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Do You Have a Customer-Driven Process Enterprise?

April 7th, 2013 Comments off

Every company says they want to satisfy their customer. They talk about customer surveys and gathering the Voice of the Customer. They might even have allocated responsibility for collecting and analyzing this information.

But looking past what is being said, how can you tell if your organization is doing the things? How can you tell if you are really there? In essence, let’s define what constitutes a Customer-Driven Enterprise.

Download Business Process Management (BPM) Overviewour BPM Overview presentation

 In our experience, when we have seen strong performance related to customer relationships, we have observed the following characteristics;

  • A focus on process rather than on functions. The reason for this is simple – when you focus on process you focus on resolving the causes of problems and you measure upstream metrics that give early warnings. When you see organizations focused on functions, its usually an indication of the desire to fix or deflect blame. Also, it is when you see a neglect of process that you see lagging indicators such as financial measures dominating attention.
  • Employees know and accept their roles in the processes they either own or of which they are a member. In addition to their recognition, you see their incentive systems tied to the customer metrics. Beware of incentive systems solely tied to financial measures. There is no surer way to take your eye off the customer and develop a short term focus.
  • Everyone understands how the organization’s processes are operating. People know how things fit. They don’t just look at their process or their role in a process but they begin to understand and relate to how the processes are linked. When people focus on the linkages, there is less white space and fewer hidden processes.
  • Processes are measured objectively and measures are reported regularly. In other words, it’s not about the blame and there aren’t any secrets.

If you aren’t there, what do you have to do to achieve that state? Well first there are some prerequisites. An organization needs to bring together all its initiatives under one umbrella responsible for the business’ improvements. Next they need to communicate the seriousness of the need. One of the best ways to do that is to put the customer information in front of the process owners. Too many times the customer data is hidden. People are given just what the organization believes they need to know to do their jobs. The customer data, especially the most unpleasant, which by the way is the most motivating, is locked up so no one knows the bad news…but that just means no one knows the need to change. Finally, leadership must make their commitment. (See Leadership Steps in Becoming a Customer Driven Process Enterprise).

With prerequisites in place, the organization is ready to reorient ifself. Our process is based upon a system where we emphasize (i) Establish, (ii) Deploy, (iii) Implement and (iv) Review. We will get into that four step process in our next Customer Driven Enterprise article. In the meantime, identify if you are a customer driven organization and, if not, set the foundation on which to build. If you would like to discuss, contact me.

Managing Change Must Be a Core Competency

April 3rd, 2013 1 comment

President Woodrow Wilson

From American history we can learn about driving and managing change. Between the key milestones of the Civil War and the New Deal, Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Movement provides an interesting study. Wilson, President from ’13 to ’21, formed the Federal Reserve and FTC. He lead efforts to reform anti-trust, workers rights and women’s suffrage. And, he controlled America’s entry into World War I as well as leading the formation of the League of Nations that preceded the United Nations. All in all, it’s fair to say he dealt with change.

And when all was said and done, his lesson to us was “if you want to make enemies, try to change something”. At every level, from American society and global politics to our everyday lives, his warning should ring in our ears.

In business, the question becomes how then do you navigate change to minimize Wilson’s warning of creating enemies? One thing is for sure…currently, it isn’t done well. In 1995 popular change management author John Kotter released a study claiming only 30% of initiatives were successful. Over ten years later in 2008, McKinsey’s follow up study claimed the success rate hadn’t changed one bit. Change fails when you’ve created so many enemies that they kill the change. In other words, the responsibility for success and for failure is with those initiating the change. And it’s clear that while change is constant, we aren’t good at managing it.

What is sad is that we keep recognizing we need to be good at this, we keep recognizing we aren’t and we keep trying to solve it the same way. The “answers” to which we keep looking say we should (i) create a compelling story, (ii) establish role models for successful change, (iii) build systems to reinforce the change and, finally, (iv) establish the skills required for change. It all seems so rational. The only problem is that people aren’t very rational so when the effort meets employees and managers, their respective attitude and behavior don’t change.

These basic assumptions don’t work for a host of reasons. As an example, what seems compelling to managers isn’t always compelling to a workforce. And who we choose as role models isn’t as influential as broad peer to peer (i.e. social) networking. In addition, we to often rely on money as a motivator when it really isn’t that impactful. Finally, we can teach tools more effectively than attitudes toward change.

We’ve certainly had our experiences, both good and bad, with driving change both internally and with clients. From those experiences and our studies, we have adapted a change model we find effective for our area of expertise. Here are a few of its unique elements;

Download WP about 10 Essential Do’s & Don’t’s to Driving Change with OpEx

  1. Give people time to digest the change. Often leadership has spent significant time discussing the desired change and its causes. Leadership is no longer wedded to the status quo and is committed to what is ahead. It is unreasonable to expect everyone else affected by the change to need any less. Pushing change just triggers the organization pushing back.
  2. Segment the audience when communicating. Treat the communication like a product or service launch where each segment has a tailored communiqué that addresses their unique position in the organization and how they are affected by the change.
  3. When developing role models, reverse engineer internal successes. What I mean by that is that any successful project has elements of whatever roadmap you’ve chosen. The fact the events took place through unconscious competence is meaningless. What is important is that they took place in your organization and can be used as examples you own.
  4. Treat crisis change different than steady state change. When making a steady state change, spend as much time on the process as the idea of the change. Develop separate roadmaps for crises and steady state. Don’t oversimplify the roadmaps. Ensure there is time for gradual understanding to minimize stress response and push back as well as to avoid lingering mistrust. Don’t try to create crisis where there isn’t.
  5. Provide coaching to key change spots. This may be one-on-one to executives or in mass to groups. It may use internal or external resources. You won’t correctly anticipate all the key spots but thinking about them will prepare you to respond quickly to the one’s you miss and the preparation acts as preventive maintenance. Coaching has a proven impact to help people focus. Add coaching to training and people learn more. Coaches accelerate the acceptance of change and help avoid potential long lasting problems.

Woodrow Wilson was right – if you want to make enemies, try to change something. But if you handle the change correctly, you can minimize the resistance and develop new allies along the way. And to do that, don’t repeat the same mistakes from failed changes. Look to the successful ones for elements that produced better results. Develop successful roadmaps for change based upon your

experiences. And we would be happy to share our successful roadmaps with you as well. If you’d like to discuss these ideas about change, feel free to contact me.