Friday, March 13, 2015

How flexible are your business policies?

When team leaders or team members in your organization bump up against poor policies or unrealistic targets, what do they do?
Image result for brick wallDo they shoot up a flare and engage people in solving these issues, promptly? Or, do they ignore those policies or targets, swim upstream against the organizational current, and do the right thing? Or do they go along, compliant to the poor policies or unrealistic targets, saying, “It’s not my job to fix that,” etc.?
By far the most common reaction is the last one: employees compliantly enforce the poor policies and align to the unrealistic targets. Some team members do the right thing for customers or peers. Sometimes their efforts stay below the radar, but sometimes their efforts are discovered and they are redirected to align/adhere to the existing policies and targets.
Too few team members proactively engage people in addressing these issues.
Does your organization have poor policies or unrealistic targets in place today? It’s likely there are some — and every employee knows which policies and targets are the ones that need to change.
How do these policies come into being? In many cases the policies made sense when they were created. And, as time passed, the policies simply don’t make sense anymore. How do these targets come into being? In many cases organizational leaders set targets that make sense and are easy to measure. Over time, however, the targets become unrealistic if they actually inhibit the desired level of service and employee productivity.
Are you a member of a company who has a call center as part of their customer-relations system. Years ago, call center “best practices” set a time limit for team members to beat when on the phone with customers. The arbitrary time limit often meant that employees would rush to answer customer questions to beat their time limit. Many operators simply disconnected so that call would finish under the time limit. 
It was, unfortunately, easy to measure the length of time of a customer call. What was tough to measure was whether customers felt heard and had their question or concerns addressed.
A recent example in the news in the US are allegations that the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital delayed treatment of sick veterans. Efforts are underway to investigate charges that the hospital tried to hide that more than 1400 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor. The official list sent to VA officials showing that the Phoenix VA hospital was meeting the target of providing care to patients in a timely manner (14 to 30 days). The secret electronic list tracked the reality, that waits of over 20 months were common.
Image result for change management
As quality expert W. Edwards Deming said, “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
How can you eliminate poor policies? Make crushing these policies a valued activity and reward those who bring them up.
Stress the need for data and examples to back them up,  unless you want a flood of people telling you how short fridays are good for your customers.

But understand that nothing is set in stone and using your common sense when servicing a client is a major differentiator in todays data driven world.

We all work off metrics but when the metrics are not there it's important to recognize it and change quickly and efficiently.

Make sure your IT partner understands this as well when you build out your systems with hold and process management to make sure everyone adheres to your policy don't forget to build in some flexibility and communicate how to modify the business processes with your IT folks.

In the long run those policies will become a living breathing entity and will make your company stronger and better able to adapt to our ever changing markets.

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