Want Service Improvement? Make No Assumption

Assumptions . . . the killer of an organization’s ability to get innovation, improve culture, delight customers, optimize systems, sustain improvement and capture the market.  Management is filled with assumptions about how the work should be done.  The carnage created by these assumptions can be seen increased costs and disappearing customers.

I thought I would put together a list of some top assumptions I see regularly i working with service organizations – with brief commentary:

  1. Cutting Costs to Improve the Bottom Line – A focus on costs always increases them.  Costs are reduced by improving flow, not scale.
  2. Workers (and Customers) Can’t be Trusted – The system management put together filled with carrots and sticks leads to manipulation and cheating.  Surviving a poorly designed service system is all about survival for workers and customers.  Inspection, auditing and governance are poor substitutes for a good system.  Further, why design our systems for the less than 1/2% that might cheat a good system.
  3. Technology will Improve Service – IVRs and entrapping IT are the result of attempts to reduce costs (see #1).  The partial or complete failure rate of IT projects is over 90%.  Redesigning systems is a better and cheaper alternative.
  4. Rewards Motivate People to Do the Right Thing – Rewards do motivate . . . to focus on the reward and not customer purpose.  Rewards sub-optimize the system and create competition where cooperation is needed.
  5. Functional Separation of Work is the Only Way to Design an Organization – No one articulates that they want functional separation, but no one challenges it either.  Service organizations broken into sales, marketing, operations, finance, HR, IT and more.  One size fits all in organizational design is really bizarre if you think about it.

I’ve run into scores more, but these really show up in so many organizations.  If management is to improve . . . changing the design and management of work begins with erasing (not just challenging) our assumptions.

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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