Quality Is Anti-Fragile

As the adoption of Scrum continues to grow,  non-technical people begin to fill the role of Scrum Master or Product Owner. This is a great thing, as it helps the business align with Information Technology. The organization’s IT unit isn’t seen as a service any longer; instead, they become business partners. Conversations break through company silos as Developers learn the business lexicon and Line of Business personnel learn how to build better software. Processes form to create quality. Quality software is beautiful.

Quality Systems Are Anti-Fragile

So what’s quality? It’s one of those things we know we need. But, what are we talking about when we say, “bake in the quality?” There’s so many definitions that exist today, but I like to think of quality as “anti-fragile.”

What do I mean by “anti-fragile.” It’s a concept developed by Professor Nissim Nicholas Taleb in his book called Antifragile. He describes “systems,” whether those systems are processes, organizations, software, or even cultures, that can withstand the stresses of the environment which act upon them. Anti-fragile is much more than “resilient,” meaning it stays the same despite what the environment throws at it. In software development, we strive to produce more with less effort. We strive for business agility. We pivot and adjust our processes as the environment throws things at us and we are anti-fragile. We use feedback loops, like retrospectives, Six Sigma, and Continual Integration.

We give developers freedom and autonomy by giving them “what” needs to be done, they tell us the “how.” Antifragile means being adaptive. Selection of the right tools and technology for the right job — versus prescriptive.

Anti-Fragile As An Analogy

Professor Taleb uses a great analogy in his book. He asks you to picture something in your home that you’d consider “anti-fragile.” This might be something like the remote control for your television or even your sofa. Of course they can break, right? But, they’re designed to take a bit of punishment. They’re designed to conform and adapt as they are used — they are serving a function and withstanding inputs from the environment. In fact, your sofa tends to feel more comfortable over time as it conforms to your body.

Now picture something in your home that you’d consider “fragile.” This might be something like your grandmother’s china or an ancient grandfather clock. They’re usually tucked away in the safest part of the house and are rarely touched. Why? Because we’re afraid we’ll break them. They’re designed to be aesthetically pleasing — serving a function and withstanding stresses from the environment were not considered in their design. These objects are fragile and saved for “the special occasion.”

Beauty In The Anti-Fragile

So what approach should we take to software development? Should we design something that’s large and complex but liable to break whenever a code commit is pushed? When there’s a tight schedule, should we spend our effort designing something beautiful to the eye but doesn’t serve our purposes? No, we shouldn’t.

I contend that there’s beauty in software when it just works. There’s beauty in software when it serves our users and solves their problems. There’s beauty in software when it gets better over time — not when it falls apart.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on quality or anti-fragile. If you’d like to have a discussion, leave a comment below or contact me. I’d love to connect on social media as well!

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Top Secret! Successful Program Management In Government

Case Study Review: Milestones To Efficiency and The Factors That Influence Program Success In U.S. Federal Agencies

Formal project and program management has not been as diligently applied in government agencies relative to their counter-parts in private industry. This is alarming, as a large percentage of organizations, both public and private, are unable to deliver their projects successfully — “nearly 56 percent of strategic initiatives meet their original goals and business intent” (PMI, 2015). As a result, organizations are “losing $99 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs” (PMI, 2018). That’s roughly 10 cents per dollar spent on a project initiative. This article is aimed at summarizing the case study performed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2015. The full case study can be found here.

Using Organizational Project Management — OPM

Just over a third of government agencies report that they “fully understand the value of project management” (PMI, 2015) and this case study examines three Federal Agencies to demonstrate what “successful Organizational Project Management (OPM) looks like in government” (PMI, 2015) in the:

  • Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
  • Federal Aviation Administraiton (FAA). 

