Why Do You Do What You Do?

imageMany people start their own business for a variety of reasons: extra income, want to be their own boss, freedom of when and when not to work, stay at home parent, and a whole host of other reasons. However, many of these businesses fail over time, often because the owner didn’t document, follow, and constantly update a strategic business plan. The often overlooked and seldom thought about aspects of any strategic and business plan, is deep down, why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you want it to go — the mission and vision. Sure, many companies have an idea and even some of them they write it down. But, how good are these statements for your company?

Join John Knotts, a strategic business advisor with over 25 years’ experience working with companies of all sizes to improve their business operations. The first questions he asks in any engagement are: what do you do, why do you do it, where are you today, and where are you going. These questions begin to form, what he calls, the ‘Strategic Bridge’, a visual representation of your strategy at work.

Bring your current mission and vision statements for you company and let’s examine, along with John, what you do and why you do it.

Bulverde Spring Branch Business Networking
Friday, August 18, 2017, 8:45 am
St. Paul Lutheran Church of Bulverde (The Red Roof Church)
29797 US-281, Bulverde TX 78163
Free to attend

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A Lesson from Life in Leadership

Here is the perfect lesson in leadership. Not to be political, but to share a point. Clearly, if the results were different, I’m wondering if the actions would have been any different. However, this was a poignant lesson in leadership just the same.

Election night thousands of Clinton supporters waited for hours throughout the day. They stood and watched, all exuberant when the initial polling reports came in. They stood and watched as the numbers started coming in. They stood and watched as the expected New England states started flipping for Clinton. They stood and watched as critical swing states like Ohio and Florida were lost. They stood and waited for their leader.

They stood and waited for something that never came!

Behind the scenes, Clinton was calling Trump to concede, while on stage she had sent her Campaign Manager, John Podesta, address her supporters. “Go home,” he said, “we’re not done yet.”

Yes…yes, you are. 

The moment the leader fails to be a leader and abdicates their responsibility to another is the moment the leader stops becoming a leader. 

By sending Podesta to address (and lie) to her thousands of supporters, she has shown that this is all about her and not about them. A servant leader would have empathized with her people and would have known that they needed her to speak.
Instead, she called, conceded, and went home to bed. The next day she called a press conference at 10 am, but didn’t speak until almost noon. This time it was only to staff, aides, and cameras. Worse yet, the loss was blamed, through veiled statements, on a system designed to keep a woman from the Oval Office. 

This was the best display of poor leadership, demonstrated at the highest levels. What to learn from this:

1. If you lose, something fails, it breaks, etc., get out there and address your people. Be transparent and provide them closure.

2. You’re in charge. Accept the blame and move on. Blaming anything and everything else on the failure might make you feel better about yourself, but it robs you of control of the situation. Taking ownership, means taking control and that’s what your people want to see–it provides hope, not defeat.

Please take a lesson from this and not be like this.

https://www.google.com/amp/www.vox.com/platform/amp/policy-and-politics/2016/11/9/13572218/clinton-concession-speech-not-speaking?client=ms-android-att-us

Experience-based Operational Excellence

customerexperiencepuzzle

The Customer Experience

Experience means many things.  An experience is a direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge.  In other words, the customer experiences something through observation or participation.  Experience also relates to a customer as the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation.  In other words, the customer has experienced things with the company that they base opinion on.  Also, experience is related to an individual based on their practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity.  Customers all have different experiences that make up their background.  Individual experience is often related in the terms of degrees, certifications, and/or years of involvement in a particular thing.

In a nutshell, customer experience (CX) is something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through by a customer with a certain company.  It is the product of an interaction between a company and a customer over the duration of their relationship.  This interaction includes their attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, and purchase and use of a service.

CX is simply the result of everything that makes up the company’s product or service delivery, visible or not.

Problems with Customer Experience Today

Many companies today only focus on the ‘touchpoints’–the critical moments when customers interact with the company and its offerings to establish the customer experience.  This is often depicted in marketing as an experience map.  Often, this is a narrow focus on what is important to the customer’s satisfaction at specific moments and often creates a distorted picture of the overall experience.  This can lead a company to believe customers are happier with the company’s products and services than they actually are.  This approach also diverts attention from the bigger and more important picture–the customer’s end-to-end journey.[i]

An emphasis on Operational Excellence within an company as the driver of the CX is important to carefully consider.

Experience-based Operational Excellence

Operational Excellence (OpX), as an official business concept, has not been around very long and is often misconstrued.  The best way to look at OpX is to think of it as an end-to-end enterprise-wide management practice that aligns everything in the organization toward driving excellence.[ii]  From a perspective of the CX, OpX essentially represents an organization’s focus on all things that affect the customer’s experience (see Figure 1).

