Dropping the Baton Makes the Clock Irrelevant

You can’t change process without changing people…2015-04-26 08.08.17 (2)

Jose’s team sells their service; Veronica’s team sets up the service and helps the customer learn to use it successfully. When those teams have established the customer with their new service, Andrew’s team supports any life-long issues the customers escalate. Andrew, Veronica and Jose are executives that understand the strategic direction of their business, and their middle managers carry the responsibility of subject-matter experts who run the tactical details of how their teams work.

The three executives lamented that their functional leader-meetings had become ‘blame’ sessions where their managers blamed the other two teams for the majority of their customer issues, “We keep dropping the baton in this corporate relay.”  The three leaders agreed to be aligned in investigating and addressing this negative spiral within each of their teams.

Their realities:

  • Unique duties were driving many process changes within each of their teams.
  • Employee performance measures were constantly adjusted to drive the new processes.
  • No practice was established to communicate these new processes between teams.

Veronica, Jose and Andrew immediately began steps to mitigate disconnects between the various teams.

A few key disconnects:

  • Terminology was used differently by each team: for example, a ‘completed order’ had three different meanings.
  • Some processes created by one team were ignored or reversed by one or both of the others because they negatively impacted their work processes.
  • Jose’s team was being measured only by revenue, Veronica’s largely by accuracy and Andrew’s almost exclusively by efficiency.

Business impacts resulting from disconnects:

  • Customers did not receive the service as promised by the sales person.
  • Customers were sent back and forth between the departments for resolutions to their issues.
  • Customers stopped trusting the service because the employees constantly blamed one another for issues.
  • Employees were literally rewarded for negatively impacting another employees’ performance by decreasing revenue as service was clarified or by setting expectations that caused more customer face-time.
  • Employees were even told not to talk to the other teams because of the confusion and questioning it caused.

These issues took about six months to develop and over two years of consistent work on relationships and process to correct. Revenue loss was more than could be accurately calculated.

Reality: Trust is most vulnerable at any juncture where information hand-offs and customer hand-offs occur in our processes.

 Tips:

  • Begin problem-research by looking at the process instead of getting busy building a case to blame the people.
  • Examine the process impacts from every angle when information or customers are passed from one functional group to another.
  • Create a few performance measures that the employees on all teams have in common so they are all working toward the same goals; without this, it is too easy to inadvertently build a measure that works against the other teams.