Success Factors

While the specific mission and goals of each agency are unique — they all strive to effectively manage their budgets and spend tax payers money wisely, serve their constituents, and adopt and realize the benefits of OPM within their respective programs and projects. Below is a list of the success factors all three agencies report as

  1. Strong Leadership Capabilities: Hands on leadership from program managers effectively support project management activities, better engages stakeholders, and “serves to increase camaraderies and confidence within the team (PMI, 2015).”
  2. Commitment to OPM: Each agency had a subject matter expert (SME) available or leading the adoption of OPM; investment in training and certification made “formalizing principles and practices” (PMI, 2015) much easier and the appetite for change outweighed risk & avoidance. 
  3. Executive and Senior Level Support: Executives budgeted for training and were called upon when their influence was needed to remove project impediments — signaling a “strong sign of commitment to lower echelons” (PMI, 2015) of the organization. 
  4. Effective Training Programs, Ongoing Coursework, & Certifications: Training and experience go hand and hand; critical employees were afforded training and certification opportunities to better serve their constituents.

    “For the team involved in the Bureau of Indian Affairs program, to lower violent crime rates, Indian Country police officers received sensitivity training. This familiarized them with Indian cultures and customs, helping officers to avoid cultural missteps. This in turn helped promote acceptance of the program.”

  5. Transparent and Effective Communication: Regular communication, both formal and informal, were highly effective as they fit the needs of stakeholders and the programs, resulting in “identification of problems that could be pre-empted — reducing the likelihood of escalation” (PMI, 2015). 
  6. Team building and Stakeholder Engagement: Coalesced communication, training, and agency buy-in culminates into shared “understanding and respect among parties, which helps avoid resistance and misunderstanding that can lead to delays” (PMI, 2015). 

Common Obstacles

Each agency identified obstacles that were unique to their programs and mission, however, two common obstacles were identified:

  1. Lack of Understanding: Specifically, understanding the value of a project or program management.
  2. Limited Funding: Resources are finite and government agencies must carefully budget and distribute their funds across multiple portfolios, programs, projects, and operating activities. 

Lessons Learned

The Project Management Institute has not performed a study on the adoption of Organizational Program Management in Government Agencies prior to this case study. The case study servers as a baseline for future research and the impetus for other agencies to collectively learn and increase adoption of OPM.

Lessons Learned By Agency

  1. Social Security Administration: “Project and program career development benefits the entire organization” (PMI, 2015).
  2. Bureau of Indian Affairs: “Project and program management practices can be implemented to fight crime and promote better understanding between police and the community, thus creating efficiency and lowering the violent crime rate” (PMI, 2015). 
  3. Federal Aviation Administration: “Greater reliance on standardization of processes transforms program management at the FAA” (PMI, 2015). 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on OPM or any experience you’ve had with program and project management you’ve seen in government. If you’d like to have a discussion, leave a comment below or contact me. I’d love to connect on social media as well!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

References

Project Management Institute. (2014). PMIs Pulse of The Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance 2014. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2015). Milestones to Efficiency: Factors That Influence Program Management Success in U.S. Federal Agencies. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2018). PMIs Pulse of The Profession: Success in Disruptive Times. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

The People And Process Balancing Act

The Agile Manifesto Teaches Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools

There’s a common misconception, especially among those new to Agile, that the relationship between people and processes is one of friction — that it’s a dichotomy. The subtlety of the language used, “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” implies that both need to exist. The framers of the Agile Manifesto even state, “while there is value in the items on the right (Processes and Tools), we value the items on the left more (Individuals and Interactions).” I agree with this and would also argue that processes and tools are an input to productive interactions among individuals. We know what is more valuable according to the Agile manifesto but, which one is most important? People or Processes? Maybe we’re thinking about it all wrong?

Chinks In The Armor

Asking, “what’s more important, people or processes?” is a fair question to ask when you’re new to Agile. Especially since most organizations looking to “go Agile” start with Scrum (by the way, practicing Scrum does not mean you are Agile. It’s a great start as long as the leadership team continues to stay open minded and doesn’t limit the organization to just Scrum). Usually, a handful of developers, project managers, business analysts and line of business managers are sent to a two-day class scrum class; they receive a certificate dubbing them newly minted “Certified Scrum Masters/Product Owners/Developers” and are given a small project to show a “proof of concept” with the

storm trooper
Scrum Reveals The Chinks in the Armor

new framework. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time; however, the organization’s weaknesses begin to show up (Scrum has a way of shedding the spot light on the problems that have existed in the organization for a long time). I call these the “chinks in the armor.”

