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Do You Have a Clear Line-of-Sight?

Whenever I entered the management team meeting at MyBank, I had my state-of-the-art PowerPoint pitch showing the performance of each department and its core processes as part of our dashboard. Every month, we got the latest underlying data together, aggregated them and displayed an overall dashboard of how the business was doing. With that, we had a clear Line-of-Sight.

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Everyday Innovation

Waiting for the next “great innovative product idea” may never get you one step closer to a  higher level of customer satisfaction, more revenue and consistent business growth. Instilling an innovative mind-set facilitated by some simple creativity tools that are supported by empowerment does. Innovate – every day.

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Six Sigma In The Bloodstream

One day I was asked why I left the stable, “money-printing” ISO 9000 business to join the riskier Six Sigma environment. My explanation went something like this: “Well, I think it makes more sense to implement a real business improvement and management system than to hang a nice certificate in the CEO’s office.”

Seven Habits … – Habit 2: Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth is the short time frame when a customer experiences the product or service that many people have prepared often over many months. It is the moment when a small, often unintentional mishap has the huge potential to spoil the result of hard work by others in the organisation behind the scenes. Good process managers know this and put their focus on the Moment of Truth.

The Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth

When Jack Welch explained his view on management he used to draw a company structure against the common understanding upside down. His explanation went somehow like that:

Who is the most important person for our company? It is our customer. Consequentially, the people who make or break every day’s business are the people who interact most with our customer, our front line staff. The crucial job of the lower management is to make sure their team members at the customer interface have everything they need in order to serve, to impress and to delight the customer. Every level of management has to support their team members with this purpose. My job is to ensure everyone in my company is able and willing to do his best for this objective.

For many of us this is not really new. However, the number of managers – call them process managers – who really go to Gemba for experiencing the Moment of Truth is marginal.

Is it not enough to ask your staff what is going on at the ground level, what happens at the moment of truth? Well, it would if they knew. And, it is a very normal human tendency that information gets “filtered” when it is passed from hand to hand, from level to level. Often there is a factor of guesswork added to the information.

What We Know About the Moment of Truth

Only an hour after running a very simple role-playing process simulation, the 20 managers involved in the process are asked to state the time spent on their own process steps. They merely have to guesstimate the duration for their direct involvement – a non-challenging task, one would assume. To everyone’s surprise the actual time measures more than 300% of the time estimated by the group of managers. Hence, it is not enough to estimate or guess. You need to measure in order to know.

Does this only apply to processes that are new to managers? Not at all. A Lean Six Sigma team’s project focusses on reducing the lead time for treating the customer at a routine service process. During an interim project presentation, the manager who has been directly responsible for that process for many years raised his voice after the team revealed data about the time needed to attend to the customer. He doubted the data; he could not believe that the process took as long as presented. Of cause, the team members were able to show facts… Hence, if you run a process for years, it does not automatically mean you know what happens on the ground. Customers and employees change. And so do processes.

Best Practices

Gemba is the place where your product or service is received and applied. You cannot learn about the Moment of Truth, the usage of your offerings and how well you are able to meet customers’ expectations by conducting an annual survey or by issuing some evaluation forms.

CEOs like American Express’ Kenneth Chenault know about this. He is said to spend time in American Express call centres to pick up calls from customers and listen to their requests. He surely cannot change the customer service level by answering some calls every now and then. However, he walks the talk. As a leader, he knows how important it is to observe and focus on what is critical to customers during the Moment of Truth. And, he expects his employees to “have it in their DNA”.

The former CEO of Singapore’s Alexandra Hospital, Liak Teng Lit, used to host a monthly lunch for a focus group of patients who had just gone through Alexandra’s service. He wanted to hear them out about their experience at the Moment of Truth. This way he learned about hospital processes and how his customers perceive them. Whenever possible, he would look into improving things. .

Conclusion

For managing a process successfully it is essential to know the details about the process. This can only be achieved by a set of carefully crafted instruments put in place:

  1. Make sure your process management is based on meaningful process indicators and real data collected in the right way by people who are taught to do so. Start with the Moment of Truth.
  2. Ensure that this information reaches you without being filtered or otherwise manipulated.
  3. Derive actions based on systematic and comprehensive data analysis following known and accepted rules.
  4. Publish this information in an appropriate manner so that the organisation can learn from it.

And, don’t forget going to Gemba from time to time to observe what happens at the Moment of Truth. The purpose of this is two-fold: Firstly, it helps you getting real information from the ground regularly. Secondly, it sends the right signal to your team members, your colleagues and, last but not least, to your customers.

Moreover, it is very likely that you learn something new about your processes.

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Seven Habits … – Habit 1: VOC

Ting is a sophisticated traditional Chinese character that exemplifies the most important activity related to customer service in an impressive way: Listening. The old Chinese already knew that by listening you open your ears (not the mouth), you treat the speaker as a king, focus wholeheartedly with 100% attention.

Driving Change With Clear Messages

Two weeks after joining Central Bank in Germany, I spend a full week in the so-called Black Belt Training by TE Capital Europe. Black Belts are the project managers for process improvement approaches at TE. This approach comes from Motorola and is called Six Sigma. The first two weeks in the new company, I have tried to understand Six Sigma and to learn about the methodology and steps, after I got somehow familiar with TE Capital and its terminology, our banking products and our bank itself. While my new colleagues could help me with the latter, the learning of Six Sigma seemed to be an unsuccessful venture, as nobody in my bank had more than a hunch about it.

See You in Gemba

A team spends months on improving customer-facing branch processes of a bank. After benchmarking with sister companies across the world and after carefully mapping out process steps they come up with an improved flow that drastically reduces the processing time for branch customers. It surely looks like a nice success story. However, they get devastating feedback from the customers whilst piloting the solution in five branches. Why?  

Our Company Has No Heart

“We have a problem. Our staff turnover is quite high; our people make many mistakes and do not take any initiative. Moreover it seems to be impossible to hire an HR director who can survive longer than 4 months,” said the frustrated CEO of a service management company with staff strength of about one hundred. In addition, there were many rumours about nearly everything in the company – a sign for a harmful culture.

Recruiting the Right Mindset

There are several invaluable lessons learnt during the different phases of YOG. A significant task has been the recruitment, preparation and motivation of more than five hundred staff and of more than twenty thousand volunteers within a timeframe of less than two years.

It is not new that recruiting people means evaluating, finding skills and experience that make up the eligibility – the aptitude – on the one hand and the suitability – the attitude – on the other hand. However, it is commonly much easier to evaluate the former in detail whilst neglecting the latter.

What for? How does it Matter?

I was chatting with a friend of mine who is in a senior leadership position. He wanted to implement a relocation strategy and he mentioned that based on his intuition all the processes should move to a particular country.

I asked him whether he knew why the processes were where they were today. His answer: “What for? How does it matter?”

I was taken aback and puzzled by the question and I remained speechless. Not because I did not know but the questions were bizarre.

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