Thursday, July 4, 2013

Transactions to Transformation

Service Culture Transformation:

Command & Control Culture
Service Culture
Art of Service: Vision & Strategy
Service Strategy grounded in Winning@ any cost driven by self centered vision, power & control.
Service Strategy is grounded in creating value for customers driven by shared service Vision & Values.
Growth by beating the Competition with incremental differentiation.
Growth by Going beyond the competition with quantum differentiation & Value innovation.
Build a brand by Showcasing numbers, certifications and position for looking good.
Build a brand for Customer loyalty by being good and creating value/wow experience.
Defensive teams avoiding mistakes, risks and conflicts for fear of losing.
Collaborative & Open teams leveraging on the gaps, conflicts and learning from mistakes.
Science of Service: Go beyond People & Process Capabilities
Functional, Regional & HQ focused Silos with ownership limited to Fixing problems & SLA’s.
Integrated teams with clear goals & roles and overall Ownership right from framing problems to closure.
Deep expertise equipped with knowledge & tools with no interest in broader context.
Deep & Broad expertise with collaborative & creative problem solving skills.
Policies & Processes are force fitted from quality manuals for audit Compliance & certification.
Go beyond Process with a Questioning mind and drive operational Excellence and Value Creation.
SLA’s & Metrics are internal facing to improve Speed & Volume, focus is on Events & contracts.
SLA’s & Metrics address Value creation & customer experience, focus is on Analysis & improvement.
Craft of Service: Shaping the Service Culture
Disconnect in Saying Vs Doing, Know It All… No room for learning from others.
Connect Saying & Doing, Space for creative tension, Learn from Gap, Adapt to Changes.
Conform to central policies, decisions, formality (calendar?). Discuss only results, reports, Yes for Authority, no for Undiscuassables.
Empowered, Collaborate: Listen, Observe, Share, Inquire to solve problems, Innovate.  Accept conflicts and Undiscuassables.

 Copyright Sunil P Rangreji


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Service Strategy & 7 Levers of Tranformation

Service Strategy & 7 Levers of Transformation: 
At the core of Service Strategy is the act of Transforming resources in to Valuable Services. Strategy is about understanding what you do, looking out over the long-term future to determine where you want to be, and—most importantly—focusing on how you plan to get there.

Strategy can be viewed as a blend of Art and Science. It is an art in that it requires creative thought, an ability to paint the big picture, define the Vision, and strong Leadership to inspire and engage all the stake holders. It is a science in that it requires managers to collect and analyze information that they can then turn into action. It involves building capabilities like process, knowledge, skills, tools etc to achieve the strategic goals. But translating strategy into reality is not a straight linear path, it involves recognizing the non linear patterns to see the gap between vision & reality i.e. art and science. According to management guru Peter Senge, this Gap between the Vision & Reality is not the problem as we think sometimes but it actually holds the potential for creative change. The real problem is in “not recognizing this gap and telling the truth about it.” In order to recognize the gap, we also need to Craft the Strategy to iterate between the strategy (art) and the implementation (science) which helps in seeing the non linear patterns and then connect the dots to bridge the gap.

According to Prof. Henry Mintzberg, one of the main reason why strategies fail is “because of the assumption that thought must be independent of action.” The key for Crafting Strategies is establishing intimate connection between Thought & Action. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Service Strategy framework is based on the “4P Strategies” model defined by Prof. Henry Mintzberg. The 4P’s  of Strategy i.e. Perspective, Plan, Positioning and Patterns merge the strategy formulation and implementation in to a fluid process of Learning through which creative strategies evolve.
All Strategy making walks on two feet, one deliberate, the other emergent.  The use of all 4Ps, recognizes both intended as well as emergent strategies.  The real Transformation starts when we step out of the linear path of force fitting intended strategies while we are implementing and building the capabilities.  Transformation involves looking at both the internal and external patterns and then positioning, refining the internal capabilities to align with the emerging patterns.   

7 Levers of Transformation:
The Levers of transformation propel us forward on our journey of service excellence; the 7 levers of transformation help us to cross over the linear path of vision to strategy to implementation. These Levers equip us to look in, around & beyond to recognize the non linear patterns and Leverage these gaps as the creative tension and the potential energy for Transformation. The 7 Levers of Transformation are-

  1. Create shared Vision & team of guiding Champions.
  2. Formulate Service Strategy Plan
  3. Build Integrated Service Organization: Clarify Goals &  Roles.
  4. Build Capabilities: Knowledge, Process, Tools and Skills for Problem Solving, Innovation & Value Creation.
  5. Process Integration & Measuring Quality: Mapping Processes & SLA’s to Value Creation and Customer Experience. 
  6. Collaborative Space & Key Principles: Creating a Shared Context to Recognize the Gaps, and Leverage the potential for creative change.
  7. Institutionalize:  Engage in Collaborative Communication to sustain the spirit of service, and Build a community of Service Culture.
These 7 Levers of Transformation help us shape the culture of service organization with a genuine desire to create value for our customers and in the long run build a Brand for Customer Loyalty.