The biggest chink I’ve seen most teams discuss in their retrospectives are the People vs Process Dependencies. Invariably, team members and managers dig in their heels about which one is better. This is because people default to what they know best. They use what has worked for them in the past. Change is hard, even when there’s clear evidence that what they’ve been doing will not work anymore because of changes in the business environment.

As a coach, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of the people and process dependencies. It should be explained clearly with not only your teams but, with the management team too. The organization will have to move past striking a balance and figuring out which areas need the most improvement. Instead, they should assess the parts of each dependency and figure out what works best for them today. Below are some extreme examples of each dependency to illustrate the pros and cons of both.

People Dependency

Pros

  1. It gives workers satisfaction – employees feel satisfied when they know they are valued
  2. Flexible – employees are empowered to perform work in the way they feel is best
  3. Adaptable – the ability to pivot and make changes is the hallmark of business agility
  4. Efficient – unnecessary steps in a process are avoided
  5. Helps to retain high-achieving, confident, people – people stick around because they know they are important and are good at their job

Cons

  1. Less repeatability – changing processes are not repeatable and leads to waste
  2. Makes customers nervous – customers feel comfortable when there’s visibility on the process
  3. Can provide a “false sense” of a high degree of control – processes are measurable. What get’s measured gets done. When managers rely solely on the self-reporting, certain messages may get filtered and there is no data to verify.
  4. Turnover impacts are much greater – institutional knowledge can walk out the door or get hit by a bus
  5. Higher risks – for the reasons listed above

Process Dependecy

Pros

  1. Repeatability – repeatability helps with predictability
  2. Easier to improve – a documented process is easier to improve with less risk to the organization
  3. Less people dependent – automation of easily repeatable tasks frees up resources for more value added activities
  4. Predictability – it can be measured objectively and relied on as a lever for control in the organization
  5. Brings new personnel up to speed faster and with less risk of poor performance

Cons

  1. Paperwork can overshadow the task – processes that are overly complex distract from value added work
  2. Resources must be spent enforcing or ensuring compliance – managerial debt is incurred. Managers spend less time removing impediments and more time micromanaging processes.
  3. Someone must own and manage the process
  4. Less “thinking” is needed – employees and managers can become complacent if there’s no impetus for process improvement. This leads to waste. 

Processes Come First But They Should Not Be Valued

I know I’m going to rub a few people in the Scrum community the wrong way (and probably piss of a few of the business process analysts too) But, processes should come first but they should not be valued in the same way we value our people and interactions. It’s easy for managers to regard processes as instruments for control. Some managers finely craft their business processes. They labor over them and build complex systems for the organization. But only effective processes facilitate people. Not complex ones. If you require a practical rule of me, I recommend you murder your darlings.

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings”

— Arthur Quiller-Couch,

On the Art of Writing

vintage scale.jpg
People and Processes Are Not Equal

I argue that people and processes should not balance each other. Many representations of this balancing act builds a false dichotomy. It implies that they are of equal value. Like the framers of the Agile Manifesto, I do not value them the same way.

Processes should support our people and facilitate their interactions. Processes are either operational, supporting, or management oriented. If they do not provide value. Murder them. It’s up to the teams to decide which processes they need most and which ones can be forgotten. Each organization is different. Each darling should be judged accordingly — but retain the ones that still add value. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Don’t assume that just because you’re “doing Agile” that processes no longer needed to exist. No, processes are still important. They unlock your people’s ability to work at a higher level. But it’s time to end the love affair with processes and value your people.

Share your thoughts in a comment below. If you’d like to have a discussion, please contact me or connect with me on social media!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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The Quick And Dirty On Stakeholders

A Scrum Product Owner’s Quick And Dirty Guide To Stakeholder Management

Identify Stakeholders

One of the core responsibilities of a Product Owner is managing stakeholders. Successfully managing Stakeholder expectations, decisions, and time are all signs of effective stakeholder management. There are many tools and techniques to help you identify your stakeholders, however, below is a list of ideas to help you wrangle in those stakeholders and identify who they are:

