Organisational Alignment – the universal foundation of enterprise success

November 5, 2015

GeeseIf I offered you one free ticket to a presentation given by an acknowledged world authority on each of the following topics, which presentation would you opt to attend? Remember, you can only go to one of them. The choices are:

I think it’s a fair bet that you didn’t choose Organisational Alignment – not really sexy, is it? No doubt you’ve said to yourself at some stage or other – “I wish my employees were more engaged” or “we need to manage change much better than we do” or “our teams program seems to be running out of steam” but I doubt if you have ever said – “We need much greater organisational alignment”

Yet without organisational alignment every other success factor suffers and the organisation’s ability to bring the enterprise strategy to fruition will fail.

Most observers regard Organisational Alignment as something that relates only to the employees of an organisation. They use a three part definition as follows.

■          Everyone understands where the organisation is now (current reality)

■          Everyone understands the destination (goal) and the journey (strategies to get there)

■          Everyone understands their role in getting there

Enterprise Alignment precedes Organisational Alignment

However before the staff of an organisation can be aligned, the organisation itself needs to be aligned as well. Management has to determine the current reality; management has to agree an overall goal; management has to develop the strategies to achieve it and, lastly management must allocate responsibilities to everyone in the organisation so each may play their role in its implementation. And at the core of this whole exercise is a matching process – let’s call it Enterprise Alignment. It’s the matching of the current and future trends and characteristics of the organisation’s external environment in which it operates with its current and future resources and expertise.

In short Enterprise Alignment is a prerequisite to Organisational Alignment.

Let me illustrate this with two examples. The first involves skeins of migrating geese so beloved by management consultants as exemplars of teamwork. It’s a powerful, emotive analogy but the basis of their performance and subsequent teamwork is Organisational Alignment. The geese can only demonstrate the essence of teamwork because the members of the skein agree where they are now, share a common objective, know the direction in which they need to fly and understand the roles each need to play when the skein is in flight. Even more fundamentally, the need to migrate from A to B at particular times of the year is hard wired into geese. Yet such is their sensitivity to short term climatic change, they will alter both the timing of their migrations and their route according to climatic conditions. This is their version of Enterprise Alignment.

The second example also concerns flight – namely the Boeing 787-9’s recently ordered by Qantas as a key strategy in the rejuvenation of their International division. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce set three criteria as prerequisites for ordering Boeing’s Dreamliner – Qantas International had to be returned to a position of sustainable profitability; the Company had to be capable of paying down its $1 billion of debt and the Qantas long-haul pilots union had to accept changes to the terms and conditions of their employment. The reason for the selection of the -9 variant of the B787 is simple. Its long range – Qantas are investigating non-stop flights from Australia to London – provides Qantas with a resource that matches the trends in international air travel.

Now the fact that Qantas made a Profit Before Tax of $975 million in the 2014/15 Financial Year is clear evidence that Joyce has achieved Enterprise Alignment. The task that has already successfully begun is to develop greater Organisational Alignment to provide the internal environment in which change can be achieved without the sort of industrial conflict that led to the grounding of Qantas in October 2011.

An agreement between Qantas and the long-haul pilots union has now been struck which is a perfect illustration of Organisational Alignment at its most productive.

Everyone understands where the organisation is now

This is what Qantas pilot and president of the Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA) – Nathan Safe had to say about the negotiations over the new agreement. “These changes (to the then current agreement) have been based around building a viable business case for the type of ultra long-range flying capable of being performed by the 787. We have been pleased with the quality and tone of the negotiations …….. and we note the unprecedented level of transparency and sharing of commercially relevant information”. Note the word “unprecedented”. Sharing commercially relevant information was not a hallmark of the previous CEO, Geoff Dixon.

Everyone understands the destination and the journey

Much of the agreement between Qantas and the AIPA remains under wraps because to make it public would have given too much away to Qantas’ competitors. However, with Alan Joyce’s background in scheduling and network planning, one can rest assured that the destination and the journey have been clearly defined and shared with the pilots.

