Tag Archives: organizational change management

Back to Design Basics

I recently watched Peter Skillman (VP Designof HERE) discuss an experiment he conducted and the discoveries he made while doing it – listen below:

The kindergartners outperformed all the “smart” people in the experiment!  The lowest performing group . . . business students.

Telling.  Organizations have over-thought and over-designed just about everything – leading to complexity and waste by designing in  their own problems.

Over and over again I have found that the approach from management in service organizations is to get an idea, plan and roll-out to the organization via project management the implementation of the idea.  Long projects (Over 6 months) have requirements change because of the dynamic nature of service.  The project is typically obsolete before the implementation is finished.

Information technology companies selling software perpetuate and lock in the waste by “nailing down” requirements and writing contracts that impede or dismiss an iterative approach.  In fact, the whole software development process has created a barrier to changing requirements.

Those software companies that do iterative type of software development are still missing the work design issues that need to be dealt with before starting to code.  The business requirements are born from a poor work design and can only be seen when developers actually understand the work – not through written requirements, but through observation and iteratively improving the work.  This is a programmer-user activity with no intermediaries.

Few software companies address the work design itself and when they do it is usually a retrofitting activity.  Slam the software in and then make process improvements.  The operating assumption is that the design ONLY needs process improvement rather than redesign BEFORE any software is provisioned.  Monthly sales targets in a software organization wouldn’t allow such diligence and even if this didn’t exist most software organizations don’t have the knowledge to do a redesign (one of the reasons I offer a workshop and consulting in this area).

Service organizations would be better off to design/redesign services before pulling in IT companies.  When you have iteratively discovered a better design, then software may make sense.  Service organizations just like to do things backwards . . . an operating reality.

Regardless, there are better ways to go about improving service organizations than the large single-focused project.  We are better off being armed with knowledge and an “iterative” discovery process than the business school definition being used today.

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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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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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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Management’s Predictable Response to Trouble

Management with a conventional perspective in their approach attack problems predictably .  .  . predictably wrong. If revenue is the problem, set a target for more revenue.  Expenses to high set a target for to lower costs.

The real question that eludes such approaches is ” by what method?”

Subordinates are left with new targets and no method.  This is not good management.  Can we even call this management?

Conventional methods for increased revenue call “pushing” sales to customers.  Some so dysfunctional in one telecomm that customers are pushed products for mobile phones that don’t even fit.  However, revenue gets recognized and the cost problem created (returns)  is for another month or another group that is responsible for costs.

Reducing expenses?  Cut back on travel, office supplies, maintenance, outsourcing and if things are bad – heads must roll.  All short-term thinking and lead to increased costs later.

They above examples are the scarcity mentality we live with today.  No real growth or understanding of where costs manifest themselves.  Innovative methods to address revenue and cost issues are lacking.  Yet, the more service organizations that I study I find literally hundreds of opportunities.  However, most organizations don’t know how or where to look.

Work design, flow and an understanding of customer demand are where the hidden gems lie.  Six Sigma and Lean have  tools to get to these gems, just they are usually the wrong tools for the job.  Knowing how and where to find the gems allows you to go find them and quite simply  . . . pick them up.

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 at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The US and Our “Average” Workers

I am still baffled by the article from March 6th by CNBC titled, ‘Average’ Workers Plague US Businesses: Execs Survey.  The knock on the American worker is that they lack critical thinking, creativity and communication.

WOW!!  Imagine that the American worker is now the problem.  Never mind the American worker has been outsourced, marginalized by poor work designs and subjected to outdated management thinking.  However, clearly the worker is the problem?

What’s missing?  According to the survey  . . . “highly developed skills in making decisions, the ability for workers to transmit their ideas in oral and written form, being able to collaborate with co-workers, and the foresight to be innovative and make something happen when action needs to be taken.”  Let’s take a look at these:

  • Highly developed skills in making decisions – How often do executives actually allow a worker to make a decision?  On anything?  Compliance is the name of the game for a worker – written procedures and rules see to that.
  • The ability for workers to transmit their ideas in oral and written form – Other than the outdated “suggestion box” when is an executive really interested in what a worker has to say?  The strategic plan and projects restrict any ideas of relevance this is a management problem not a worker one.
  • Being able to collaborate with other workers –  Deeper issues here, reward systems pit one worker against another in too many cases.  Competition is cited as the best path, not cooperation.  Again, a management issue.
  • The foresight to be innovative and make something happen when action needs to be taken – Again the system workers are laboring dictates how much innovation is achieved.  Workers are restricted by the system.

American management is what plagues the US, not the American worker.  Something American management has not come to grips with yet.

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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American Overjustification

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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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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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Home Depot’s Service Lesson

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This isn’t new news, but provides an important lesson of the failure of six sigma during Bob Nardelli’s tenure as CEO of Home Depot.  Like so many fads trying to find their way to achieve business improvement, this manufacturing initiated one is so yesterday.  The problem is the mass-production, industrialized mindset that spills over into service.

