It’s Time To Make The Shift

This Week’s Focus Point

I’ve been deep in the process-analysis space over the last few days, and what has stood out to me is how many businesses are overcooking their non-technical processes.

Process mapping, sampling & statistical analysis are great tools for when you are manufacturing something, but what about if you need to write a report? Answer a customer query? Create a training manual? Or set your monthly budget?

The process tools I mention above are ideal at finding ways to minimise diversification in your end result,

But what if diversification is not the enemy?

What if by allowing variance in the process your customers (internal or external) are better served?
It’s time for a shift in thinking…

We need to make the shift from step-based to outcome-based processes.

An outcome-based process is simple:

  1. Provide the principles & framework for your process owners to act in, then
  2. Maximise autonomy by trusting the process owners & actors to make the everyday decisions that best serve your process end users.

To see what I’m talking about, contrast the two experiences I describe below.

First experience:
A month ago I ordered a new set of printer ink cartridges. While installing the black ink, the cartridge was faulty and splattered all over my desk, hands and my new set of pants – ruining them.

So of course I call up customer service seeking remediation.

First call response: I’m sorry I can’t do that for you, and my manager isn’t here. Try again later.

Later that day:
Second call response: I’m sorry I can’t do that for you, and my manager isn’t here, but he will call you back later.

Days pass…

Third call response: I’m sorry I can’t do that for you, and my manager isn’t here, but he will call you back later.

Manager finally calls back: hmm… I am not sure what I can do. Send me a email with all your photos and I’ll escalate.

More days pass…

Finally, frustrated, I call and make a counter-proposal for money off a new extra set of cartridges which they then finally agree to. 

Total resolution time: >2 weeks + delivery time.

Second experience:
Earlier this year I purchased a new protein/supplement shaker – a high quality plastic.

Within a month the lid had split rendering it unusable.

Again I call up customer service seeking remediation.

First call response: I’m sorry that happened with our product. It’s simply not good enough. If you like, I’ll send you one of our new (more expensive) stainless steel shakers to replace it. It’ll be sent express because we don’t want you to have to wait. What colour would you like?

Next day: I open the package to find not only the better shaker, but five additional sample packs of their top selling products.

Total resolution time: 1 day.

These experiences are night and day.

You may have noticed that the customer service staff in the first experience:

  • Don’t have service in mind,
  • Aren’t empowered, &
  • Aren’t able to deal with unusual enquiries because it’s not clearly described in their current (step-based) processes.

While the second experience is the polar opposite, the staff:

  • Are service focused,
  • Are empowered, &
  • Have a clear principle & outcome framework they are working within.

A few other notes:

  • By empowering their staff, the second company resolved the issue 14x faster.
  • I still have & use that steel shaker – with the company logo staring right at me. This has prompted repeat business.
  • The samples I was provided are now all used, and in doing so, I was introduced me to a product I didn’t otherwise know I liked. I have now added that product to my standard orders.

The shift is powerful.

Keep in mind, that while these are external customer-facing areas, the shift equally applies to your business areas with internal customers (i.e. all of them).

If you are looking to boost your engagement, satisfaction, repeat use & resolution speed – I challenge you to make the shift to outcome-based processes.

Your Weekly Challenge

Take a moment and consider whether you are overseeing step-based processes or outcome-based ones.

Some questions to ask yourself:
1) Is the (internal or external) customer at the forefront of what I am doing?
2) Am I telling people what and how to do things, or am I maximising autonomy?
3) Is there a clear set of outcomes we are working towards?
4) Do process exceptions cause unnecessary delays and confusion?
5) What am I tracking – consistency of output or consistency of satisfaction?

This Week’s Thought Pulses

Leadership & Performance

“[People] want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”
Howard Schultz, Starbucks

Momentum & Energy

Giving your staff freedom is risky.
Having to tell them what to do in each and every situation is riskier.

Delivery & Oversight

How stringent is your project management governance?
Better projects aren’t over-burdened with excessive administrative oversight.
Provide clear tolerances, scope & principles. Then trust your teams.
Management by exception too often becomes management of everything.


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