Tag Archives: Technology

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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Beliefs and Assumptions – How Damaging?

 

All too often, I hear the use of statistics like the clip from Anchorman (above).  People don’t quote percentages too often, but they do say things similar to, “most of our customers like . . .” or “that happens . . . all the time.”  The problem is what follows.  I have witnessed multi-million dollar IT and management decisions based on nothing more than a claim.  I am often assured that the claim came from a “good source.”

I do not believe that organizations do enough to challenge the beliefs and assumptions where decisions are made.  The skeptics often succumb to the hierarchy – meaning if the source of the belief or assumption is up the chain of command it can’t be questioned.

It’s funny to me that people get challenged on things like their expenses, but not on operational decisions of much greater magnitude.  Some degree of due diligence would seem to be appropriate.

Conversely, it seems silly to me that those conducting a due diligence will quote ROI numbers for new lines or IT.  Then, proceed to roll-out a large project without even a small scale pilot.

You see all projects and decisions are based in assumptions and beliefs.  Some we pick up from other people, companies, articles, etc. and others from internal sources of “authority.”  Assumptions and beliefs make up our world as we know it.  We just need to be aware of what they are and test them against reality.  You never get a full answer, but you do gain knowledge when you test things first.

The question is, “What are the beliefs and assumptions that went into your last strategic plan, project plan or decision?”  You should have a list of what they were when you made the decision or even better make the list AS you deliberate the next plan or project.  Test it on a small scale and then make a decision.  This is scientific method.

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 CustomermanagementIQ.comReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.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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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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2012 Global Customer Service Barometer

I am not much for surveys these days, but I ran across the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer prepared for American Express by Echo.  The best way to find out how you are performing is to actually know before the customer hangs up.  Because, once the call is over the opportunity has passed to provide service – one reason I am not a fan of customer satisfaction surveys (another is that surveys rarely ask questions “that matter” to customers).

Some things that stood out for me in the survey:

  • Customers are not seeing much change in customer service.
  • Businesses are more likely to miss your expectations than exceed them.
  • Customers will pay more for customer service.
  • Consumers expect excellent customer service and don’t expect to pay more for it.
  • Consumers are likely to tell 8 or more people about their excellent service.
  • Consumers are likely to tell 11 or more people about their poor experience.
  • Consumers prefer to speak to real person either by phone or face-to-face.

As anyone can see from the survey, consumers want good service.  Just so few deliver it.  Why is this?

Many organizations view customer service as a zero-sum game, where the belief is that good service costs more.  This is not true, great customer service costs less.

This also means if customers want to talk to a real person, it will be less expensive than that expensive IVR and voice system you just bought to save money.  I have often found these technologies entrap the customer and workers – increasing costs.

There are some numbers more nebulous than others.  For instance, knowing how many customers say good and bad things is a very difficult number to know for your service.  However, failure demand  is something to sink your teeth into.  When customers place demands on your customer service people that are failures it is very expensive.  Worse, is the amount of failure demand hitting contact centers or other service workers.  It is typically between 25 and 75%.  That is the bad news, the good news is that in most service organizations it can be designed out.

A better service design also requires better management thinking about how to manage the work.  Activity measures like AHT and service levels are the wrong measures.  They play to the zero-sum game, failure demand measurement is a whole different game.  To deliver better service, we have to reduce failure demand that reduces costs too.

There are other measures that are important too.  These may be end-to-end measures derived from “what matters” to customers.  These require others outside the customer service arena to support making a design that meets the demands of customers.

No matter what the survey says, it can not replace getting knowledge about that what and why of current performance of your organization.  Learning about customer purpose, types of demand (value/failure) and the flow of the work will help you understand about the assumptions associated with design and management of work.

Come hear me speak at the CAST conference in San Jose, California!  Re-Thinking Management . . . Re-Thinking . . . IT!

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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GM and the “Frozen Middle” – What We Can Learn

Interesting article in the WSJ today called, GM Chief Labors to Get Rebuilt Carmaker into Gear which outlines some of GMs difficulties.  There is a little bit of everything:

  • Functional separation of work leading to in-fighting
  • Outsourcing
  • Performance rewards that cause internal competition
  • The bureaucracy created by those in support functions
  • Economies of scale thinking

All of the above perpetuate the problems of GM.  Economy of scale thinking has long been replaced by economies of flow.  Remember the US had all the scale after WWII and lost manufacturing to a country with little or no natural resources or scale – Japan.  The scale thinking has to go, before the country does.