Everyone understands their role in getting there

Building the commercial case for buying and operating the B787 was not solely dependent on securing the cooperation and support of AIPA members. Everyone from baggage handlers and cabin crew to aircraft maintenance engineers have bought into the plan by signing new agreements on the terms and conditions of their employment. Having suffered all the pain of recent years, everyone in Qantas International understands the significance of the B787-9 purchase in placing Qantas on the offensive once again and no one wants to jeopardise its success and the beneficial impact that that would have on job security and career opportunities.

In my book “Execution to Die For – the Manager’s Guide to Making It Happen” I refrained from claiming that any aspect of implementation was ‘the most critical’.

I’ve changed my mind.

Without alignment of the enterprise with its external environment and of the employees within the enterprise, no organisation of any shape, size or form can fulfil its potential. So before you rush off to sign up to some program on employee engagement, effective communication, change management or leadership, you need to ask yourself a simple question. Is our organisation aligned? And if it ain’t, no amount of training in the aforementioned skills will make an iota of difference. It’s doomed to failure.

 

Graham Haines is the principal of Plans to Reality, a consultancy that specialises in the issues of implementation. His most recent book – “Achieving Execution to Die For – a Simple Guide to Making It Happen” – condenses the complete operational cycle from planning and execution to monitoring, measuring and modifying into a mere 18,500 words, taking an hour to read. It also identifies 36 barriers to great execution and how to overcome them. The book is available in hard and soft copy from his web site – http://www.planstoreality.com.au – and you can download the first section of the book – “The Purpose of this Guide and how to use it” for free.      


Implementation – what universities don’t teach – and won’t? – and can’t? – and should!

November 5, 2015

untitledI’m a bit of a bower bird when it comes to quotations and one that I have always treasured is by 19th Century reformer, essayist, critic, artist – John Ruskin. “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe, is, in the end of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”.

The ability to get things done – to make it happen – is the quality that most distinguishes great managers from those that merely bear the title as descriptive of the role they are charged to perform. Great managers are rare – so rare in fact that the best of them end up being feted by their peers, honoured by their governments and writing their memoirs.

Given that the ability to execute is the ultimate worth of a manager, one would think that execution would find a place in any university degree program, particularly those programs that have an emphasis on management or HR. Instead what we find is a modular program structure where each topic or subject is a self-contained unit. This modularity facilitates program reviews as units that are thought to have passed their use-by dates can be unplugged and new units inserted. The great majority of these units relate to the technicalities of the subject studied. I have no problem with this. After all, if I employ an IT specialist or a chemist or if I use the services of an Occupational Therapist, then my first requirement is that those people have a technical grasp of the discipline that they have chosen to study.

BUT … if our salesman or brand manager or accountant is any good at his or her job, inevitably they will either be promoted or, if promotion is denied them, seek employment with another employer to further their career. Quite suddenly, the emphasis of their job and the skill set they need to perform it, changes. The hard technical skills become less important than the soft people skills. The key to their success in managerial positions lies in their ability – to quote Dwight Eisenhower – “to get someone else to do what you want because he wants to do it”. It’s still necessary to do the right thing – but hopefully the technical skills will take care of that – the challenge is to do it right – and make it happen.

Conventional wisdom has it that such managerial and leadership skills are learned on the job from your supervisor or manager. I would argue that the current work environment is not conducive to this happening. My anecdotal experience is that the standards of people management are in decline. So shouldn’t it be taught at university? By “it” I don’t mean a unit on teamwork or one on leadership or another on change management – I mean a unit on execution from whoa to go that incorporates all aspects of making it happen. Yet there seems great reluctance on the part of academics to even consider such a unit.

