Tag Archives: systems thinking

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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EA Sports – Worst Company in America?

What makes a company the worst in America?  The Consumerist website has determined EA Sports is this years winner of the Golden Poo award – for the second year in a row.  EA Sports soundly defeated perennial powerhouse Bank of America.

I like to read the Consumerist as you get some really good info on what problems organizations have in delivering product and/or service.  I see many of these problems with organization obsessed with revenue and costs – where they should be focused on the customer and let revenue and costs take care of themselves.  Unfortunately, too many executives only get targets for revenue and expenses that lead to bonuses.  This leads to a short-term focus and an internal view.  Consumers feel the pain.

There are few companies (and I haven’t found one) that deliver really good service and mostly for the reasons I have noted above.  All organizations in the US are struggling with an environment that has been shrinking.  The shrinking has to do with our collective approach to management and a scarcity mentality.  Budgets are part of this thinking.  Growth and innovation takes a back seat to budgets and shrinkage.  Businesses fight over market share rather than ways to grow.

This is a disease that began here in America.  EA Sports in the eyes of consumers that frequent the Consumerist have spoken.  However, so are your customers – are you listening?  Do you know how?

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.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Indiana Education – Raising Standards Can’t Replace Better Method

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living

No one I know takes standardize tests for a living (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

It is a predictable solution for the uniformed . . .  raise standards and education will improve.  Education a man-made crisis and the solution is to leave more children behind.  If your learning isn’t up to snuff, you get “extra help” in No Child Let Behind and this program has led to more “problem” children.  In Indiana we are basing teachers effectiveness on test scores to standardized testing.  Winners and losers and, of course, more funding.

The US population are collective suckers for wasting away tax dollars.

Standardized testing and raising standards misses the mark and costs billions.  Seriously, what to either of these have to do with learning.  Children memorize information, but this is not learning.  Learning requires discovery and enthusiasm . . . how many kids in today’s schools can’t wait to go back tomorrow?  The exciting part is reserved for sporting events, not education.  The barriers are standardized tests and standards.  Little emphasis on learning, just memorization.

The characteristics of memorizing information does not translate  to what we need in the US job market.  Critical thinking requires a different type of learning missing from our hand-tied education systems . . . and the children suffer.

Better thinking and methods is required in education, not “raising standards.”

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.Enhanced by Zemanta
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Trust – Your Obstacle to Increased Revenue and Lower Costs

I have often talked about the zero-sum game in my articles and blog.  The belief that good service costs more and cancels out any benefit.  “Customers”, they say, “should not be trusted or they will screw us out of every penny.”  If your organization thinks this way it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fact, service organizations strike the first blow with poor and cumbersome service.  A customer having to wait on hold, navigate an IVR, and gets transferred around to different agents is bad enough.  If it only ended there, customers have to arm wrestle with technologically hand-cuffed agents that are scripted like robots.  All this costs money but management thinks it less costly then giving customers “what matters” to them.

Trust has to be built into what we do.  Starting with enabled agent that can actually help the customer.  How absurd would that be?  Customers that get good service not only cost less, but they bring more customers.  Good service is a diamond in the rough and giving it to customers attracts more customers.

Customers already trust you by giving you their business.  It just costs less to deliver it when trust us present.

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 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

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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The Organizational Whipping Boy – The Vendor

I’ve been reading and writing a lot over the past month, just not much on my blog.  Most reading about organizational purpose.  In this case, not just customer purpose, but a higher calling to benefit mankind.  Certainly, we want to respond to customers and create an environment that they want to engage and embrace.

However, there are other elements in every system that need nurturing.  One overlooked area is the treatment of vendors.  Many organizations focus on the customer and improvement, but treat their vendors like, well . . . dog poop.

Pounding the vendor for the lowest price, they don’t become partners, instead vendors become a whipping boy.  A whipping boy was a young boy assigned to an equally young prince and when the prince did something wrong the whipping boy got the punishment.  If you have been a vendor long enough, you will find yourself a whipping boy for unevolved organizations.

This is usually driven by management fear of not hitting their numbers.  Sometimes the hierarchy is used as the next rung down gets the blame.  More convenient though is an outsider that can be blamed . . . a whipping boy.  Deflecting blame to vendors has become an art and a science.

