|A visit to the nearby retail outlet of a major "Print & Copy" player was a classic lesson in service. I had a specific need to prepare a report that had some complex needs. Given the rush at the time, the store manager personally attended to me.
I started, "I have a problem".
The immediate retort - "There is no problem, Sir".
That brazen confidence, I found out, was backed by an ability to understand and the skill to resolve.
As organizations, especially those in the Services sector, how many of us are able to demonstrate that confidence to our customers?
In my experience across small, mid-sized and large setups, a growing organization's ability to meet new customer challenges can get progressively restricted by its inherent contradictions. Multiple departments and functions work at different levels of priorities and efficiencies. For all of them to come to a common forum and collaborate with each other is quite often a harried task. Individual biases and departmental interests end up working against the interests of the organization and therefore its customers.
Most organizations do manage to "get things done". That definition, however, very often stops short of a genuine solution to customer needs.
So how do you ensure a comprehensive solution for your customers, not only in design, but also in its execution?
The answer is not rocket-science. It's really about:
- involving all the stakeholders
- understanding the requirements and the needs of each of them
- listing the specific problems/challenges they seek to overcome
- managing the potential risks, both within and external to the enterprise
- working out a solution with the resources available or allocated.
The reality, however, in bringing a collaborative ethic to such decision making, requires dealing with people, emotions, experience, instincts and logic, besides hard data, of course.
Can we deal with all of that in a structured manner?
That, unfortunately, is still not the case in many organizations.
While many of them have process excellence standards in many areas of their operations which serve them well, a structured process towards collaborative decision making is still a challenge in most companies. Beyond collaboration, consistency in decision making is a bigger challenge.
A simple test is all that is required to verify this.
Given the same problem situation & same sets of data, different people or different groups, in most probability, would end up deciding differently. While they all may have the best interests of the company, an organization and its customers just cannot afford to have this disparity.
So how do we go about achieving this?
Well, it all boils down to four essential thinking patterns.
- Setting priorities
- Finding causes.
- Making choices
- Managing risks.
Sounds easy, doesn't it?
As per Prof. Paul Nutt of Ohio State University, more than half decisions in organizations fail in its implementation.
The reasons could be many; not having the correct people around the table, dealing with suspect information, trial & error approach, etc.
A structured process that ensures involvement of the right stakeholders, and then uses an approach that is common, visible, and democratic is the key differentiator to quality solutions and its successful implementations.
And that exacting rigor to developing solutions for their customers was really the secret to the brazen confidence of that Store Manager.
I just could not leave without asking her to share it with me.
More about that later.
She got a customer for life. I discovered a role model.