A couple of years ago, I gave a 20 minute presentation on this subject to the members of a Commerce Advisory Board at the University’s Faculty of Business and Law. At its end, despite the fact that no one argued against my hypothesis or questioned any aspect of the hand-outs that were given, there was not even a reference to my presentation in the subsequent minutes of the meeting! Was this an oversight or was it a deliberate attempt to bury the topic?

I suspect it was the latter because I subsequently wrote an article entitled “The Human Side of Planning” in which I claimed that the seeds of success or failure to implement were sown the moment the planners sat down to plan. The article was submitted to the Editor – himself an academic – of an international journal on management. I quote from the email of rejection.

It’s very interesting, but not suitable for an academic journal. Academic journal papers are based on a different approach and have a different objective. Academic papers focus on making small and highly focused extensions to existing knowledge on one very clearly defined issue – either through testing or proposing relationships which are generated from multidimensional perspectives. Academic papers move along fairly linear lines to develop theory in incremental stages and are very clinical.”

The reviewer went on to say that Your article, however, is more holistic and extensive and is more appropriate for a practitioner audience (who would be interested in this type of perspective)”. When I asked another academic whether he would consider using my book “Execution to Die For – the Manager’s Guide to Making It Happen” as a reference for his students, his response was that he couldn’t do this because of the lack of references to other publications. In reality the book has over 50 references but the majority are to people who have been there and done that – or haven’t done that – not to academic research programs. I can only conclude that academics won’t contemplate the inclusion of a unit on execution.

But even if they did, I have doubts as to their ability to develop such a unit. As the reviewer of my article said, the subject matter “is more holistic and extensive” and thus by inference would not be of interest to academics. And I only wrote about a small part of the overall topic! Nevertheless, if the subject matter is not of academic interest, it seems a fair conclusion to make that academics would have great difficulty in developing a unit on this topic. I’m not suggesting that no academics have the ability to appreciate the inter-connectivity of our existence or the ability to weave topics and issues into a cohesive tapestry but the trouble is, they’re all on television making documentary series!

I appreciate that some universities now promote “personal edge” and “capstone” courses but again I would argue that these are still stand alone and rely on the student’s own capacity to see any connections between them. Great execution is a process and, like any process, a) the steps to it are in a specific sequence and b) they can be learned. Still, one might hope that units on team dynamics, interpersonal skills and the adoption of a global mindset might enhance a graduate’s ability at execution. This is not the case. There are too many factors in the current organisational environment that militate against great execution. Change is too frequent; competition between employees is intense; job security is a thing of the past; tenure in the one position has become shorter and shorter – and all these factors develop a “me” rather than “we” mentality. And yet the great achievers, when asked about the reasons for their ability to make things happen, all give credit to the employees they manage. “It was a team effort” is the almost inevitable comment.

It seems to me to be a sad state of affairs that an understanding of what’s involved in developing plans and bringing them successfully to fruition through others is not part of the academic curricula. The reality is that as the work environment becomes ever more hostile to great execution, the need for managers who understand how to make it happen becomes ever more pressing.

Graham Haines is the principal of Plans to Reality, a consultancy that specialises in the issues of implementation. His most recent book – “Achieving Execution to Die For – a Simple Guide to Making It Happen” – condenses the complete operational cycle from planning and execution to monitoring, measuring and modifying into a mere 18,500 words, taking an hour to read. It also identifies 36 barriers to great execution and how to overcome them. The book is available in hard and soft copy from his web site – http://www.planstoreality.com.au – and you can download the first section of the book – “The Purpose of this Guide and how to use it” for free.                       


The Human Side of Planning

July 27, 2015

ExecutionToDieForcover If I were to ask you to jot down a list of the factors that result in great execution, I’m quite sure that leadership, goals, teamwork, change management, communication and employee engagement would feature prominently on your list. But if we all know the basics of what is required to achieve great execution, why is the standard of execution so mediocre?

The answer is twofold. We don’t have a defined process and we neglect the human side of planning. We are so desperate to put the plan into action that we convince ourselves that the sooner we begin to execute, the sooner our organisation will experience the plan’s projected benefits.