However, I see more of the “frozen middle” than anything.  Support functions and middle management that stagnate whole organizations.  They are people that cannot say “yes” and add costs and bureaucracy to organizations.  Like a boat anchor to ships these folks eat resources and ruin whole financial budgets.  The need to get these folks jobs that create value or enable those that create is a daunting task.  Most people in non-value adding roles see themselves as adding value and often so do the executives that put them there.

So, the frozen middle remains frozen.  Incapable of creating value and there unintentionally to thwart innovation and invent hoops for those that can create value to jump through like policies, entrapping technology, standardization, rules, etc.  The problem with the frozen middle is irony.  It is ironic that it freezes progress, but as the dysfunction grows so does the middle expand its activities.  Organizations intending to reduce costs, increase them as they add more folks to the middle ranks.

GM is not unique in this problem.  All organizations have a frozen middle, they are there to make things run smoothly.  However, counter-intuitively they make things much worse.

Come hear me speak at the CAST conference in San Jose, California!  Re-Thinking Management . . . Re-Thinking . . . IT!

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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Another Fine Mess

“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”                                                   – Oliver Hardy

Lobby Card c. 1921 featuring the first appeara...

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Will Governor Daniels have to testify or not in the IBM lawsuit?  Who knows.  However, we all should care as the $1.3 billion boat anchor (Cancelled IBM contract) continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.  The State of Indiana sues IBM and IBM sues the State of Indiana.  Costs increase and waste begets waste.

In a recent Indianapolis Star interview, Peter Rusthoven (Attorney for the State) describes IBM in this manner:

We thought we were getting the guys who were building a better planet, and we ended up with Larry the Cable Guy.”                                 – Peter Rusthoven

Wow, if that isn’t a shot across the bow.  Although it does take two to tango when you form a partnership.

“Hello partner, you are to blame.”  Doesn’t sound like either side knew what they were doing.  This is the predictable result of assumptions in management.  Modernization and automation are the key words to future waste in any organization.  Start with flawed logic and you make your own bed.

The problem is that Federal, state and local governments continue to flock to IT companies like IBM for the same flawed assumptions.  The waste is enormous and predictable.  The only loser is the taxpayer, year after disastrous year – we all pay for having leaders and vendors make bad decisions.

This is a disease of all parties – not just Republicans.  Democrats face the same issues.  There is a simpler way to design work, but it requires changing the way you think about work.  You must first get knowledge about the “what and why” of current performance.  Redesigning the work without IT, but even this can not be done unless leadership participates and changes too – something that elected leaders fail to do is change.  Ego of being elected may be partially to blame, after all . . . doesn’t every elected official have a mandate?

Elected officials are in most cases not fit to make decisions as most come with a slew of assumptions.  Most of these assumptions we don’t learn about until after they are elected.  Ability to govern apparently is a side road to the main street of politics.

Until our leaders learn how to govern properly, we – the people – need to ask better questions about things that matter.  A good place to start would be by asking. “what method” will you use to reduce the deficit?  If automation and modernization is the answer prepare to pay dearly.

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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Software Scope Creep

In years past, I consulted with a large information technology company in the banking industry.  No hotter topic in a software development organization than scope creep.    Management was constantly trying to either limit scope creep or charge for it.  Better requirements were demanded or tighter contracts -addressing the symptom won’t stop the cause.

I decided to write on this topic because my recent Quality Digest article, The Information Technology Conundrum was critiqued on their weekly talk show Quality Digest Live! The moderators pointed out that IT projects were failing – as pointed out in my article – because of scope creep.  No, the reason is because the design of the work was flawed before the project was even conceived.  The project should never have even started.

Scope creep is smoke, but the real fire is work design and management thinking.

Fixing scope creep is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.  The ship is going to go down whether the chairs are moved or not.  Waste begets waste.  However, don’t plan on your IT software provider sharing this with you or even understanding the problem.  It is much more profitable to get paid to rearrange chairs than the harder task of saving the ship.

I have seen more IT projects get launched that should never have left the port.  The ship was never sea-worthy to begin with, but launch they do with a doomed destiny already sealed.  Just remember that scope creep isn’t the problem – your thinking is and service design is a product of your thinking.