  1. Follow the money – find out who’s got some skin in the game
  2. Resources – find out who’s giving your their people to assist with development
  3. Deliverables – find out who you are delivering the product to
  4. Decision-Makers – find out who will make decisions before you can deliver the goods
  5. Related Programs/Products/Projects – find out who acts as a supporting function to your product
  6. Organizational Charts – find the organizational chart and make sure it is up to date
  7. Team members – if you’re new, ask your team members
  8. Find Influencers – Unofficial People of Influence who yield power through influence and not their position

Know What Motivates Your Stakeholders

Understanding what motivates the stakeholders is just as important as knowing the organizational goals. Of course, we like to think that everyone thinks, “yes! go team and go us! let’s move towards our goal.” Unfortunately, politics also play a part in the Product Development game. Some stakeholders have their own interests in mind or put their own department needs first. They lose focus on the over-arching strategy of the organization. Effective Product Owners need to be aware of:

  1. The Organizational Strategy
  2. Budget Positioning
  3. Personal Agendas
  4. Stakeholder “Pet Peeves,” “Pet Projects,” and their “Pet People.”

Problem Children

Some stakeholders bring their “baggage with them.” Sometimes they lose trust in a Project Manager, Scrum Master, organizational leadership, the delivery team, or have no faith in the product itself. Some stakeholders might have been recently burned by a project. They can have some sort of “baggage” they carry with them. No one is perfect, and sometimes, as a Product Owner, you just have to own those past issues to keep development moving forward. Saying, “I’m sorry” is free and owning those issues and sharing how you intend to do it better (sharing the lesson’s learned with the stakeholder) is the first step in gaining the confidence of any “problem children.” Below is a list of reasons why your stakeholders may be “acting out.”

Lack of trust in

  1. Project Manager/Product Owner/Scrum Master
  2. The Project/The Product/Product Delivery Team
  3. Product/Project/Program goals not articulated or defined in accordance with the organizational strategy
  4. “Bad Project Experiences”
  5. Your Own Past Mistakes

Problem Children exhibit the following behaviors:

  1. Meddlers: Always inserting themselves into decisions, processes, or meetings where they are not required
  2. The Forever SME (Subject Matter Experts): Usually a high performer who was promoted but hasn’t let go of the responsibilities of their old position
  3. Indecisiveness: Can never make decisions in a timely manner
  4. Lack of Budget: They ask for everything but don’t want to help pay for it

Golden Unicorns

The ideal stakeholder exhibits the below traits. Our “golden unicorns.” As a Product Owner, we want to make sure we keep the trust of our golden unicorns all the way to the finish line.

  1. Belief in the Product/Program/Project
  2. Don’t revel in the past — even if they had a bad project experience
  3. Communicate their needs well
  4. Availability
  5. Team Player
  6. Excellent Manager and Employee
  7. Positive self-esteem
  8. Helps motivate team members and other stakeholders
  9. Accountable & Responsible
  10. Can make timely decisions

Share your thoughts on stakeholder management in a comment below. If you’d like to have a discussion, please contact me or connect with me on social media!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Six Elements Of An Effective Strategy

Back to Basics: The Six Elements Of An Effective Strategy

Developing a strategy ready for execution is one of the most difficult tasks facing organizations. Global commerce is no longer reserved for the “titans of industry.” Small to medium sized enterprises are now operating in the global economy and other than resource constraints, the playing field is generally even for anyone with quality services and products. Understanding the basics of an effective strategy is more important than ever.

“Going back to basics strengthens your foundation”

Money, people, and time are finite resources and should be used wisely. When developing a new strategy or enhancing an existing one, leaders must understand there are three value areas that a strategy should address before proceeding.

  1. Improving Operational Performance
  2. Improving Customer Service
  3. Exploiting New Opportunities

Understanding the three value areas enables leaders to establish priorities based on business goals. Additionally, as a new initiative is developed and acted on, the tactical needs must be met while the organization continues moving forward. Long story short, understand your business needs & do not disrupt operations. 

The Six Elements Of An Effective Strategy

Element 1 – Continuation Of Policy

Formulating an effective strategy means understanding the landscape you operate in and and those affected by your decisions. Policies are both external and internal.