Developing any plan or business strategy is made up of three phases.

■          Phase 1 – this is what we want to do

■          Phase 2 – this is how we are going to do it

■          Phase 3 – the initial Action Plan – based on Phase 2, not Phase 1

Each of these phases has a human dimension which if neglected will seriously compromise the plan’s execution.

Phase 1 – This is what we want to do

This phase of the planning process is usually put together by a core group of planners. However, even at this stage there is a human dimension – two in fact.

1)         The planners need to explain the rationale behind the plan – this is what we want to  do because ………. If you are going to ask your staff to make changes – of whatever  kind – that are necessary to implement the plan, you have to explain the rationale behind those changes.

2)         The planning under Phase 1 must result in an overall goal to which everyone in the  organisation can relate. The goal must represent a collective challenge – everyone  from the CEO to the receptionist should feel that they have a part to play in its achievement. It should have a competitive element, an external, customer focus and its achievement will only be possible if everyone works together.

Phase 2 – This is how we are going to do it

In most planning, the time spent by the planners on Phase 1 far exceeds the time spent considering and planning for Phase 2. Incorporating the human dimension is of paramount importance if the plan is to be effectively executed. This is what you need to do.

3)         Enlarge the planning team to include those who will be responsible for the plan’s execution. There is a saying that the more people who plan the battle, the less there are to battle the plan. Bringing the implementers on board at this stage of the planning process will result in these benefits:

■          Those charged with the execution of the plan are better equipped to consider  its implications on the support functions within the organisation. If aspects of the plan are unachievable or inappropriate, now’s the time to revise the plan,  not six months down the track when the barriers to execution become apparent.

■          Involving those who will be charged with the plan’s execution will enhance Oganisational Alignment – the key to effective execution.

■          Their involvement marks the commencement of joint ownership of the Plan between planners and implementers.

■          You will end up with a better plan.

4)         If the plan is a strategic one with major implications for the organisation, its implementation may require an organisational restructuring. Nothing is more likely to raise staff concerns – and potential antagonism to the plan – than change that impacts people’s jobs and roles. But note the following. Only  5 – 10% of your staff will  actively oppose such restructuring. The bulk of your staff – 70% – will accept change,  given a rational and convincing reason to do so. That’s why Human Dimension No.1 is so important.

Phase 3 – The initial Action Plan – based on Phase 2, not Phase 1

When I talk to people about implementation, there is always much nodding of heads when Human Dimension No. 5 is tabled.

5)         Management underestimated the time required for implementation – those charged with its implementation did not have enough hours in the day to complete the actions they were responsible by the date indicated and do their “normal” jobs at the same  time.

When you take into account the human dimensions of planning, you lay the foundation stone of great execution – Organisational Alignment. There are two dimensions to Organisational Alignment. The first is the ability of the planners to match the resources and capabilities of the organisation to the environment in which the organisation operates – now and in the future. This is the technical dimension – and it’s the focus of the planners on achieving this aspect of Organisational Alignment that frequently blinds them to the second – human – dimension. No plan can be successfully executed unless –

6)         Everyone understands where the organisation is “now”. If this is not the case, it will result in varying levels of commitment to the plan’s implementation

7)         Staff need to know, not only what their role is, but how it fits into the ‘big Picture’.   This is what gives staff meaning and context to their jobs.

8)         Staff need to know and understand what others’ roles are. Organisational Alignment  takes place at three levels – individual, within workgroups and between workgroups.

When the human side of planning has been embraced in the planning process –

■          Everyone will understand where the organisation is now

■          Everyone will understand the destination and the journey

■          Everyone will understand their role in getting there

If you give the human side of planning the attention it warrants, you will find that those execution factors such as change management, leadership, teams and teamwork, employee engagement, monitoring, measuring and adapting will be a whole lot easier to manage. Not only will the execution of the plan achieve its objectives but the overall elapsed time from the commencement of planning to the completed roll-out of the plan will be less than is the case when management rushes headlong into execution and treats planning and implementation as two separate activities.

