Tag Archives: business improvement

Unchallenged Management is Weak Management

Most organizations understand that when systems (not just IT systems) aren’t improved or maintained that they entropy.  And so it is with management too.  Just like an untrained or little used muscle . . . management becomes weaker.

Open door policies are a facade to the real attitude of some management hierarchies.  “Tell me any news you want, as long as it is good.  But don’t tell me when things are bad, that would be politically incorrect.”  How management looks can be more important than say being told what the current realities really are.

Many management hierarchies want to protect their culture.  However, the very thing they are trying to protect is what keeps it weak.  The culture is quite often already broken.  Embracing the reality is the first step to making it better.

Telling management the truth about their performance is a tough business.  The best way is to have them see for themselves why the hierarchy is broken.  Barring that, you are left to telling them straight.  Many are afraid because the truth carries with it a risk to the messenger . . . and so fear in the organization, rules culture.

Unchallenged management masks its deficiencies by hiding behind plans and ancient assumptions.  They provide cover, but not improvement.  This leaves entropy to rule the day, system and the culture.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

– Friederich Nietzsche

Learning new ways requires perspective and perspective comes from a different view.  When embraced the system finds new and better ways.

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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Why Do Companies do Reorganizations and Why they Fail

Organizations of all types look to reorganize.  But the reasons are based in assumptions with the hope that it will lead to improvement.  Less evidence exists that reorganizations actually make the business or government run better.

I have heard  many reasons why companies/government do reorganizations.  Here is a list of reasons – by no means comprehensive:

  • Recent merger or acquisition
  • To stay competitive
  • To “shake things up”
  • Realign the business
  • New strategy (or strategies)
  • Improve communication
  • Prelude to downsizing
  • Better decision-making
  • Better execution – related to strategy
  • Going global
  • Free-up creativity and innovation

Please comment if you have more to add.  The assumption is that the reorganization will somehow make things better.  After all, isn’t reorganization what a leader does in the first two years during the honeymoon period?

If you look at these reasons many are based in assumptions.  Mergers and acquisitions are many times are decisions made based on economy of scale thinking.  But scale thinking in organizations is flawed.  Improvement comes from flow and not scale.

Strategies lead to plans and the flaw here is that knowledge is needed before talking about strategies or plans.  Reorganizations are rarely based in fact about how a business will improve, they are full of assumptions about economy of scale, functional separation of duties, and how much an individual leader can affect change.

Knowledge is gained by actually understanding an organization as a system, not from what other organizations are doing or what is “believed” to be true.  This is the reason reorganizations become such incredible failures.  Even though they are often spun as being magnificent successes.  If executives only knew that basing reorganizations on flawed assumptions was a mistake they could bring much to the bottom-line.

Reorganizations don’t have to be a bad thing though.  However, they need to be based in evidence and fact.  This is gained through understanding your organization outside-in as a system.  In essence, understanding the work that creates value for customers, understanding customer purpose and then gaining knowledge about how well an organization performs against purpose.

Reorganization with knowledge of your system leads to a natural change in the roles that workers and managers do.  Otherwise, it becomes an assumptive activity that leads to an expensive failure.

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 Untouchables in Management

In most organizations there are the “untouchables,”  they cannot be challenged or even looked at in the wrong way.  Sometimes they are “lucky sperm” that are the relative of an owner.  Other times it is the “in” crowd in management.  Still others are the group that were brought in by new management.  Regardless, the attitude they bring to management is a “don’t cross me . . . but groveling is accepted and expected.”

Usually management types, these are people imbedded – like a low-hooking golf ball hit by a 2-iron that lands in the soft bank of a river – in the hierarchy.  They run welding their power like Attila the Hun.  Evidence?  Reason?  All out the window with these types, they are unchallengeable.

Some brown-nose and most lie because there is no repercussion as they are authority.  This is the politics of fear and position.