  • External policies are the laws and industry standards your organizations must follow. External policies mandate what an organization must adhere to and can include international, federal, and state laws.
  • Internal policies are an organization’s vision and mission. They must be aligned with an organization’s core competencies and value chain. Internal policy should be easily understood by everyone in the organization. A good litmus test is, “can our policy be described in three sentences or less and does it address the way we operate, how we treat our customers, and capture new markets?”

Element 2 – Overcoming Adversarial Competition

Understand those who operate in your market and either directly or indirectly oppose your progress. Leaders need to understand their competition, their internal policies, and value stream. Leaders should be honest when assessing the weaknesses of their own organizations and compare themselves as objectively as possible. Weaving fantasies about the competition or the competencies of your own organization leads to bad decision making. Entrepreneurs of small to medium sized organizations are especially prone to fantasy based thinking. While optimism is a good quality for successful entrepreneurship, it is not the basis for effective strategy formulation.

“If from your strategy you can’t identify anything that you would say no to, it’s probably not a good strategy.”
– Karl Scotland

Element 3 – Account For The Talent Gap

Organizational leaders and tactical managers must understand the skills required so the policy can move forward and succeed. An actionable strategy accounts for the talent gap. Unfortunately, HR departments lack the ability to close the skills gap — either through recruitment & retention efforts or training & development. Leaders must develop a roadmap for developing & recruiting the required skills for strategy execution.

Element 4 – Impetus & Focus

Firm understanding of the corporate culture and the attitudes required of those operating internally of the organization helps leaders gauge how well employees and the tactical management will readily adopt the strategy. Experienced leaders understand culture and attitudes are not specifically ‘defined’ — they evolve over time and accumulate based on whom the organization hires. The following considerations should be made when creating your strategy and roadmap.

  • Who are our external customers?
  • How well do our employees treat our external customers?
  • How well do we treat our employees?
  • When we’ve implemented change in the past, does the leadership team “walk the walk” or just walk around with a “big stick?”
  • Is company culture a strong consideration when hiring new employees?
  • Do we invest enough in training and fostering the growth of our talent?
  • How well do we on-board our new hires?
  • How well do we evaluate performance and customer satisfaction?
  • Do we provide opportunities for growth?
  • Do our employees feel empowered to make decisions and take ownership of the issues or are there silos in our organization?

Element 5 – Communicate The Guiding View Into The Future

Everyone wants to understand where their organization is moving and what the organization wants to accomplish. This has a strong influence on the decisions, priorities, and the way work is accomplished from day-to-day. Return to the internal policy established in the first element and re-write it in a way that everyone in the organization can easily understand. Fold in your vision statement in a way that makes sense and adopt it as the organization’s mantra. Consistently communicate the mantra across all mediums. It’ll eventually stick and influence your culture.

“The mantra should describe the way we operate, how we treat our customers, and communicate the guiding view into the future”

Element 6 – Measure

The above elements are all aimed at creating a strategy that can respond quickly to change. Many refer to this as business agility — starting with intention and pivoting over the long-term as internal or external factors require. Leaders should track what was intended, what emerged, and what was realized and adjust their strategy accordingly. The company culture and your talent gap will most likely cause you to lag behind emergent strategies, however, measuring the progress over time is useful because it can help you refine your strategies in the future. The below figure illustrates my point. Each black dot represents an environmental change and the green lines are the emergent strategies (E1, E2, E3). The red line lags behind, this is what is realized.

PlannedVsEmergentStrategy

The outcomes that should be measured are:

  1. Operational Performance
    • Time to Produce
    • Cost Savings
    • Quality
  2. Customer Service
    • Time to Delivery
    • Value Delivered to Customers
    • Customer Satisfaction
  3. New Opportunities
    • Time to Market
    • Return on Investment
    • Addressing Unserved Needs

Leave your thoughts on strategy in a comment below or if you’d like to have a discussion, please contact me or connect with me on social media!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Agile Leaders Understand Customer Service And Culture

Transforming A Culture Is No Easy Task

Developing a strategic plan to promote internal and external customer service is no easy task. The role of organizational culture, the forces effecting the culture, understanding who the internal and external customers are, and identifying the key objectives required for effective customer service will help an organization meet specific goals: Develop an internal customer service culture, effectively train all employees who interact with the external customers, provide information to customers that is useful and relevant using the communication methods they desire, and developing or enhancing a means to follow-up with customers.

