of service organization and spent a large bulk of this time working with information technology companies.  Upon reflection of these years, most of the work was to standardize and improve processes as coding to a standard process is much easier than coding to large variation.

The more I saw standardization being written into business requirements the more I saw workers and service suffer.  Standardized menus to choose from call center workers that don’t reflect the actual demands.  In contact centers, I saw the most popular choice of call type being “miscellaneous” or “other” – worthless data that could help no one.

I also saw workers being forced to standardized processes, scripts, rules, procedures that did not fit the questions customers were asking.  This caused customers to call back or leave – you can measure the ones that call back, but it can be difficult to measure who left or gave up and will eventually leave.

I have also seen that as I worked with information technology customers’ that making a change to the software became an event.  Even small changes had to be vetted and prioritized while workers and customers waited.  Governance meetings were held and items would move up and down the list.  I knew there was something seriously wrong when a developer after a governance meeting stated, “I could have made that change in 5 minutes and we discussed it for two hours.”  The software development cycle (a form of standard work) to build software had become the inhibitor to enabling the work that mattered to workers (end users) and customers.  IT had lost its aim – to help users create value for customers.

Side note: Information technology companies have made it much harder than it used to be or needs to be.  The answer to budget and time overruns to IT projects was building more bureaucracy with BAs, Testers and PMs.  Most of the time the PMs are just asking the developers when they will be done or ticking some other box.  The truth is the only role that creates value is the developer.  The way software has been split into multiple specialists has created more complexity and waste.  Even small changes can take weeks and months.  All in the name of process.

Today, when I work with a client I don’t even talk about standardization.  I talk about a customer’s interactions and aims, and organizational perspectives, beliefs and assumptions.  The first two help you see what the customer sees and that last three help you understand why you designed the work that way.  I call it a Model to Unlearn as part of the 95 Method – it is explained in the 95 Method video.

During this exercise, I typically will find where standardization is driving in avoidable demand (demand that customers don’t want to have and service organizations don’t want).  If I was talking about 1 or 2% that might be OK, but when you see 25, 50 – 80% you know there is something seriously wrong. The root of the problem is not all standard work, but it is certainly its brothers and sisters . . . scripts, rules, procedures, etc.  All these things create barriers between front-line worker and customer.  And many were created by management and support areas without worker input.

Instead, what I find works best is smartening up workers.  Learn the end-to-end system and the beliefs and assumptions that went into it.  Armed with knowledge, understanding and wisdom . . . workers can decide how best to design the work.  This is not what I see happening under any moniker (lean, six sigma, TQM, continuous improvement, etc), instead we get the “smart” people from support areas and management to make standardized work to control the worker.  Adding additional waste by inspecting them, pressuring compliance and then rewarding or disciplining them – how fun a job is that?  The worker I mean.

The key to me is that I don’t even bring up standardized work until the worker says, “It would be nice to have something that helps me do this.”  It is natural and unprovoked by outside influence – you won’t have to reward, discipline, inspect or seek compliance because the worker understands the need.  The added benefit is increase morale.

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 CallCenterIQReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.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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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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“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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“Missed It by That Much”

I had dinner the other night at a new local restaurant with my wife.  She asked me about how a restaurant might improve their service.  Seems a reasonable question and I am constantly evaluating the service I get or don’t get.

I thought I would order a sandwich like I do at my favorite “other restaurant” and that would be a grilled tenderloin with extra pickle and a cottage cheese side.  I gave my order to the waiter, she wrote nothing down.  Sure enough, the sandwich came fried and i had to send it back.  The waiter also failed to provide eating utensils or apologize for the wrong order.  The tenderloin (#2) was OK, but nothing special.

As a new restaurant, that is trying to secure new customers . . . they did not provide service that I expected or “what mattered” to me.  Had they been able to do this, I may have switched to the new restaurant.  Why?  Because a week later I had a similar experience at my favorite restaurant.  In fact, I can think of a few restaurants that failed one way or another which meant there was opportunity.

It reminds of the story that I heard years ago, where two hikers coming out of a tent run across a grizzly bear.  One hiker starts to slowly put on his tennis shoes and the other hiker on seeing this says, ” You are never going to outrun that bear.”  The response, “I don’t have to outrun that bear, I just need to outrun you.”

The issue is that you never know what the competition is really doing.  Don’t worry about what the competition does, just worry about what you are doing.  If you can “execute” to “what matters” to customers you probably can build a decent clientele.  The problem is restaurants seem to be focused on things that don’t matter to me.  And  if you want to get my business . . . get my order right.