The untouchables are a huge barrier to improving systems.  They take the eye off of the customer, evidence and learning to defend position.  Everything is about winning and losing . . . arguments, coercion and position win the day.

They are killing your culture and service organization.

Left unchallenged, instead of innovation you get brown-nosing and a culture of “tell me what I want to hear.”  The truth is buried in a sea of proverbial BS and CYA.

There is at least one way for leaders to break up the kingdom.  Executives need to focus on the work, going to the work working with front-line workers destroys the hierarchy and the “untouchables” with it.

Dismantling is easy because everyone knows what is really important when executives spend time in the work.  Evidence and truth replaces lies and posturing.  Culture improves because there are fewer dark places for the “untouchables” to hide . . .  salt and light replaces them.  Like throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ultimately, management has many paths to choose from in how they will operate.  The best path is the well lit one.  The one that focuses on customer purpose, the work, evidence and method.  All else is just waste.

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 .4 Multiplier

“How much improvement can be accomplished by using a systemic approach (like the 95 Method)?”  I get this question on phone calls, emails and questions from interviewers. 

.4 is my best guess . . .

Take your current expenses and multiply times .4.  How close you come to this figure depends on your ability to change thinking – management thinking.  Recent interventions have seen the usual call for speedy results, until management realizes they have to change too.  Whoa!  You are going way too fast – Changing front-line employee = fast change.  Changing Management = slow change.

In management you have politics, it is harder to embrace change with politics – ask President Obama.  This is where leadership comes to play and the ability to change thinking and assumptions by using evidence that cuts through the crap.  The larger the organization the bigger the pile of . . . well, you know.

To get the .4 multiplier management has to change.  This includes leaving assumptions behind and embracing evidence, changing management roles, seeking systemic measures, and adopting new methods that enable work.  Sounds easy, but management as quick as they are to want results hesitate when getting a .4 multiplier means them too.  Progress is slowed by those that want quick results.

All systems have different issues and sitting in the comfort of a climate-controlled office will not change your thinking.  Claiming to be a strategist or a visionary rather than rubbing elbows with customers and front-line folks is the biggest bunch of hokey going.  You have to understand customer purpose and demands by being there, not from reports.

“If you want to revolutionize a company, shouldn’t you know it first.”  Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) in Up in the Air

The .4 multiplier is there for the taking, but management has to have some cojones first.

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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Compliance is a Poor Substitute for Responsibility

My recent Quality Digest article (A Three-Word Phrase that Destroys Service Systems) alluded to the problems of inspection, audit and other activities that seek compliance.  They destroy service while pushing out responsibility.  For the audit and inspection mindset there is trouble lurking behind every corner.

Too often people doing the real work are forced into doing things that must be done for compliance even when they make little sense for what they do.  You hear the workers say “we have to do this to comply with audit” and grudgingly move on.  The auditor smiles and puts a check on the list and off to commit more evil.  Some workers go back to doing what makes sense to them as they know the work and issues better than the infrequent auditor or they may continue to do what they have been badgered to do to survive.

Management wants control and inspection/compliance seem to fit this mindset.  This kills responsibility and costs alot to deliver.  Instead, managers should just say we don’t trust people and we are willing to put employees we don’t trust in front of customers . . . they are cheap ya’ know.  Do not worry, these people management doesn’t trust are being heavily watched by the inspection police so we have you covered.  Don’t worry about the cost, we have your back.

The management mindset is filled with control that increases costs.  Seek compliance, not responsibility is the mantra.  Customers do mind paying more for all this compliance.  Don’t put a shmuck in front of a customer that you don’t trust and for heaven’s sake don’t make them pay for the poor system design that delivers pathetic service.

95% of your organization’s problems are down to the system, not the individual.  This presents a management paradox and a different approach to business and government improvement.  The system you put workers in dictating performance.  You can trust workers if you give them a good system to work in, if the system is poorly designed waste begets waste and compliance and inspection have to sort out the “cheaters.”