 

Graham Haines is the principal of Plans to Reality, a consultancy that specialises in the issues of implementation. His most recent book – “Achieving Execution to Die For – a Simple Guide to Making It Happen” – condenses the complete operational cycle from planning and execution to monitoring, measuring and modifying into a mere 18,500 words, taking an hour to read. It also identifies 36 barriers to great execution and how to overcome them. The book is available in hard and soft copy from his web site – http://www.planstoreality.com.au – and you can download the first section of the book – “The Purpose of this Guide and how to use it” for free.    


Maya Angelou – Employee Engagement – the role of communication

April 23, 2015

communicationThe realisation that the first anniversary of Maya Angelou’s death is fast approaching reminded me of one of her best known quotes.

“People will forget what you said.
People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel”.

As much as I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment expressed in the last line, I have difficulty accepting the rationale upon which this conclusion is based.  How people feel about their family, friends, supervisor or the organisation for which they work, is heavily influenced by what people say and even more so by what people do – or don’t do.  Your emotional state is not an independent variable, it’s an outcome, conditioned by many factors.

One of the more disturbing features of work life in the 21st century is the generally low level of employee engagement.  The latest Gallup research for 2014 has the overall percentage of “Engaged” employees at 31.5%.  Those “Not Engaged” totalled 51% with the remaining 17.5% “Actively Disengaged”.

Now engagement, like one’s emotional state, is not an independent variable.  It is the outcome of clear goals and objectives and the strategies to achieve them; of organisational alignment; of an empathetic attitude to the management of change; of leadership at all levels of the organisation and the fostering of teams and teamwork.  And the catalyst for making all this happen is communication at an enterprise and personal level.

Many years ago, I worked for a multi-national chemical company and the new CEO instituted a quarterly informal gathering called Face-to-Face where he and his fellow directors took impromptu questions from the staff on a whole variety of topics on the current and future well being of the company and its staff.  As an alternative to raising questions from the floor, one could write them down beforehand and give them to the company PR manager.  I penned about six questions and four were addressed by the CEO at the meeting before time ran out.  So imagine my surprise when on the following day, I was told by the CEO’s PA that he intended to come down from his lofty perch on the top floor and answer my remaining questions.  Sitting on a borrowed typist’s chair, this is what he did and at the end of each response, he asked me whether he had fully answered the question I had raised.  I don’t remember my questions nor the detail of his responses but I do remember him asking me if I was satisfied with his answer.  I will never forget his act in coming to see me.  It made a deep impression and certainly raised my spirits and made me more optimistic about my own and the company’s future.  Unfortunately, his action did not serve as an example to my more immediate superiors and so, disenchanted by the lack of a clear strategy and the absence of those other factors mentioned in the previous paragraph, I resigned 18 months later.

There is no doubt in my mind that what managers do is the key determinant of how their staff feel.  Let me give you three further examples.  A Nursing Unit Manager or NUM at a public hospital, much loved and respected by her staff, makes a point of helping our with bed making and other menial tasks if her staff are under time pressures.  The head of the NSW ambulance service, a trained paramedic, rosters himself on at least one ambulance shift a month to take the pulse of what it’s like on the frontline of the service he’s responsible for.  Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air New Zealand used to act as an impromptu steward when flying on an Air New Zealand flight and invited Air New Zealanders with varying degrees of seniority to spend a day with him to observe the work of the CEO firsthand.  This is communication at its most powerful.  These people know how their actions impact on the morale of their staff.  Nevertheless, they are also aware that the “feel good” factor may be a transitory one if not complemented and supported by people centred planning and those key execution factors.

Maybe Maya Angelou’s quote should be modified to read as follows:

“People will remember what you said.
People will remember what you did.
And people will never forget how you made them feel”.