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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Revisiting MBO (Management by Objectives)

The Honorable Jennifer Granholm, Governor of t...

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I am reading two books right now.  One by Governor Daniels of Indiana and another by former Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.  Governor Granholm talks quite a bit about the loss of jobs in manufacturing in her State to outsourcing.  In fact, her last election against Dick DeVos – the former Amway CEO – she let him have it during her campaign for outsourcing jobs to China.  Certainly, the subject for a future blog post.

However, something else caught my eye . . . Governor Granholm’s love for MBO.

“As a big believer in management by objectives, I loved using  the State of the State speech as a blueprint for the year.”

– from A Governor’s Story – Governor Granholm

There is a correlation between the loss of jobs to outsourcing and MBO, but I won’t make it in this post.  They are both wrong behaviors and outsourcing you can find plenty of posts why it isn’t typically saving money.

Organizations and governments are still using MBO – shocking?  Not really.  I still see it in many organizations, once a bad idea . . . always a bad idea.

Peter Drucker invented this thinking in 1954, W. Edwards Deming rocked the world when he spoke about MBO as one of the evils of management (as practiced).  Closely related to MBO is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-related) and a Balanced Scorecard.  Targets come along with these thinking methods.

First of all, Dr. Deming understood that when you provide objectives and targets by function you get sub-optimization.  Meaning if you optimize each functional piece you miss the inter-dependencies and create a system works against itself.  This creates waste.  For example, you often see departments vying for resources focused on what they can get in resources for themselves. Artificial competition is produced and the loss to the system is great because we do what is right for the department, but not right for the system.

Information technology seems to get much of the money in organizations.  Yet IT cannot create value, it can only add value to the relationship between customer demands and work.  Unfortunately, too many organizations don’t get that IT, HR, Finance and other supporting areas aren’t meant to create a profit for their department – they are there to enable the value creating relationships.

With MBO, we get management and worker focused on the wrong things.  Hitting the target laid out in the objective (remember SMART).  The flow is interrupted by the functional separation of work as each piece tries to optimize itself.

“(MBO) nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, nourishes rivalry and politics.”

– W. Edwards Deming (from Out of the Crisis)

“Management by Fear” was the Deming phrase that replaced MBO.

Governor Granholm is a Harvard graduate.  Peter Drucker taught there.  Harvard, with all its money has become the poster child for bad theory.  Smart people, wrong method.

As voters, we need to ask candidate, “By what method?”  As managers, we need better thinking about the design and management of work – devoid of MBO and targets.

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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Software Development and Outsourcing

Earlier this year, I went to India on behalf of a client that had outsourced their software development.  I met with architects, project managers, business analysts, testers and developers.  What they had to say about software development was astonishing, but revealing.

I have nothing against any country.  Outsourcing is not always bad and the worse reason to reject outsourcing is patriotism.  The reason outsourcing fails is because it is not profitable.

Say again?

That’s right outsourcing is not profitable.

So scratch that concept of less expensive software developers right from your brain.  Software requires knowledge of the work.  Not better documentation, not better analysts.  The problem is the way we have industrialized software development.

There are a number of things that don’t work in traditional software development.  Prepackaged and turn-key systems sold to customers ignore the existing system customers have in place.  There is no study of customer purpose or the customer demands placed on systems.  Instead the “better” IT system is put into place.  It is the ignorant selling the plausible to the gullible.

Further, the flow of the work is not considered or if it is considered it is automated in an inefficient or as-is fashion.  Sometimes the existing functionally separated systems are perpetuated.  No one asks if the back office needs to exist, often it can be designed out and this does not require software.

Others treat software development as manufacturing.  You hear such words as “software factory” and “production line.”  Software development couldn’t be any more different than manufacturing.  However, it has been designed with different functions, where we can than outsource the pieces like testing or development.  Economies of scale gained through optimizing the pieces and lowering costs by lowering salaries.

It just doesn’t work that way or certainly doesn’t work this way very well.  But organizations continue to follow this path to its failed destiny.  Project overruns, exploding costs for IT development, late projects and software that doesn’t work or entraps workers with poor flow.  The price of admission for this privilege is expensive.  Sign me up.

Oh, and what did that conversation with the outsourcing company produce as its biggest problem in our conversations.  They could do a much better job of developing software if they could come and see the work.

Why did you outsource again?

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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