What Is Culture And The Forces Of Influence?

A corporate culture “refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions” (Investopedia, 2017). Culture is usually implied and not specifically ‘defined’ – as it organically evolves over time and accumulates traits based on whom the organization hires, it’s dress code, office setup, benefits, turnover, and client satisfaction based on operations or the artifacts the organization produces.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” In general, his view indicates that repeated behaviors or habits are the core of a culture. What people feel, think or believe are the perceptions and ultimately the forces shaping our behaviors.

It is important to direct our efforts and identify the forces that shape our behaviors within our organizations and their relation to customer service. Describing the current and desired forces will assist with accurately capturing the thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions of the organizational structure and the incentives that deliver positive customer interactions by cultivating the desired culture of customer service.

Define The Customers: External vs. Internal

The distinction between internal and external customers isn’t always clear, however, we will can use an academic perspective for the purpose of this discussion.

External Customers look to “exploit artefacts[sic] produced by the organization with specific requirements and specifications” (Hobbs, 2016). External customers are essential to the success of the organization as it operates to produce the artifacts specified by external customers.

Internal customers are all members of the organization who rely on assistance from each other to fulfill their duties in the production of artifacts specified by the external customers.

Forces Of Influence And Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction doesn’t start with the customer. It starts ‘in-house,’ with the employees, incentives, and programs within the organization. Employee recognition programs, cultural expectations set during on-boarding, opportunities for training (both formal and informal), competencies measured during appraisals, and policies are all forces that influence the organization’s culture and affect customer satisfaction.

Agility Starts Start At The Top

An organization’s leadership team must set the tone and embody the practices themselves. It’s not about setting expectations – it’s about ‘practicing what they preach’ and treating employees the way they want the customer to be treated. Additionally, leaders “must make the measurement of service quality and feedback from the customer a basic part of everyone’s work experience” (Morrow, 2000). The Agile organization embodies these beliefs because the leadership is passionate about practicing what they preach. Leaders set the tone. 

Agile Organizations Hire For The Culture

Organizations like Zappos, a leading online retailer for the shoe industry, is well known for starting with a “cultural fit interview, which carries half the weight of whether the candidate is hired” (Patel, 2015) by offering $2,000 to quit after the first week of training if the candidate decides the job isn’t for them. Zappos instills their ‘ten core values’ on each of their employees and dedicates a portion of their budget to employee team building and promotion of its values and culture. The idea is, when the organization gets the culture right, great customer service and brand recognition will evolve organically on its own. Agile organizations are infectious with their values.

Additionally, it may be necessary to remove any employees who do not show the behaviors required to foster positive customer interactions. Often, organizations allow employees who work with external customers to remain on the job when they are not suited for the position. “If employees don’t want to serve the customer in the best possible way, document their behaviors and use the information to help them change or to move them from areas away from interactions with external customers” (Morrow, 2000). It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bushel.

Agile Organizations Invest In Training

Formal training in customer service is a good starting point, however, organizational leadership should reframe its’ thinking and recognize that training extends beyond a mandatory class taken once a year. Training employees, again, is a top-bottom approach. Organizational leadership, managers, and supervisors should always be training their employees, offering guidance and coaching each other and their subordinates on a continual and iterative basis relative to informal or formal training initiatives respectively.

Agile Organizations Effectively On-board New Hires

Effectively setting expectations and training employees starts with the organization’s on-boarding process. On-boarding new hires is the organization’s first opportunity to set expectations, provide examples of excellent customer service observed by past and current employees, and explain how the culture affects customer service in the respective industry.

Agile Organizations Evaluate Performance And Customer Satisfaction

Work Performance Standards and employee performance reviews are another opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s customer service initiatives. When employees are appraised on customer satisfaction as part of their work performance standards, they will be motivated to meet and exceed customer service standards as they are clearly measurable and defined. Performance reviews provide feedback to the employee regarding their competency in customer service within their organization and helps align the employee with the expectations, standards, and behaviors that are expected within the culture. “Using customer satisfaction as a measure of on-the-job success is one of the surest ways to guarantee great service” (Johnson C., 2015). What gets measured gets done.

