This article has been contributed by Francois Biccard, Support Manager.
We have all probably heard the slogan ”Common sense is like deodorant, the people who need it most never use it”. In my observation that probably rings true for many organisations when it relates to a Continual Service Improvement (CSI) plan or strategy.
The more an organisation grows, the more it becomes an essential requirement to its success.
We can all bang the drum of “the customer is king”, “the customer is central”, “the customer is <fill in the blank>”, or whatever slogan the next pundit tries to sell us. If I were to put myself in the customer’s shoes, I would have to fill in the blank with: the customer is well and truly over it. Over the lip service.
You can only have so many mantras, visions, slogans, goals, values – whatever. When all the customer get sold is all the marketing guff but no substance, it is like going to your favourite restaurant, ordering the t-bone steak, and getting one of those fragrance pull-outs from a magazine with a note from the chef saying that he can sell you the smell, but the fusion of smell and taste is just an illusion. Would you accept that? Should your customer accept the same from you?
CSI is the substance – it’s what happens in the background that the customer cannot see – but can taste. It provides substance to your mantra, vision, goals – for your staff, and for your customers.
What is more, it forms the backbone of your strategic plan, and feeds your operational plan.
Without it you are lost – like a boat without a rudder. You will still go ‘somewhere’, if only by the effort of competent staff tirelessly rowing and steering the organisation through their own little ‘swim lane’ as part of the broader process. However, you won’t have much control – not enough to make sure you set your own destination. Yes, by chance you might end up on a beautiful island, but there are a lot of icebergs and reefs out there as well, and Murphy will probably have the last say.
There are other misconceptions that may get you stranded too,
“…but all our staff do Continual Improvement every day”.
The problem with this statement is, that if you don’t provide them with a framework and a channel or register where they can document current, or propose new improvement strategies, you are:
- Not creating awareness or fostering a culture that is all about continual improvement.
- You are not leveraging the power of collective thought – which is extremely important in continual improvement, especially since they are probably the foot soldiers who are most aware of the customers’ most intense frustrations and struggles.
You might not act on every suggestion added to a register, but at the very least it will provide you greater insight – whether that is to be used in planning, resourcing etc.
Another example: “…but we just don’t have the resources or time to act on these suggested improvements”.
Not all improvements will require the same level of resourcing.
Order ideas by least effort and maximum value – then pick one you can afford. Even if you start with the smallest, it’s not always about what is being done, but actually starting somewhere and creating the culture first.
Remember, Continual Improvement is more about creating the culture first. Create the culture and the rest will be much easier.
Golden Rule: Start Now!
So, you haven’t done anything and you now feel like you’re four again, and the plate of vegetables placed in front of you has a mountain of peas, each the size of a small boulder (insert your own nightmarish vegetable of choice).
All is not lost though – you can turn things around, but there’s one golden rule: There is no better time to start than right now! Every moment you delay, opportunities for improvement are lost.
- Go forth and research!
- Provide a register where others can contribute ideas or suggestions.
- Review and decide, as a group, what you can afford that will provide most benefit.
- Ask some practical questions to get the thinking started:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- How you will get there – what would you have to do?
- Where do you need to mature?
- What do you have to do to achieve that maturity?
- Where are the gaps in your services, organisational skills/training etc.?
- What would you have to do to fill or complete those gaps?
If you want to be passionate about Service Management, you have to be passionate about constantly improving and evolving. The nature of Service Management is evolution – if you stop you’ll stagnate.