All that hard work to impress customers, but you don’t pay your vendor in the promised timeframe which negates all the goodwill you accomplish.  The system is out-of-balance and treating one better than other can only result in long-term consequences.  Vendors have other relationships and influences that can influence future customers.  What goes around come around.

Treating vendors fairly is always a good policy.

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 at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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“Missed It by That Much”

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

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

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

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

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

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Synthesis, Not Analysis is the Problem

I caught an interview with an gentleman by the name of Brad Grossman (Grossman and Partners) that works with executives to keep them current (in general).  I visited his website and found that one of his predictions for the future is the need for more analytical positions in the future.

If only analysis was the problem.

The American problem is synthesis.  God knows that as Americans that we know how to break things down.  We already are in data overload.  We have complex systems of delivering products and services that are weighed down in costs of the infrastructure.  Are ability to break things down does not guarantee that when we put them together again they will synthesize very well.

The functionally separated organizations that we have designed perpetuate the problem.  Dogmatic management that manages the pieces by optimizing them at the expense of the whole system.  Locked-in by pay for performance with the fundamental belief that performance is down to the individual.

The organization has a boat anchor around its metaphoric neck.  Learning how to synthesize means learning to see the damage or enablement that the current thinking is doing to the system.

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/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Labor Day Reflection

English: American Federation of Labor charter ...

English: American Federation of Labor charter for the Cigar Makers International Union of America, 1919. Published in American Federation of Labor: History, Encyclopedia, Reference Book, photo plate between pages 48 and 49. Published by the American Federation of Labor, 1919. Published in USA prior to 1923, public domain. Digitized by Tim Davenport for Wikipedia, no copyright claimed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first Labor day in the US was celebrated September 5, 1882.  A “Workingmen’s Holiday” as it was called.

Living in Indianapolis, you run into Labor Unions that have slowly but progressively disappeared.  Sure, you still have the Teacher’s Unions and many others but workers in Unions represent about 11.8% of all wage ans salary workers.  This number has dropped over the years.

Yet, even with this small percentage the unions are often a target and sometimes these fights affect the average worker – union or not.  Having grown up in a family that despised unions, it was a long time coming before I realized that this inclination spilled over into laborers in general.  So, like most, I went to college to “be better than that.”

However, when you look at the engine that makes things run it is truly more the workers.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what Steve Jobs did to make my life easier and no doubt he was handsomely rewarded.  But Jobs and others are a rarity.  Most people don’t aspire or care to achieve  or just stating a plain fact – 99.999 % of us never will.

I don’t mind the Steve Jobs of the world getting their due.  Yet, most CEOs today did not build the companies the lead.  Some were genetic marvels where the business was handed to them.  Others came up through the hierarchy and achieved leadership positions, a combination of education, good fortune and occasionally savvy.

The salaries these folks command and the disparity to workers has come under increasing scrutiny.  The ration was 24-1 and now is a whopping 243 -1 according to a 2010 survey.  The fact is that such disparity is sometimes deserved, but more often it is not.  Yet, unions and the worker have come under more scrutiny than CEOs, unless of course . . . you break the law.

The US has become a swinging pendulum between too much labor or too much management.  The strength of labor unions was considered to be socialistic or even communist.  However, many were not necessarily out for power, they just wanted better working conditions or fair wages and benefits.  Some perceive this to be an entitlement issue.  If you work your whole life and don’t have enough to retire was it just the choice of the worker or does the company have an obligation?  Nowadays that argument has been settled as defined contribution plans have replace defined benefit plans.  Retirement is clearly an individual responsibility in the US and the problems with Social Security make it more so.

W. Edwards Deming marked the decline of the US starting in 1968.  Some blame unions and some blame management.  Dr. Deming placed the blame on US management.  From what I have seen in service and manufacturing, I agree.  Many countries have unions and are beating are heads despite the “handicap.”  We just haven’t gotten better as labor and management have found so few areas to connect on – something that has to stop.

The work designs in service organizations lend to depressing cultures and worker discontent.  Workers trapped in these designs and than wrapped into them with information technology.  Better designs mean better profits and a more motivated workforce.  Isn’t this really good for all, if we forget the labels?

Labor day gives us a chance to reflect on the year ahead.  Different and better thinking may be worth exploring.

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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