Agile Organizations Provide Opportunities For Growth

Providing exceptional customer service to every customer every time is an unreasonable expectation – no one person is fully equipped to know the best possible solution that fits a customer’s needs in the best possible way. It’s important for leaders to recognize that mistakes do happen. However, addressing these mistakes and making them opportunities to learn not only helps the employee grow and gain improved competencies in customer service, but improves the organization’s overall readiness to meet similar challenges and issues experienced when addressing customer concerns or demands. Transparency is the key to success when mistakes are made, though they should be handled tactfully so as not to embarrass the employee or customer(s), as they help all members of the organization learn from the mistakes made so as not to repeat them.

Agile Organizations Encourage Ownership Of The Issue(s)

Employees that feel empowered to make decisions will take ownership of the issues challenging internal and external customers. Conversely, employees who worry about job security protect themselves first. When employees feel insecure about their jobs, they will hesitate to take ownership of issues. When shaping an organizational culture, it is important for employees to feel trusted and empowered to make decisions regarding the issues faced by customers without fear of repercussion.

Agile Organizations Develop Policies That Encourage Empowerment

Establish policies that are customer-centric and show concern for customer needs. Eliminate “routine and rigid policies and guidelines and strive to be an organization that is easy to do business with” (Morrow, 2000). Customer service is not the sole responsibility of the Customer Service Department; it is an organizational effort and policies that facilitate this empower all employees to deliver exceptional customer service.

Agile Organizations Reward High Performers

Reward employees for the behaviors you wish to cultivate. Cash incentives and bonuses are great, however, there are other ways to let an employee know they have done a good job. Extra time off, an article in the organization’s newsletter, a trophy awarded at a recognition dinner, tickets to special events, or even hand written notes are ways to reward behaviors you wish to see more of.

Identify the Objectives of Customer Service

The organization should identify the primary objectives in customer service. Below are some quantitative and qualitative examples that can trickle into an employee’s work performance standards and performance reviews.

  1. “Determine whether the organization is providing a satisfactory service to its customers” (West, 2017).
  2. Confirm that the requirements of the customer have not changed
  3. “Individual Customer Service Performance” (Vulpen, 2017).
  4. “Employee Satisfaction” (Liebenberg, 2004).
  5. Provide your organization with an objective evaluation of customer satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction.
  6. Level of knowledge of the problem(s).
  7. Identify areas for improvement.

Organizational Culture is difficult to define, however, recognizing the forces that influence your culture will aid in its’ refinement. The best culture makes all employees feel safe and welcome and it should grow organically to fit the needs of external and internal customers alike. It should be adjusted if it causes the organization to end up with homogenized employees who think and act the same. “Trust in your employees goes a long way towards a positive organizational culture, because trust leads to independent employees who help the organization grow” (Patel, 2015).

Share your company culture by leaving a comment or connecting with me. Follow me on social media and let’s have a conversation.

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Sources

Hobbs, B. &. (2016). Projects with internal vs. external customers: An empirical investigation of variation in practice. International Journal of Project Management Volume 34, Issue 4, 675 – 687.

Investopedia. (2017, April 11). Corporate Culture. Retrieved from Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corporate-culture.asp

Johnson C., R. (2015, July 8). 5 Ways Corporate Culture Affects Your Customer’s Experience. Retrieved from smallbizdaily: http://www.smallbizdaily.com/5-ways-corporate-culture-affects-customers-experience/

Liebenberg, J. &. (2004). Factors Influencing a Customer-Service Culture in a Higher Education Environment. Journal of Human Resrouce Management Issue 2 (2) , 1-10.

Morrow, P. (2000, August 2). Eight Keys to Creating a Customer Service Culture. Retrieved from Inc.: https://www.inc.com/articles/2000/08/20028.html

Patel, S. (2015, August 6). 10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249174

Vulpen, E. V. (2017, January 4). How 11 Factors Influence Customer Service Performance. Retrieved from Analytics in HR: https://www.analyticsinhr.com/blog/factors-influencing-customer-service-performance/

West, K. (2017, April 13). Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Your Business. Retrieved from National Business Research Institute: https://www.nbrii.com/blog/customer-satisfaction-surveys-and-your-business/