 X-Based OpX

Figure 1: Experience-based Operational Excellence

     Normally, companies view CX as a result of the product itself.  Some broaden the view into the processes that impact the product delivery and many companies see OpX as nothing more than the application of process management and Lean Six Sigma improvement processes.[iii]  In reality, true OpX represents the end-to-end enterprise-wise business management.  The ‘experience’ is at the very center of where the product, process, and employee intersect–this is what the customer sees and feels.  The entire experience is influenced by high-level company strategies, internal and external communication, and employee development.  Everything within the company is supported by an innovative layer that includes technology and information.

Thus, everything in the organization is important in the CX equation and focusing simply on touchpoints will represent a lack of true focus on the CX.  From a company’s perspective, there are several representative performance metrics that are important to the overall CX.  A company cannot simply look at metrics like sales and net promoter score, but must consider all company performance as critical to the CX.  There are many things that measure the experience, but can generally be referred to as satisfaction, sentiment, and relationship.

Summary

In summary, the traditional view of CX as a stand-alone activity represents a shortsighted view of what is important to the customer.  Although much of what makes up OpX is out of the customer’s view, it all leads to the CX and must be considered and aligned.

[i] Rawson, A., Duncan, E., & Jones, C. (2013). The Truth About Customer Experience. Harvard Business Review.

[ii] Boothe, W., & Lindborg, S. (2014). Handbook to achieve operational excellence: A realistic guide including all tools needed. Ft Myers FL: Reliabilityweb.com.

[iii] Crabtree, R. (2010). Driving operational excellence: Successful lean six sigma secrets to improve the bottom line. Livonia MI: MetaOps Publishing.

Four Types of Companies

When dealing with any organization, it is important to understand the things that are important to it and the employees. For instance, they may be focused on improving compliance or increasing revenue, but each company focuses on things that are important to it.

Knowing this when dealing with the company or their employees helps understand how they behave.

One way to examine any organization is through the lens of purpose versus process. When looking at organizations from this lens, there are four possibilities. The organization can be purposed-based, process-based, blended, or neither. How they are says a lot about how they operate.

Let me define what I mean by each of these types of organizations:

1. Purpose-based. A Purpose-based organization relies on a strong organizational purpose and reason for being. At the heart of what they do everyday is a greater reason everyone works there. Sometimes the organization defines this in their mission and vision statements and sometimes it is just known. Making money is NOT a greater purpose. A good example of a Purpose-based organization would be a philanthropic nonprofit or military organization. Their reasons for existence, even if not written down, are usually quite clear.

2. Process-based. Organizations that focus on perfecting processes to run an effective and efficient organization, are process-based. Strictly process-based organizations are focused on exceptional product or service delivery and not their reason for being. Money is normally very important to them.  Many commercial companies fall into this categor, more so in manufacturing.

3. Blended. A blended organization has a strong purpose or reason for being and operates with strong processes. Organizations with both are difficult to find, but can come from anywhere.

4. Neither. Many companies and organizations have neither a strong defined purpose nor effective and efficient processes. These organizations are quite easy to find because they are everywhere.

Mentor or Coach

Over lunch a couple of days ago, we were discussing the subject of mentors and coaches and started to highlight the difference in the roles. Sometimes people can seemlessly operate in both roles at once, so the roles do not seem distinctly different, but they are.

We discussed a few items that seem to differentiate the two roles:

One of the items was Blind Spots. Coaching is designed to identify blind spots, where mentorship is more designed to overcome blind spots once identified. Sometimes the coach can guide the coachee in ways to overcome the blind spot, while in other situations they might recommend they obtain training or a mentor.

Another item was Proximity. Coaches are generally involved with what they are coaching you on, whereas a mentor is someone you mostly meet with to discuss things with. Coaches tend to actively participate in the thing they are coaching you on so they can witness your actions and provide advice and direction if improvement is needed.

Another item was Selection and Appointment. Although some organizations have more formal mentorship programs, generally coaching relationships are formal and assigned for a specific reason. Mentors are normally sought out to discuss and close a gap.

When we were discussing the subject, we discussed two different types of coaches–Lean Six Sigma and Executive. Both of these are very specific roles where an individual is involved with what is going on in a coachee’s life. In Lean Six Sigma, for example, the coach is engaged with every step of a coachee’s project,  guiding them in the application of the skills they should have learned already. If the coach recognizes that the coachee has difficulty in running meetings or presentations, they might suggest that the coachee obtain additional training in those areas. If the coach notices that the coachee has trouble with time management, they might suggest establishing a mentorship relationship with someone that they know is particularly good at time management. If the coach is good at time management, they might quickly switch into that mentor role, but this is outside of the original coaching arrangement.

This is why people often see coaches and mentors as the same thing–they can cover more areas than what they are specifically coaching for. In the case of an executive coach, the coach might be able to provide all kinds of advice and assistance on leadership and employee motivation. However, they probably would suggest the executive have a mentor if the coachee is trying to learn how to navigate the company’s culture toward promotion.

When you think about the roles, this should help you better delineate what each does and which you need.