Copyright Sunil P Rangreji

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Paradox of Complexity & Alignment

With the increasing new technologies and associated complexities, the specializations in technology areas are getting deeper day by day. From the days of IBM mainframe one stop solution, the computer industry has been sliced into specialized domains with each companies focusing on specialized products and services like ERP, cloud computing, mobility, global connectivity, social media etc. The internet computing has enabled business with anytime-anywhere computing and helped business in drastically reducing the cost, transaction cycle times, speed of delivery.  Almost all the industry segments like banking, manufacturing, retail, travel, transport, telecom etc adopted Internet technologies to deliver business benefits to end customers.

On one hand the Rapid rate of technology changes have pushed organizations in this catch up game of specialization; on the other side Customer needs are changing -expecting personal attention, demanding more with less, faster & cheaper with better quality products and services.   

Whether we look at technology domains or the functional domains like retail, manufacturing etc., each of them are changing at a fast pace, the business models are changing, use of technology is increasing, customer expectations are getting more personal. Each of these domains needs specialization with deeper knowledge to manage in their respective functional areas. It is becoming more and more difficult for large organizations to maintain balance between functional expertise and business expertise. As business grows and specializations increase, more and more organizations have quickly adopted quality systems to standardize and streamline the operations. Standardization and Specialization worked perfectly in the era of mass customization, but in today’s internet age customers expect individual care and attention. In addition to rapid changes in technology and business models, the customer expectations have become more personal and individual experience based.
As we saw in the  case of Platinum customer, too much specialization and standardization make the customer irrelevant. Customer needs are either looked through the lens of specialized functional silos or through the standard processes and systems. With more and more standardization and specialization, customer service management becomes mechanical with no human touch. In earlier sections we studied the influence of command & control model which has put us on autopilot of winning and control. The silo mentality forces us to think vertically with no interest in the broader aspects and the big picture, similarly we are fixated on the events and transactions due to process centric mentality. 

Zappos, a company known for its innovation and service excellence, encourages it’s employees to be adventurous, creative and open minded. At Zappos, they don’t measure call times, the average handle time which focuses on how many calls each rep can take in a day. They think performance metrics like this can translate into reps worrying about how quickly they can get a customer out of the phone. The customer executives are not given any scripts, because they trust their employees to use their best judgment when dealing with each and every customer. The customer executives are given the freedom to let their true personalities shine during each interaction and to emotionally connect with the customers. When customer calls looking for specific styles of shoes that is out of stock, in those instances every rep is trained to research at least 3 competitor web sites and direct the customer to the competitor like the vegetable vendor.

Zappos is a classic example where they have achieved highest in service excellence by enabling every customer executives to be who they are, instead of scripts & rigid processes they are given the freedom to let their true personalities shine during each interaction with the customers.

Service Leaders as Reflective Practitioners coach their team members to look at every customer situation as unique and help them to balance between rigor and relevance to walk in the swampy, low land. The passion & ownership of vegetable vendor & Zappos employee needs to be ignited in every individual worker and that happens only when we have a shared Vision and employees are given the freedom to let their true personalities shine during each customer interaction.

Copyright Sunil P Rangreji

Monday, July 2, 2012

Does Service Really Matter? Reflections #1

Reflecting on the case study of Vegetable vendor and the Platinum customer, we see that how specialization & standardization can make the customer irrelevant. Especially in today’s global world where growth is the mantra of the day, as organizations scale up their operations, it is assumed that standard processes and team of specialists can run the operations like a factory. In large business operations like retail, telecom service, health care service etc, the customer is treated like a part entering the assembly line that is subject to system of controls & processes. As the customer comes out of this assembly line, what he wanted and what he gets is irrelevant to business, what is important to the customer executive is the process; the customer behind the machine or the process is not seen. What is the need for the vegetable vendor to jump out and get something for the customer even if it is not available in his shop? When the customer executive’s job is only to complete the transaction and strictly adhere to the processes, they don’t see the human being inside the customer unlike the vegetable vendor. If the customer executive is rewarded for the target numbers he achieves, obviously there is no motivation for Value Creation.

If we train & educate our service professionals to work on a plane, hard ground of assembly lines and equip them to follow instructions & processes and then reward/penalize them based on the target numbers, how do we expect them to work in swampy, lowland? The reality is swampy, lowland where things don’t always work as written in theory books or process manuals. Like the vegetable vendor, one needs to jump out, not necessarily to the next shop but at least to understand what customers want. In the case of platinum customer, we saw that the customer found his own solution to solve the billing problem.
The model of Technical Rationality –the view of the professional knowledge has most powerfully shaped our thinking about professions and to work with rigor in a plane, hard ground. From the perspective of Technical Rationality, professional practice is a process of problem solving and the professionals are trained to solve problems of choice or decision through the selection, from available means, of the one best suited to established ends. Technical rationality depends on the agreement about the ends. When ends are fixed and clear, then the decision to act can present itself as the instrumental problem. But when ends are confused and conflicting, there is yet no problem to solve. This is the dilemma in our rigor of processes & metrics versus the relevance of unique customer situations. Our training and education system ignore the key aspect of service management, value creation and innovation. We are equipped to work only in high, hard land, on assembly lines where both means and ends are defined; we are programmed to just follow the instructions to work in the mode of input-defined process-output.  