Facts may be friendly, but not in a system that promotes manipulation to achieve the carrot or avoid the stick.  Facts become secondary in these systems.  Numbers just become white lies or damned lies . . . not facts.

As a reformed Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, I found the method too elitist or internally-focused to be effective in service.  Not to mention that manufacturing and service have altogether different problems.

Six sigma’s project focus is all about reducing costs.  The management paradox being that focusing on costs always increases them.  Too often they wind up sub-optimizing through these projects by reducing costs in one area, but increasing in another.  In a six sigma environment, reducing costs is the aim.

Although six sigma practitioners talk about the customer, most are too busy achieving savings.  “The heck with the customer, I have to show money saved.”  In service, the customer is the key.  Services engaging in organizational change management devoid of studying customer purpose and demand, do so at their own peril.

People would be correct in assessing that the failure of six sigma is  a management problem.  But they have to realize that their is nothing to address these management problems in six sigma.  Not addressing the fundamental thinking problems about the design and management of work leave us with more waste, costs and a demoralized culture.

When management continues its command and control ways, nothing will change for the better.  Management has to play and change too.

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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Would Workers Recognize You?

A salient question for executives . . . “would an employee recognize you?”  Are you ever seen in the work or do you live in that ivory tower with an “open door policy?”

Many times sitting with executives in meetings I amazed about what is discussed.  Financials and targets of course is a topic, but the wild assumptions made in meetings are certainly not based in knowledge.  Challenge the hierarchy and you stand to get knocked down.  Remember, executives don’t like their thinking challenged.

Here lies one of the biggest obstacles to improvement.

Certainly ego plays a role.  Salary sometimes carries perceived knowledge.  “He makes a lot of money, he must be really smart.”  Not really.  In fact, too many executives have so little knowledge about what matters to customers.  When you ask them about such things, the responses turn to lagging measures of financials and targets.  Occasionally, you might find some survey that might help an organization understand how well they did, but nothing on what matters to customers.

Why?

Because that can only be done by getting your hands dirty in the work.  Ask an executive and they will do almost anything to avoid the work.  Excuses vary:

  • That’s below my pay grade
  • Too busy with meetings or any number of other “important things”
  • Golf outing
  • Vendor boondoggle
  • Working from home
  • I’d just get in the way (very telling)
  • I need to be a visionary at my level
  • I understand the work I came from the front-line (it hasn’t changed?)

I could come up with more, but maybe self-reflection would be a better method.

If executives are going to make decisions that will effect  the work of many, shouldn’t they really have knowledge about what is being changed?  Relying on vendors or “people I trust” just won’t cut the mustard anymore.  They need to be engaged before a plan is put together and the ball starts rolling down the hill to the point of no return.

I have learned that understanding your organization a system is not a spectator sport.  It requires engagement and understanding of the real problems – not the ones an executive has a tendency to make assumptions about that aren’t there.  Hiring “good people” is not enough unless you are willing to let them make the decisions without executive meddling.

Making decisions based on knowledge sometimes takes longer then making a snap decision, but the reverse is far more costly when the decisions you make are wrong, damaging or only addressing the symptoms and not causes.

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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The Oblivious Manager

For most managers that is what you represent . . . obliviousness.  A missed opportunity to connect with the work and the worker happens every day.  Too busy to be bothered with the goings-on that surround the business.

There are performance appraisals to write, targets to hit, activity numbers to report, and important decisions to be made.  As you move up the hierarchy of the organization it gets worse and the more layers in management the more dysfunction.  Lost in the quagmire of bureaucracy and compliance to the wishes of the manager above them.

The manager revels in the appeals to their authority where power becomes more important than knowledge.  Workers keen to get ahead build rapport with the hierarchy in public, but in comraderie with the fellow worker laugh at the ignorance of manager’s thinking.  Until, of course, the ignorance of management decisions wreaks havoc on the worker domain which happens with alarming frequency.

Entrapping technology, scripts, rules and more to dumb down the worker as these perceived misfits are incapable of directing their own work.  Rules that keep the worker from giving a customer a $5 credit in fear of giving away the store.  While managers smartly package away mortgages and almost put the economy into depression.  The inequity of the situation would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

Often, I wonder had management been blessed with compassion and understanding, would their ever had been the need for unions.  The barons of past generations were ruthless and set forth a poor example for the generations of managers that followed.  It seems we have become less ruthless as time has passed.  This recession with unemployment of 10% makes one wonder whether we are taking steps back as organizations show increasing profit at the expense of the unemployment rate.

If and/or when management discovers that knowledge is gained at the points of transaction with the workers and customers they may want to spend more time there.  Spending more time in the work with the worker, managers can help clear the path to work that is efficient and effective.  Awkard moments at the beginning, but both manager and worker benefit and as a result so does the customer.

Studying the needs of the customer, worker and manager can design a better system to service them.  A happy ending for all.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at tripp@newsystemsthinking.com.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.

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