Systems - Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff: Know Your “Farm”!

The Director asked me what I thought of his people. Slightly taken aback, I fumbled for an answer, “Pretty good...err...above average, probably. But then, I’ve only had one day with them in this workshop in this conference room. I’d have to see them at work in their workplace to really know”.

The systems that people work in have more impact on their performance than personal skills or attitude. That goes part way to explaining why some managers seem to “know all the theory”, but they’re just not great managers. Think of Jenson Button’s great “performance leap” from the 2008 to 2009 season, and you can see what I mean.

Some 95% of “difficult” or “poor” managers and front-line staff that I have met have been unable to do much better, because of the system they are in. Once we help a client (over a week or so) to get a handle on the whole system, and the flow of work, the problems being blamed on one person or team, turn out to be created elsewhere.

For example, 40-70% of calls to call centres are the result of someone elsewhere in the organisation delivering less than perfect service. Instead of training the call handler to deal with complaints, why not find the root cause of the mistakes – and fix it? One call centre we worked with last year improved their stats, and saved £80k in temps, after just 3 days of looking at their system as a whole. And they’re still improving.

A small number (about 1 in 20) of people do perhaps fall into McGregor’s Theory X (lazy, workshy), but you can’t know who they are until you understand the system. Treating the other 19 with trust and respect will improve customer service and quality, reduce sickness, and drive up morale. The chaff, unable to hide, will often then leave of their own accord; leaving a winning team behind.

Author: Emma Langman - Discover more here

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