Being Agile

Agile…

This is quickly becoming the management buzzword of 2015. Just another magic pill for industry to improve what they do with what they believe is little work.

Agile, as a process (yes folks, it is normally a process), usually starts in an organization with IT in software development. Soon after companies get the “agile bug” and they want everything to be agile. Lean quickly becomes the Agile way to be.

Agile, by itself, is just a word describing a state of being. I’m sure there are many definitions, but in its basic sense, Agile is being able to adjust, change, or respond quickly. It’s being resilient and flexible. Agile approaches are based on quick incrimental iterations. Agile, at its core, is organic and a state of being, not a program.

How do you become Agile?

Look at how you are organized and how you make decisions in your company. Is your company fairly flat and accepting of risk or do decisions need to be collaborated up through many levels and do they take a long time to obtain approvals?

Does your system, to get things done, have to go through annual processes with multiple approvals and significant roadblocks, or are employees empowered at the lowest levels to embark on projects when needed to make things happen?

Do you focus on managing change (I e., reactive) or are your employees ready and actively looking for change opportunities and making them happen?

Agile cannot become the way you are without significantly addressing your culture and operating models. If you are slow to make decisions and change as a company and if you are reactive to changes after they occur, then you are not Agile.

Employing Agile methodologies like Agile Software Development or Lean are only programs…they do not make you Agile as a company.

Being Agile means fundamentally changing everything about your company…

Will that work for your company’s culture?

Internal Service Providers vs External Service Providers

Here is a situation that keeps repeating itself everywhere I turn: internal vs external services.

When I am talking about service providers, I mean the activities that help the company run, but add no value to the product the customer buys. Things like HR, IT, Facilities Management, Finance, etc. There is a specific situation that plays itself out over-and-over again with these internal organizations.

A service–let’s use the example of payroll–is needed to pay employees of the company. When the company is starting out, employees are simply paid by the president or another random person working in the company. As the company grows, the workload increases and an office manager is hired to take care of these things. Over time an HR department is stood up with several related functions, payroll just being one of them.

Then, the company really starts to focus on their margin. Competition has stood up and offering the same cool ideas and the company needs to figure out how to cut costs to keep their prices down. The days of being the fat, dumb, and happy big kid on the block are gone. Normally cuts come from the services that support the company–places like HR. After all, they are non-value added in a lean environment, right and these people have been with the company for several years and now make pretty good salaries. Basically, they are a drain, and we need to keep them to a minimum.

Oh, the plight of the service organization…can’t live without em, but don’t want to pay them.

Because they are lean and mean (and maybe mad), the services that they always provided to the company start to get harder to accomplish. The company is growing, but their office is not. The results of their work suffer and it takes longer for them to do stuff. The company (internal customers) starts to get frustrated with the poor service. In some cases the company has become so big that no one even knows how this service is even done or who does it.

In order to keep up, the payroll service starts creating self-service capabilities to ease their workload. Essentially they start outsourcing what they do to the customer. They sell this as a positive thing, but it adds time and complexity to the employee and removes the level of expertise that the service was hired for. Imagine the frustration that is setting in.

Next, the internal customer, frustrated with long waits, lack of and poor service, and having to do many things themselves, decides to take matters in its own hands. The thing is, now the company is so big, that everyone has their own budget and can do what they want. So, factions of the company hire their own payroll person or even department. Of course this person doesn’t do everything but they start taking on the roles that the official department should be doing, but isn’t being very effective at. At first, the original payroll department doesn’t have a problem with this…good for them. But then people start questioning what they do, versus what this new person is doing and why are they even needed?

Next step, the payroll department figures out that payroll is their job and demand that the people doing the work in the company all work under the same department. There is a big effort to consolidate all these new positions paid for by the internal customers and the payroll department becomes big enough to handle the workload again. The problem is, these employees are now part of the payroll department and service everyone under the same flawed systems that was causing the problem in the first place. Internal customers quickly get upset because they lost their personalized service and the company decides, in its annual planning activity, that the payroll department is a good place to cut staff because it has become “too big.”

Again, the frustration sets in, and the next thing you know ABC Payroll Services, an outsourced payroll service, finds its way into the company. It might be a small engagement at first. In some cases, the payroll department itself might outsource non-core, busy-work functions to them. The thing is, they specialize in payroll, do it for many companies, and have cheaper labor that less benefits. Suddenly everyone is questioning the value (i.e., cost and ROI) the payroll department brings when this new and very efficient and effective service provider is doing such a good job for very little money.

To save money, the payroll executive decides to quietly outsource their whole department, saving a job for themselves to “oversee” the activity.

Are you an internal service provider to a company? What value do you bring to your company? Have you outsourced yourselves through customer self service? Are you already challenged by someone else doing part of your work?

This story is played out over-and-over again with every type of service in companies. There are ways to combat this, but many do not see them. Consider the situation above and what the service provider could do to make sure this doesn’t happen.

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