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Information Technology in a Functionally Separated World

It’s like a kick in the head . . . every time I walk into a service organization and have a look at their operations- by performing “check” – I am left with the same sense of disbelief as the previous service organization.  Front-line staff left with no hope of delivering service from entrapping technology.  No one considered the customer or felt any need to supply an IT “solution” that was cost effective end-to-end.

Blame can rest with both the service organization and the IT provider.  However, the service organization can change the game by actually designing services that focus their attention on the customer and what matters to them.  IT will be forced to follow when you provide systemic solutions.  The beauty of this is that it results in less IT spend and happier customers which translates to lower total costs.

Contrast this to the functionally separated organizations that must do process improvement and IT with cross-functionally groups.  Starting here puts service organizations behind by trying to coddle the silos of organizations.  This makes them slow to move and expensive.

Yet, we still have front offices and back offices, separated departments in organizations and the like.  The hope is that optimizing the pieces will result in improvement . . . it never does, no matter what kind of leader their is leading a silo.

Information technology will enable no organization until it comes to grips with the functional separation of work in service orgs.

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 The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Management – A Little Neglect

A little neglect may breed great mischief…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.  – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Image via Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin had wrote many an interesting article or letter during his day.  His bemoaning of neglect provides insight to the nagging nature of management.

Management has long wrestled with making things better, only to making things worse.  And so, we have neglected management in moving our thinking forward.  The industrialized, backward thinking of management has created a large chasm to cross in the pursuit of improvement.

We have neglected management as part of the problem for so long that improvement efforts have become focused on the front-line.  This has become an acceptable place for improvement to begin . . . and end.  The inches between the ears of management avoided as not to make waves.

It is true that work represents the place to make improvements, but if management is completely separated from the work there can be no real improvement or learning.  Management designed the work that workers do, workers can make some improvements but dramatic improvement requires management participation to understand.  You can not lead  or fix the design from from behind.

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.

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The Right Attitude to Improvement

Working with a new company that has the right attitude going into the effort, one can only be optimistic.  The management is begging to be challenged, it is encouraged.  However, I am caught in a world between realism and hope.  There will be a roller coaster ride of emotion for my new client – management and workers alike.

Many prospective customers struggle with what the 95 Method (tVM) is about and try to fit it into their existing paradigm.  This makes the conversation awkward as the expectation of many is that I do process improvement . . . and I don’t.  Managers with this thinking want to do things better, tVM is about doing better things.  This is one of several reasons why improvement is so dramatic for those executives that understand that this means them too – when it comes to change.

Executives become participants by design.  Other improvement efforts embrace “sponsorship” and “support” which to me is completely lame and leaves too much improvement on the table – not empirical, but something like 30 – 40%.  Sustainability improves dramatically when executives understand – they are less likely to undo the good things.

The reality is that too few executives want to be challenged.  Ego and position in hierarchy play a role in this thinking.  Executives making the big money should have the answers in their mind and being challenged is – therefore, viewed as confrontational.  Nothing wrong with confrontation, but only when it is invited in.

Most people that know about the 95 Method know they will be challenged when we are invited in, the reputation of our successful work with clients often precedes us.

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.

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Innovation – It Starts with Challenging Old Assumptions

Probably better to say curiosity starts us down a different path and innovation follows, but assumptions block the path to curiosity.  Grabbing or copying the first best practice or tool to make improvements ends any chance at innovation.  We want to check a problem off the to-do list not have to think about what options we have to solve a problem.

I was reading Alfie Kohn’s website and remembered my Deming days.  He was the first person I had met that challenged my thinking on competition and reward systems.  He reinforced and furthered Dr. Deming’s argument that cooperation and not competition was that better way to go.

Deming and Kohn also made me rethink reward systems and how they drive the wrong behavior.  Rewards and targets become the defacto purpose of an organization – meaning that management and worker pursuits of targets and rewards take our eyes off creating value for customers.  Further, the system we work in and how well it is designed is by far the biggest influence on organizational performance.

The best way to ask people to begin is to set aside the old assumption that we have learned in childhood, experience, schools and what others have told us are true.  This is why going to the work is so important rather than relying on IT-generated reports or the biggest mouth in a meeting.  You can learn new truths when you do and banish myths at the same time.

This brings new and better thinking to problems.  This is called innovation.

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.

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