Tag Archives: systems thinking

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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What does a Service Design Architect do?

Probably the question most asked by folks, “What does a Service Design Architect do?”  We put together a video to explain.

 

Lean and/or Six Sigma can give you efficiency, but service design can make you more effective.  Are you working on the right things?

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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Do You Want New Customers?

Almost every for-profit organization wants more customers.  Who wouldn’t?  More revenue and profit — sure beats the alternative.

Let’s not talk about that.

Good service costs lessThe funny thing is that customers that you currently have sometimes get the shaft.  Look at the recent deal by Sprint that is not offered to existing customers.  Say what?

Ignoring existing customers doesn’t build customer trust.  This really   is a poor strategy.  Customers resent the “your important until you become a customer” mantra.  Customers that hate your service — leave.

Another industry that doesn’t seem to get it — are hospitals.  They are all about branding and having “world-class” doctors, but many don’t share data to prove they are “world-class.”

The reason they don’t is because they are not.

You have to wonder what the marketing spend would have to be if you actually did take care of customers.  Happy customers tell others and then they do business with you.  The service you provide creates the brand and not vice versa.

The mirage is a mirage when it comes to branding.

You get one good chance to keep a customer for life.  Don’t blow it.  Otherwise you will have to spend a ton on branding and marketing to convince the market you are something you are not.

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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Do You Think Your Employees are the Problem? They’re Not — It’s You!

Blog Pictures 048Placing blame for organizational problems is what executives like to do.  If it isn’t unions or a poor education system, it has to be incompetent workers?  This doesn’t exonerate all workers, but 95% of them — yes!

Have you ever worked in the trenches?  We are not talking about when you were in high school or college, but today.  Since you got that executive position, you have been so busy planning and hitting the numbers that you have forgotten what the work is all about.

Customers are being represented by numbers rather than relationships.  That report tells you nothing about what is important to the customer.  Without a touchstone and principles to guide your path over-control and over-engineering reign supreme.

What is a good touchstone?

The Customer.

That’s the big “C” and not the little one.  Not the internal customer and other such non-sense, but the end customer.  The one that pays salaries and provides profit.

Make a customer happy and you stand a chance.  Bury your head in reports and internal drivel — watch for the downward spiral.

What about principles?

Executives embrace dictates — send me a report, project plan and data.  Make a decision and then follow-up with policies, rules, procedures and scripts.  Next, inspect and audit the worker into submission.

Then ask, ” Why are my workers not critical thinkers?”

Your work design seeks compliance — not thinking.  Check your brains at the door and pick them up on the way out!

Principles are something different.  Principles are guidelines developed to deliver what is important to the customer.  Customer-facing workers can think and deliver with principles.  Rules and scripts do not provide that leeway.

So, the next time a counterpart — because you are not the problem — wants to disparage a worker, tell ’em that we designed it that way.  Don’t blame them.

 

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 CallCenterIQ. 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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Service is a Box of Chocolates

You never know what you’re gonna get.

 

The standardization juggernaut continues to carve a deep path through service.  Improvement folks, IT, management, etc. continue to hitch their wagon to the standardization movement.  Complete with mind numbing audits and inspection to seek compliance.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the workers were “pulling” for standard work, but what I continue to see is folks not doing the work or even really have a clue about the work coming up with standard work and sending the audit police after the perpetrators.

However, this is only half the problem.  The other half is the problems you get if the processes look the same from location to location, but the demands are different.  Now you may be creating avoidable customer demands in the name of standardization.

Still another half (yes, I know I have used up my halves) say, “no kaizen without standard work” quoting Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System (TPS) assuming manufacturing is the same as service . . . it is not.  Consider Forrest Gump and the box of chocolates, if the variety of demands is great or different by proximity forced standardization can create more problems (increased costs, lost customers, more mistakes, etc.).

Regardless, studying the effects of standardization before a massive roll-out is a good place to start.  Steps to standardization:

  1. Study customer interactions/demands and do this with workers that deal with customers/clients/patients/constituents.  Are they repeated over and over (like manufacturing)?  Probably not, but if they are then make sure the worker is asking for standard work – after all they have to use them.  Forced standardization will create zombie workers.
  2. Train on customer demands, not processes.  If workers are being trained, they need help to learn.  If 80-90% of the volume of demands are from just a few types of interactions then only train what they need to do them.  Leave out the IT system training, only train to what they need to handle what customers are asking for . . . the rest is waste.
  3. For the rest, customer-interacting workers are better to work to axiom and principles.  If you have a principle to “Do what is important to customers – that is reasonable.”  Workers will know what to do without having their minds checked at the door.  The workers engaged with customers have all the information needed and are in the best position to make a decision on what is best for the customer.  Once you restrict this with policies, rules and procedures or have to pass to managers you enter cost and waste.

 

Maybe I need a new slogan like:

“Friends don’t let friends standardize”

“When it absolutely, positively, has to be standardized let the workers do it.”

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Don’t standardize.”

The tyranny of forced standardization without knowledge or worker input has to come to an end.  I hope it comes soon.

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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Dell – A Harbinger of the Future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and use workers to build and refine your service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Indiana Education School Scoring – A Predictable End

State Seal of Indiana.

State Seal of Indiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

Reducing complexity means spending less and getting more.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and use workers to build and refine your service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.Enhanced by Zemanta
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“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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Atlanta Cheating Scandal – A Messy and Predictable Result

Let’s be clear.  A good person working in a bad system will lead to poor results.  The whole Atlanta School system– and education systems like them – have created environments where the system is dictating performance . . . and survival in that system.  The Atlanta education system created the environment for administrators and educators to cheat.

These systems designed in this fashion need to be eliminated in education systems, government and private industry.

The US has created a culture of cheating by the way we have contrived and managed systems.  Lance Armstrong, the recent KPMG scandal of insider training, an assortment of jailed CEOs and manipulation of every day measures to survive or get ahead are results of these poorly contrived and managed systems.  Our short-term thinking for immediate gain is like a boat anchor hanging around our societal necks.

Pay for performance or any derivation of pay for performance like:, administrator and educator rewards tied to test scores, school funding tied to test scores, school takeovers tied to test scores and graduation rates,  etc. will lead to cheating and/or manipulation – if not for personal gain, for survival.  I wrote about this back in 2009  (see A Step Back: Pay for Performance in Schools).  We are making our own bed and we have to continue to sleep in it.  We are better than this.

The current education system is expensive to boot.  The added attorney costs and inspection costs to avoid cheating and manipulation make this design inefficient and not just ineffective.  Now, we may have more expenses to jail “cheaters.”

To improve education, we need to  change our perspective and contrive better educational systems.  The culture of cheating and manipulation comes from our current culture.

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

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