Customer experience is a top priority, its one of the main things that creates a successful organisation. - I disagree with this statement.
Is it not true that customer experience is merely a priority? Customer experience is far more than that, it defines an organisation; it is what happens in your organisation after a customer has started their interaction. It is as fundamental a thing as you can define.
If you get it wrong and do not align yourself well with the customer from the start, then you are always simply trying to catch up with the customer - any spending time and resources doing it. Get it right, and things get alot easier. If you delegate customer experience to simply a priority, then think again. Tell-tale signs your organisation is making this mistake would be customer feedback reports landing on your desk. Those reports should be focusing on learning about customer workflows feedback.
So, if you want to sort your organisation operations out, and have a good efficient and effective customer workflow, start with the initial customer demand, and align your organisation from that point on - cutting out the barriers to a good flow.
The evidence is proven when working with organisations with a contact centre. It takes a day or so to gauge how effective the customer facing staff are at aligning your customer to do business with you. Then, the next day, the impact of the whole organisation workflow on the customer can be measured. In may contact centres the measurement of wasted work is 20 - 40%.
This is then a very good time to have a conversation, with evidence, about where to start improving your workflow. And technology is not the saviour, you leadership decisions from this point forward are.
From a methodology perspective its not about smiley faces, and questionnaires. this is about seeing an organisation as a system, and then responding to this knowledge with systems thinking leadership - which is surprisingly easy.
Probably one of the most difficult aspects of change - true change - is the ability of operational managers to expand their view of the system that their organisation is working in. It requires a manager to truly understand an expanded perspective. And that cannot be done, unless the manager is prepared to challenge their own thinking.
I usually find that egos, and the inability to 'admit mistakes' gets in the way of learning. This is especially true in the Western based management culture that has pervaded the UK and the US.
It is with this problem in mind, that I had to find a way of allowing a local government manager to change her perception. The situation was that our team had discovered that her staff were operating by following a standard approach to their work, talking to customers in a transactional nature. She thought they first listened and understood, and then applied a reasonable approach to the interaction.
"I will defend my staff until my last breadth, in defence of their flexible approach."
So, what was I to do?
This is what she did.
There was a citizen, Sandra, who had already had several interactions with her and other staff from this organisation. The problem was that she continually had rubbish in her garden, and her bins were overflowing. When she was confronted about this she became angry.
The manager went to visit Sandra, thinking this was an easy problem to resolve. When she got there this is what she did:
Listened, and engaged with the Sandra, with no judgement. She was learning about Sandra from her perspective.
The citizen was crying, and talking for at least 30 minutes.
This is what Sandra told the manager:
That she has two young children and one of them is in a wheelchair and is incontinent. So the child needs nappies. She herself, an adult, is also incontinent, and needs nappies. She finds this embarassing to talk about; especially to men.
The manager now found out why she had so much excess rubbish.
The manager came back, shocked, and said that neither her staff nor those of the other teams looked at things holistically. Our staff were simply increasingly threatening Sandra to have less rubbish, or else they would take enforcement action. Over time this had caused Sandra to become angry very quickly.
How she did it
The solution that worked was to: go and experience it for yourself. It would not have worked if someone had simply informed the manager of the problem. The nature of seeing it for yourself is oddly very powerful.
It worked so well, that the manager cannot stop talking about how wrong she was, and is now leading the change. I now cannot stop that manager from going out and finding out more. Its great.
This approach is based on normative learning. This learning is about people changing their perceptions based on direct experience. There are three main ways to change perception:
1969 Chin & Benne
Out of the three only normative works to change peoples thinking about how they percieve.
It looks like now is the time that the world will say that a new management system is being considered by the mainstream. Why? Well, its not because it is new - its been around for a long time. No, its because Peter Senge has said so publically in a journal. The Stanford Social Innovatioin Review - Winter 2015.
The article is a good description of a new form of leadership that we desperately need. We need to replace the command & control style of management that has blighted our organisational lives over the last 100 years. It is a shame it has taken so long to come about.
What is system leadership? Well, maybe a comparison between command & control will be show a good summary of what it is.
It requires a depth of commitment, and they need to look at themselves for how they need to change. Our current assumptions need to be challenged.
The space for change needs to be created where collective intelligence and wisdom can emerge.
Systemic change needs real intelligence and wisdom.
You need to practice at it, and earn, and keep doing that.
Since the early promises of great teamwork from Japan, like many others, I am searching for something that allows for employees to truly contribute and be create a positive work environment. Over the last few years, I have worked with teams that have been able to work in a very different way to the past. Individuals have become motivated, effective, and collaborative. People coming to work to do something they want to do, and do it well.
Good teams don’t not exist, they are visible in pockets of parts of organisations. You come across them now and again, seemingly by accident. ‘I wished they worked for me!’ is a thought that might pass through a managers mind, as they envisage their service filled with people like that.
From working with teams over the last 12 years, and with other colleagues, here is some learning that may be useful for others who are wanting to create a more participative work environment.
What is a self managed team?
It is a work environment - the work system, that is designed to allow anyone in that system to work with some autonomy and with others in the workflow, and make decisions to achieve a goal.
The manager working with such a team is doing less of the administration of micromanagement and firefighting, to making sure the team can work well, and developing the rest of the employees. The managers role is also transformed in terms of their motivation and contribution; it feels like doing the job the manager should always have been doing.
What does it look like watching people in this system?
They are able to adjust procedures to suit the situation that presents itself.
They talk to anyone in the organisation that they need to, without requiring permission.
They freely share knowledge, and seek knowledge from others.
The support others and accept work from others.
They give the best service possible to the customer.
They are motivated to do a good job.
True case study
Example of the old system:
A very irate and possibly aggressive member of the public come in, with no money, and the worker is faced with a myriad of rules that guide them to tell the person to go to another department. At that other department, the person has to queue for an hour, repeat the whole story again, fill in a form, and go to another place to eventually get some money.
The same situation in the new system:
The person was listened to by a worker. That worker made a phone call, and then dealt with the person. They then gave them funds to take them through two days of buying food. It took ten minutes and the one worker was the only one the person talked to. No violence from the person, no rules needed to be broken, and no forms needed to be filled in.
What are the outcomes?
Who is working like this today?
Very few organisations truly operate like this, Toyota in Japan being one of the most well known. Despite decades of time, and a gaggle of ‘experts’, we seem to be moving very slowly in truly realising this approach in work environments.
An self-managed team environment does not just happen, it needs to be created. Then, when its created, it needs to make happen. All things that are difficult, especially when there will be some who don’t want to participate, or who cannot work in such a system. Its the manager as a leader that must be the creator.
Isn't it a fact that many people can talk at length about the reasons as to why we, as managers in organisations, are always striving to create a great organisation. We can list the top reasons as to why we need to change, and another list of what needs to change. How about a list showing the characteristics of successful leaders? Does anyone like to count the number of books on this subject?
Yet, when we actually look at what works, and what does not work, actually watch managers manage, what is the one thing that underpins what is REALLY stopping us. Is not the answer, that we all actually know deep down, is us - our own fear of the unknown - of stepping out of our zones of comfort? Its easy to say that we must become bold, etc. Its another to actually feel the wind of uncertainty grip our chests.
Which manager is prepared to take the risk of a new approach, when they are being measured on success, by a room full of grim faced, suited stalwarts. Isn't it easier to follow the tried and tested approaches, that were developed about 80 years ago?
Our real barriers are all in our heads.
Its not easy, but the first step is to recognise our limitations, and be prepared to challenge them. Then find an approach and the right people who share your vision. Then you have a chance to succeed...
Helping others to learn how to do better things