Responsibility needs to be designed in and much of the inspection and audit (especially that dictate system design) needs to be designed out.  Indeed compliance is a poor substitute for responsibility.

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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Tripp Babbitt’s Blog Down for 5 Days – Why Remains a Mystery

Much to my chagrin, my blog has been down for five days.  That is five, count’em frustrating days.  I wasn’t notified by my hosting company (ProVim).  There were no phone calls and no emails, yet, they claim to have attempted to contact me.  I worked furiously through the weekend to find answers and only found more frustration.

I did find that my website was being hosted by theplanet.com when I searched whois.  They are now called Softlayer.com and ProVim the third party.  In a chat session to Softlayer (a contradiction in customer service terms) refused to help me based on legal grounds.  They wouldn’t even contact the third party (ProVim) to help resolve the issue. I abhor service companies that can’t provide service or won’t do everything possible to help solve an issue.  This thinking is selfish, I would never do business with Softlayer.com – they look inside out from their perspective and not outside-in from the customer’s perspective.

As for ProVim, they are a small company and growing by acquisition by what I read.  They are acting like a big company meaning it is hard for customer’s to get answers.  More bureaucracy, they had to open a ticket number to resolve my issue – my issue was labeled “medium.”  Sounds like how someone might order chicken wings then representative of my problem from my perspective – and that perspective would be a customer’s perspective.

Ultimately, I had to rely on the good ol’ boy network to apply pressure . . . are we really in the new millenium?  After a bogus attempt to resolve my issue by an executive, someone with knowledge actually understood the problem and resolved it.  So, five days of frustration ends with someone with knowledge to solve the problem.

A lesson to all of us that value is created on the front-line in the eyes of the customer.  We don’t care about balance sheets and income statements and especially we don’t like our problems labeled “low” or “medium.”  We care about our lives not yours and we hate IVRs, ticket systems and unanswered phone calls.  Try designing a system that serves us and not you.  Revenue and business improvement result and you won’t have to buy businesses to grow.  The management paradox is that customers are dying to do business with organizations that sollve their problems and not those that worry about their own.

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  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Counter-Intuitive ROI

ROI is often asked for by management to justify investments in technology or other investments.  Dead trees and time to present such mandatory reviews waste more resources then the alleged returns that organizations actually get . . . this means more hot air and manure than actual benefit.

Beautiful presentation . . . but most of these “dog and pony” shows have so little knowledge contained within them.  The only ROI really gained is to the vendor and not the customer of such efforts.

ROI comes from doing things that customers value.  This requires experimentation with method to deliver service, some of this requires technology – no doubt.  However, there is opportunity just in the design of the work and too many times technology gets in the way.

Instead massive plans and PowerPoints are put together to PROVE that ROI can be achieved.  Proof without evidence is the result.  Rarely, is a knowledge present or an experiment done that actually shows the change of method leads to ROI.

Baffle them with BS, rather than dazzle them with brilliance.

Embracing work and those that do the work that customers value just isn’t cool . . . but it is profitable.  In fact, it is extremely profitable.  The problem is that this thinking represents a management paradox to our current mindset about business improvement.  In the end it is a much better to ROI.

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  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Asking the Wrong Questions to Improve Service

A client recently forwarded me an invitation from a company promoting a seminar titled “How to make off-shoring work?”  He rightly pointed out that if your asking the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer.  After all, it isn’t about getting off-shoring (or outsourcing, shared services, etc.) to work, it is about getting the work to work better.

The problem is (as with most fads) they are based in assumptions.  Here is the one that caught my attention in the promotion:

“Most major corporations have embraced offshore delivery of IT and are moving to the next stage of a global delivery model, in which the location of both supplier and internal resources are decided from a business perspective, with very few duplicate roles across the world. With major economic benefits, this transition has been accelerated by the economic developments of 2009. What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? And how can you make it work for you?”

Obviously someone with a vested interest in convincing an audience that off-shoring is the right thing to do and you would be ignorant or stupid to have not embraced it as this point.  No evidence, just a lot of hype from a major consulting firm that is trying to sell the mirage.

