Tag Archives: management paradox

Do You Work On or In the System?

Thomas Edison built the world's first large-sc...

Thomas Edison built the world’s first large-scale electrical supply network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity to progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” – Thomas Edison

One of my favorite quotes and part of it can be heard by Susan B. Anthony at Disney World’s American Adventure in EPCOT.

There are certain people that are satisfied working IN a system. The mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rules their daily lives. Compliance and “getting by” makes for a pretty boring life. For some it is because they have nearly always been successful working IN the system. In education, we find Valedictorians fit this mold. Why would they want to change the education system? Or executives receiving big bonuses and pay, why would they change the system?

This creates a management paradox – or in this case a system paradox. Why would you look to improve something that seems to be making you money or moving you seemingly forward. Working IN the system can certainly have its rewards.

Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us don’t live by this creed. There has to be a better way – always. The constant struggle to find  the road to utopia can be exhausting and never-ending. After all, “always” and “never-ending” are a long time. Seems easier just to comply and fit-in rather than constantly seek better ways.

Those bent on finding a better way by working ON the system need to be able to “unfreeze” those satisfied with the status quo. This can be no small task. The battle is to be able to challenge beliefs and assumptions without tripping the cognitive dissonance alarms. Once those babies are set off, denial and resistance are soon to follow.

My latest research has me looking into the research done to date in the social sciences. I have found – not surprisingly – that there has to exist some curiosity or openness in an individual. This is individual and subjective to the person targeted for new perspectives.

An approach I use is to have someone look at their organization from a different perspective. A front-line view is often helpful as interactions with customers take place there. For all the reports and financial statements nothing can tell you more than looking at interactions between the customer-facing worker and the customer.  New perspectives are gained and can “unfreeze” your targeted audience.

The first chapter of my new eBook – The Service Cost Paradox – gives you a method to “melt” those stuck working IN the system. Once the person starts to question their system – there is no turning back – they are now working ON the system. The next natural step is to ask “why” the organization performs that way – this is the subject of Chapter 2.

Whether you or somebody you know is stuck IN the system – taking action to “unfreeze” your thinking can bring you to breakthrough improvement.

Down load my free eBook at www.newsystemsthinking.com. 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 PEX and CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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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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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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American Overjustification

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Divided Responsibility – Still Haunting Service Organizations

You would see it more often in manufacturing, but divided responsibility plaques service organizations too.  Typically, in manufacturing it would be seen in quality control efforts where management would declare high-quality products.  The management paradox is that more inspection predictably led to higher error rates.  When two or more individuals inspect the same product to “inspect quality in” it means no one is responsible.

When action items are delved out amongst participants of a meeting, often you will find two (or more) individuals being given the same task to “share” the workload.  Nothing fundamentally wrong with that except someone has to take ownership with the other(s) supporting.  Clarity in ownership is important to avoid finger-pointing or sub-standard action.

President Harry Truman with

President Harry Truman with "The Buck Stops Here" sign on his desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me, this divided responsibility is reflected in work designs where tasks are broken into so many pieces that no one can have a chance to know if they are doing a good job.  This is because the actual outcome is buried multiple levels beyond the first step.  Customers get frustrated as they have to figure out who does bear responsibility.  This often ends in escalations to management that unfortunately take a lot of time to “get up to speed” to resolve a customer issue.  “The buck stops here” is the famous phrase from Harry Truman that I hear from management in service organizations.  Finding the right answer for a customer is the problem.

Clear lines of communication in the design of the work and responsibility of tasks.  Keep the work together if at all possible, but make one person the owner.

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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Myths, Legends and Finding Ways to Get Me off the Phone

My AT&T package (phone, internet, wireless and TV) has been under-performing for the past few months.  They replaced the modem which apparently they do quite often as the UPS store in my area indicated they got 6 – 10 a day through their store.  Solved part of my problem – phone works – but didn’t fix the frozen TV or the internet problems.

I was saved by a technician that came out and found several problems that when finished made everything clear and (so far) working very well.  That’s the way things go when you get a tech, things seem to work.  The troubleshooters on the phone will tell you tall tales when management uses AHT and other contact center measures that predictably drive wrong behavior.

One contact center call to AT&T for a problem with my remote was especially egregious.  I was told that the Sony TV I have had a known conflict.  The tech told me that this was not true and that he isn’t sure why I was given such misinformation.  He went on to share that the contact centers agents didn’t know how to troubleshoot and wished that management would actually see and understand the issues.

But why stop myths and legends when we can have BS?

More often than not, customers want something very simple . . . their problem solved.  Unfortunately, companies are too focused on saving money than resolving a customer’s problem.  The management paradox is that not solving my problem causes failure demand and adds to costs – as I have to keep calling back in to get my problem solved.

Sad, but true AT&T.

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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My Seven Wondrous Assumptions of a Industrialized Service Organization

I recently gave a speech at the CAST conference in San Jose.  I met many interesting professionals that are on the cutting edge of software testing.  These folks are rebels in their industry and stretch the bounds of “normal software testing.  Have a conversation with them and you will know what I mean.  It wasn’t the speech where I got to understand the thinking, it was the informal conversations and a continuation of questions after the speech.

Truly, anyone in an organization can have an impact in changing a system, most just don’t know how.  In fact, working with organization I find that most people know that their organization is doing things wrong, but lack the words to make change happen – at least, change that is improvement.

Studying organizations requires understanding some counter-intuitive thinking about the design and management of work.  In my speech, I described them as wondrous assumptions in our current thinking.  Listed, they are:

  1. Managers and Specialists Know Best
  2. Dividing the Work
  3. Beginning with Plan
  4. Focus on Budgets and Costs
  5. It’s Down to the Individual
  6. Copying
  7. Standardization

If you don’t understand the arguments, or better, know how to find evidence that challenges these assumptions . . . here is a good place for you to start.

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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Caveat Venditor!

There is  a growing trend of backlash in America and around the world.  The Tea Party wants a balanced budget and less government, Occupy Wall Street wants equality in business and government and now the consumer is taking action against $5 debit card fees.  We are in a new age.

Caveat Venditor!!!

“Let the seller beware” is upon us.  Social media has allowed people to organize causes quickly.  Be it the Arab Spring or London Summer or the recent events we have witnessed the times they are a-changing.

Organizations, governments and management need to get serious about the poor service they are providing customers because they aren’t just one-off or individual complaints anymore they are movements.  This can be good news or bad news for companies.

If you are trying to maximize profit and putting it to customers – bad news.  If you have horrendous service through poor customer service, IVRs, websites, etc. – bad news.

Blaming it on Washington just won’t fly anymore.

On the other hand, if you are designing good services – good news!

Here is the management paradox that organizations and governments need to get a grip on . . . good service costs less!  So, quit lamenting on lost revenue and build services that meet customer purpose and satisfy demands.  There will be less failure demand to deal with (lower costs), happier customers (more revenue) and discovery of new and innovative methods for new products and services.

That short-term focus on profit-thingy your reward systems will not survive this onslaught.  People are perceiving it as greedy and sometimes it is.  Long-term thinking with a consumer focus will win the day.

Are you ready?

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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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.

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