Customer service – the parable of the plate spinner

April 20, 2015

Marketing guru, Theodore Levitt postulated that the “product” could be likened to four concentric circles.  Starting with the innermost circle representing the Core product, the three outer circles represent the Expected, Augmented and Potential product respectively.  In his article “Marketing success through differentiation – of anything”, he alsdisho concluded that what one customer might regard as product Augmentation, another might see as Expected.

It’s 35 years since the article was published in the Harvard Business Review and there is no doubt that the impact of competition and technology and the resultant rise in customer expectation has seen the migration of features that used to represent the Augmented product being regarded as the Expected Product and those of the Expected Product becoming part of the Core Product.

Product quality is a given these days.  So are such attributes as reliability of supply, competitive order lead-times, delivery-on-time and competitive pricing.  These are the  qualifying dimensions of any product or service and no supplier can perform below par on these attributes for any length of time.  In Levitt terminology they are all part of the Expected Product.  The real battleground between competing organisations is customer service and despite the growth in e-business, customer service invariably involves people.

My company has completed customer/client feedback surveys for all manner of organisations from large multinationals to boutique consultancies covering every type of business from freight forwarding to stock feed and IT.  There is always a high correlation between the respondents’ rating of the level of service they receive from their main contacts at the supplier (my client) and the overall Customer Satisfaction Index.  But it is one thing to achieve high indices, another to maintain them.  And to illustrate the nature of the challenge, I tell them about the Parable of the Plate Spinner.

customer service

In the beginning, there was a plate spinner who became skilled at spinning an increasing number of plates.

He was so successful that he was being asked to do shows every night and increase the number of plates he could spin simultaneously.  This got to be too much for him so he decided to teach others to spin plates.  Naturally, they were not quite so good as him but it enabled him to take the occasional break and when they all appeared on stage together, the results were truly spectacular.
customer service
But then things started to go wrong.  The number of plates to be spun kept on increasing and there wasn’t time to train the new plate spinners to the standard required.  Instead of a set number of plates being the sole responsibility of one plate spinner, a system evolved whereby several plate spinners shared responsibility for the same plates.  At times no one was certain who was responsible for keeping the plates spinning.  Last – but by no means least – they began to spin plates of greatly differing sizes and they found that large plates took up a disproportionate amount of the plate spinners’ time and resources – both to get them up and spinning and to keep them spinning without losing equilibrium.

When a large plate started to wobble, it would require more than its fair share of spinners to reset it and the only spinners that could be spared were those who had plates that were spinning well.

customer service

The result was inevitable.  Whether or not the efforts of the spinners to restore a problem plate to equilibrium were successful or not, other plates, deprived of their regular re-spin began to oscillate ominously and inevitably some fell from their poles, never to be spun again – at least not by this troupe of plate spinners.

The moral of this story is that when the quality of your customer service is of such a standard as to attract new customers, you have to increase the resources to provide the Core, Expected, Augmented and Potential product that they have been led to expect.  Furthermore, the standard of service given to new customers must not be at the expense of the established customer base.  Even the most stable plate will fall off its pole if you ignore it for long enough.

Always bear in mind the research by TARP (Technical Assistance Research Programs Washington DC) that showed that 68% of customers changed their suppliers because the supplier “appeared disinterested or indifferent to its customer’s needs”.

Graham Haines runs his own consulting practice Plans to Reality and has been conducting his proprietary customer feedback surveys for over 20 years.  The feedback from these surveys provides a key input into operational and strategic initiatives for improving the performance of any enterprise.  You can read about these surveys and others covering executives, employees and workgroups at www.planstoreality.com.au.


What’s better – meeting expectations or exceeding them?

November 25, 2014

 

I guess the PC response to the above question is the latter but the recent completion of another customer feedback survey provides further confirmation that this is not the case.untitled

The client, in this instance, was a manufacturer and as is usual in these surveys, we asked their customers to rate the importance to them of “Order lead-time” and “Delivery-on-time”. In order to ensure consistency of interpretation, a sentence of definition was read out to each respondent after each attribute had been tabled.