Too many companies will fall into the cost trap of such claims.  They will do this because they see a reduction in activity costs . . . a very short-term thinking proposition.  But with executives salivating over bonus potential in the next quarter, reducing activity costs sounds appealing.  They miss huge improvement opportunities with this thinking by not addressing the design of the work BEFORE considering off-shoring, outsourcing or shared services.  This is the fundamental thinking problem that management must overcome to improve service.

Off-shoring, outsourcing and even a shared services strategy have gone from a snowball to an avalanche without proof of total cost reduction.  If companies would see that they are off-shoring the waste that is in the design of the work, I believe a different approach would be in order to achieve business 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 articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.


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Service as a Commodity

An excellent post by Simon Caulkin called Not Customers but Commodities got my attention.  It illustrates how customers are being treated like commodities.  Technology, standardization or a combination of the two have left us feeling . . . shorted in the service we receive.

Efficiency has replaced sanity and customers feel it.  Service organizations (public and private) have looked to their own bottom-line to “hit the numbers.”  Meanwhile service to customers has deteriorated either rapidly or slowly, but does entropy.

Managers without fortitude or knowledge claim they are trying to balance profit and good service.  The result is disastrous and preposterous.  The false assumption is that there is a trade-off between good service and costs.  The “zero-sum game” as I call it.

The truth is there isn’t a trade-off.

Good service delivered the way a customer wants it always costs less.  Less handling and more revenue.  Oh, and less marketing to service customers that don’t need to be convinced of your good service – because you are delivering it.

Absorbing variety in a technology, best practice, rules, scripted and standardized world is very difficult and the customers are left out of the equation.  Like a product that is cheap but only lasts a few days, service is done in the cheapest manner at the expense of the customer.

The examples are many, like a contact center geared to answer calls that add revenue but put customers through the gauntlet when they have a problem.  In an attempt to avoid costs, service organizations add costs.  IVRs to navigate and back offices to negotiate . . . in a word it sucks.

The good news – for now- is that all your competition stinks too.  Customers are mired in mediocrity or less and yearn for someone to actually stand out.

However, given the service systems companies have designed business improvement seems so far away. Managing costs over rules good service.  If only service companies and governments understood that serving customers ineffectively is at the root of the causes of costs.

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  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Facts are Stubborn Things

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”   – John Adams

John Adams:

Image via Wikipedia

While watching the HBO John Adams series for the third time, I was impressed by many things that happened before the Revolutionary War.  Most notably that John Adams made the above quote in defense of British soldiers that fired during the Boston Massacre.  The provocation by the crowd was what caused the British soldiers to fire.  The sentiment of the day was that the American settlers were being taken advantage of by the British and King George III.  But the facts brought forward by John Adams during Boston Massacre trial helped shape law in the new land.

Today, instead of resentment of the homeland hierarchy that taxed goods, we are faced with a management hierarchy that concerns itself with position and not evidence or facts.  The ability to make a decision is more important than basing it in fact.  We are left in government with ideology and in business misguided thinking based on history, neither based in facts.

The problem with the management hierarchy is that they have lost touch with what is actually happening.  Management reports and analytics have replaced knowledge instead of enhancing it.  This is the price of technology, lots of information . . . but know knowledge.

Scant evidence exists that business improvement is achieved through work designs filled with front office and back office, shared services or even outsourcing.  In fact, much of the evidence is that these things are poor designs based in promoting the existing hierarchy.  That is management based in assumption rather than fact.

The current sentiment is toward those things that are outdated and changing thinking requires discomfort of management position.  When hierarchy becomes more important than facts we have not only injustice, but reduced profits.  Workers languishing in poorly designed systems that make little factual sense are perpetually stuck in a cycle of despair.

John Adams had it right in the face of unpopularity.  Facts are truly stubborn things.

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  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at info@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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