Connecting the dots

Have you ever noticed that when many people observe the same event how each has a different interpretation of what happened? It all goes back to our mental conditioning through socio-economic background, education and personal experiences. We become more alert, remain oblivious or desensitize. The same applies to our unique qualities. We have a hard time recognizing them ourselves because we are who we are and don’t know any better; its our blind spot.

As an independent consultant I observe organizations with different eyes than many of their decision-makers. It comes naturally to me to look for structure; specific patterns in the way organizations operate. Patterns reveal themselves in the form of Actors and their Behavior.

Actors are people but also departments or systems. They are the building blocks that are there to perform a specific function. Once the Actors have been identified, I look for their behavior; what do they do, how do they do it, why do they do it and how do they interact with other Actors and their behavior? This is all about relationships and interdependencies.

Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, unraveled organizations to their component parts and individual activities. His aim was to improve efficiency through specialization. In other words, his analysis broke down the structure and took away the meaning of individual activities and jobs; do you remember the Charley Chaplin movie “Modern Times”?

The challenge before any decision-maker today, is to tie everything back together again. Strategic planning, social media, customer service, operational efficiency and on-and-on are very interesting but they derive their meaning and thus their value only from their relationships to other actors and their behavior. They simply cannot be dealt with in isolation of the organization as a whole.

Taylor’s ideas about operational efficiency were very effective when there was still a lot of slack to be picked up. Once we reached an optimum, it became harder and harder to achieve any gains without eroding the benefits that made the product or service successful in the first place.

Customer service is a great example of taking efficiency to an extreme and its subsequent damage to the organization’s reputation. When you call, you have to listen to a recording with an endless number of options that are irrelevant to your need. Then they suggest you don’t bother them by going to internet where you can figure it out yourself. Just in case you could get hold of a real person, that person can only follow a fixed script that s/he reads off a computer screen. Obviously, no matter how kind and willing your customer service person is, s/he cannot do for you what the system does not allow. Oh, did I mention that when you were on hold, a recording emphasized how much they value you as a client and how much they are committed to quality? There goes their credibility down the drain.

The moral of the story is that clients don’t care about your efficiency and that they vote with their feet. Customer service people are justified in blaming the system for their inability to satisfy clients. No wonder that employee turn-over is high in customer service and I wonder if the subsequent cost of continuous recruiting and training is even considered in measuring net efficiency gains. The heart of the matter goes right to the top of the organization. After all, it requires a high-level decision-maker to sign-off on specifications for designing, building, implementing and accepting investments in new strategic initiatives.

This executive should have evaluated the real value of efficiency gains in relationship to how clients experience the Brand. After all, a Brand is about the behavior of an organization as a whole and its perception by individual clients. A Brand is not some marketing-sauce made out of fashionable colors, suggestive logos and catchy slogans that is poured liberally over all your marketing campaigns. It has to mean something and there should be substance to your claims. It has to be a coordinated effort and sometimes, less efficiency in one department means more profit in another. All you need to do is connect the dots and paint the bigger picture. Call me direct at (858) 764-1969 to ask me how!

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