Clarity Management Consulting

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Want to Transform Your Organization? Look at the Work.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

A friend of mine recently initiated a transformation in his physical health. One day he learned that his cholesterol was dangerously high. He realized he had a choice to make. He could take incremental steps and hope for a prolonged period of improvement, or he could make radical changes and improve his condition very quickly. He took charge of the situation. He changed his eating and exercise habits so dramatically that his cholesterol level dropped by 20 points in less than a month.

This story is analogous to the challenges that corporations face daily across the global marketplace. Some have stepped up to the plate and made the radical changes needed to become financially healthy and maintain their viability in the market place. They decided that they wanted to live and not die.

Historically, individual budgetary concerns and department performance have weighed too heavily on work processes in many corporations. This behavior helps organizations optimize at a functional group level, but sub-optimization is the result for the overall entity. If a company is to avoid the iceberg of corporate mortality, then everybody had better start moving the ship – and they better be moving in the same direction. Serving customers and succeeding as an enterprise must drive decisions and, consequently, work flows.

Does your organization reflect the sub-optimization reality? Don’t feel badly – you’re in good company. Where should you start so you can experience your own transformation?  Glad you asked. Keep these two things in mind:

1. Prioritize Carefully

Project portfolio management and prioritization are imperative. No organization can do everything that comes across the radar screen. Your team needs to be allowed to focus on the “critical few” items in order to accomplish its strategic goals. The list of the critical few should be populated with projects that address customer-driven products and services, quality, safety, and compliance. This list should also be limited in scope. Furthermore, items on the list should be important enough to be fully resourced.

2. Eliminate or Reduce Non-Value Added Work

Non-value added work can consume a disproportionate amount of time each day. Tasks that fall into this category typically are driven by departmental requirements, not by the needs of your customers. Figure out how much time your organization spends on activities that serve your customers versus those that only serve the bureaucracy. Empower your organization, and charge them with eliminating or at least reducing the latter.

J&J Recall: A Lapse In Vigilance In a Process-driven Culture

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Johnson & Johnson consumers complained about berry-flavored Pepcid being mingled with mint-flavored tablets. These complaints should have been the early warning system that would have uncovered failures and trends in managing/controlling the manufacturing process.

This means that process discipline broke down in at least two areas that haven’t been the focal point of our attention:

(1) The method for handling complaints failed. If handled properly, customer complaints could have served as a gold mine for data on where things were going wrong.

(2) The manufacturing system failed. Processes were either broken, not followed, or not maintained.

In both cases, processes are the key. J&J will need to reevaluate its culture to understand how it evolved to the point of allowing vigilance in process management to fall off. This is reminiscent of the theme that surfaced in the Toyota recalls.

A key lesson from the Toyota and J&J stories is this: companies have to manage the basics. Neglecting them is not an option. The cultural attributes that enabled success must be maintained and nurtured. Both of these companies have a reputation for keeping an eye on their processes. They know that processes do not manage themselves. It will take a lot of digging to find the root of the underlying cultural shift that created these issues.

Prioritizing Product Enhancements vs. Product Development

Monday, July 26th, 2010

I recently responded to a question on LinkedIn concerning the need to prioritize new development activities versus making enhancements to existing offerings. Clearly, new products or services will lack credibility if existing offerings are not performing up to customer expectations.

Organizations must determine how much effort to devote to improving existing offerings before moving on to developing new ones if the same resources are used for both. In this situation, there should be an upper limit on the effort devoted to improvements to avoid sacrificing critical work needed for new development. Many large organizations maintain larger staffs to minimize this particular resource constraint. In any case, such decisions should flow out of an organization’s product/service strategy.

Developers should survey users to get feedback/data on how well current offerings are being received. That way they can make informed decisions instead of guessing about user perceptions. This can be done using simple online surveys that are not time-consuming to generate or respond to.