The one for “Order lead-time” read as follows:

“How important to you is the time that elapses between order placement and order delivery?”

and the one for “Delivery-on-time” –

“How important is it that the products ordered arrive at the time you were given to expect?”

Out of the 15 supplier attributes measured, “Delivery-on-time” was in third position in the hierarchy with Order lead-time in ninth place. Of course, what constitutes “Delivery-on-time” will vary from industry to industry and market to market. At one end of the spectrum, we have auto industry production lines where delivery-on-time is measured in minutes to custom made furniture or ship building where delivery within the month forecasted would meet the client’s expectations.

As consumers, we constantly wrestle with these two variables. Would we prefer the dry cleaners to tell us that an item for cleaning will be ready next day at 9.00am – and it is – or promise us an hour’s turnaround time – and we sit in the shop for 15 minutes while the item is finished off? Would we prefer a 10.00am appointment with our GP – and we barely have time to select a magazine before we are called – or one at 8.30am the same day when our doctor is running 30 minutes late? Would we welcome the plumber who turned up a day earlier than agreed?

Yet despite the evidence to the contrary, my experience is that the majority of management teams place greater emphasis on reducing lead-times with the inevitable result that delivery sometimes meets the customer’s expectations and sometimes not. “If I know that the order turnaround time is two weeks, I can plan around that. I would rather be told Friday am and the supplier meets that expectation than promised Tuesday and the supplier delivers a day late”.

Indeed for many customers and clients delivering before the expected time is just as bad as delivering after. Take a transport company that delivers containers from the wharf. Delivering in the morning instead of the afternoon as promised could be a real headache for the customer if they have hired labour to unload it – or a supplier delivering a dangerous chemical earlier than expected and thereby exceeding the customer’s dangerous chemical storage licence.

The one downside about meeting expectations is the phenomenon of “expectation creep”. We see this consistently with organisations that have undertaken a series of customer feedback surveys with us. If our client establishes a reputation for delivering-on-time then even though the incidence of late deliveries represents an ever smaller percentage of the total, the performance rating for this particular attribute might nevertheless stay static at best and at worst even decline. Based on past performance, customer expectations have risen and whilst our client’s performance has also improved, a gap starts to appear between expectation and the customers’ perception of reality. Expectation creep is also driven by the fact that the customer’s rating is based on a comparison between the supplier’s current and past performance rather than that between the supplier and one of its competitors.

I always cringe when I read a Mission statement that includes the platitude of “exceeding our customers’ expectations”. That’s not what customers want. They want their suppliers, whoever they may be, to consistently meet their expectations. As for “under promise and over deliver” just shorten that to “promise and deliver – consistently”.

 


Employee engagement is a by-product of organisational performance – not the other way round

July 30, 2014

Do you remember that McGraw-Hill ad with the scowling, bald-headed man with the bow tie staring at you from his executive chair saying?:

  • “I don’t know who you are.”
  • “I don’t know your company”
  • “I don’t know your company’s products”
  • “I don’t know what your company stands for”
  • “I don’t know your company’s customers”
  • “I don’t know your company’s record”
  • “I don’t know your company’s reputation”
  • “Now what was it you wanted to sell me”

I get a little exasperated sometimes when I read yet another article on how to motivate your employees because my experience is that employee engagement is the ultimate dependent variable. So to illustrate this, I’ve rewritten the McGraw ad.

“I don’t know what our company stands for”

“I don’t know our company’s goal”

“I don’t know why no one asks me for my opinion”

“I don’t know how my job contributes to customer satisfaction”

“I don’t know how the company is travelling”

“I don’t know whether my performance is up to expectations”

“I don’t see much evidence of teamwork despite the talk”

“Now what was it about employee engagement you wanted to ask me?”


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