Every organization needs standardization at some point and the quality systems, policies and procedures become part of the system. The key for success here is, how do we still keep alive the passion and commitment of the vegetable vendor and how we keep the capabilities connected with reality. If the customer executives are trained to follow the process, use only the scripts, and if the Manager’s performance is assessed only based on the numbers like growth, volume, speed, efficiency etc, it’s a tough call to focus equally on value creation & customer satisfaction.

The objective of building capabilities, acquiring deep knowledge & specialization is to solve customer problems or design solutions to meet their needs. But if specialization builds silos that are operating only in their domain with no regard for customer needs, it defeats the business purpose. When the process capabilities fail to connect with real operations issues like escalations, project transitions etc it becomes a constraint to service delivery. People & Process capabilities need to have adaptable capacity to work on swampy, low ground; specialization & standardization designed for plane, hard ground are deterrents for service excellence and business growth. If concepts refer to facts, then knowledge has a base in reality but if concepts are cut off from reality, then so is all human knowledge and our actions are going to be helplessly blind.

Theory & concepts are not made only for ideal conditions. The Service Leader should look at every problem situation or opportunity as unique and use the concepts only to educate the mind, to see deeply, and not force fit the theory. He/She should train & prepare the Manager’s and their team to focus both on process & value creation. Theory and Practice both are important and any extreme position will yield bad results, reflecting on theory and experience is the key for transformation. The Reflective Practitioner doesn’t see the deductive thinking process as the end in itself, rather they bring life to it by integrating the inductive process to evaluate the situations and recognize the gaps between vision & reality, theory & practice. The Service Leader as a Reflective Practitioner loops back the edges of contradictions, conflicts, complexities & uncertainties and moves from specific application to general concepts through the inductive process to bridge the gaps.

Copyright Sunil P Rangreji

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Does Service Really Matter? Case #1

The Vegetable Vendor:

When I go to the vegetable vendor in my locality, the personal attention & care I get is amazing. The shop keeper would know what I want to buy, what vegetables my family likes, how much I buy, our weekend routines & festive seasons, etc. He would select the vegetables for me, fresh, green, tasty ones and if I don’t want to buy something he would beautifully explain the characteristic of that vegetable, how and where it was grown, why it’s good for health etc. If something is not available, he would jump in to the next shop and get it for you.  
On the contrary, every time I go the supermarket, I say to myself –have patience! When I go to a supermarket, inspite of all the great colorful interiors, variety of products neatly organized etc, I feel lost in the crowd, the atmosphere very dull. There is no personal touch, least attention given to individual customer needs. As I enter these retail shops, it takes a while to figure out what is where? I have learnt to do it myself as there is no point in asking the sales person, now after few visits, I may know better than him or her.  Once you find what you wanted to buy, you will see many other things catching your attention, all nicely packed and neatly stacked up. If you encounter something new, you need to study and understand on your own by reading the printed lines on the product. Ask somebody for help, who cares? The most common answer is, it’s printed on the backside, if not the sales person will tell you politely to check it on internet.  They look so helpless, but very busy talking among themselves, watching TV or may be just watching all the people come & go. 

Does Service Really matter to them or their Managers? What a difference!!!

With hardly any education or training, Why should the vegetable vendor be so caring and committed? The obvious answer is money, but if you look deeper, it’s definitely beyond money, it’s about their love, passion and commitment for their work. The vegetable seller would know anything and everything about vegetables; we can clearly see how much they love vegetables. The way they wash, hold, display each vegetable shows how much they care, not just the vegetables, they equally care about the person who wants to buy them.

The Platinum customer:
Sometime back I received a mail from my mobile service provider Thanking for my loyalty and informing that as a Platinum customer I will enjoy some special privileges like Priority access to the service advisor, 100% assured express service recovery etc.

Incidentally just few months before I had series of problems with this service provider and response was just pathetic. My GPRS billing shot by more than 200% for no reason, first I thought may be it’s a billing error but the same increase was reflected in next 3-4 months bills. I called the Helpdesk and asked for the reasons for this increase and also shared enough data on the past bills for the same usage and the service advisor said she will call me back. I waited for a week, there was no response and I called them again but to my surprise, the ticket was closed. I wanted to escalate and I was put on hold for 15 minutes saying the Manager is busy, not available etc. I kept on trying, many times the agent cut the line intentionally when I referred my case and after 2 weeks I got a chance to speak to the Manager and the response was worse than the first level support and there was no hint of any resolution.

One day suddenly I got this brilliant idea to solve this problem, just change the plan!!! 3G plan was anyway offered at almost 25% of my GPRS bill. So changed to 3G plan and my billing came down drastically and the reason for GPRS billing remained a mystery.

My billing problem got resolved but I got onto a different problem. The 3G performance was very poor, it was not reliable, very slow, worse than the GPRS speed and again I raised a problem ticket with their helpdesk. It was again a long chain of events with no resolution, ticket was opened and closed without my knowledge, when I called again they opened a new ticket, somebody said it’s a problem with my mobile phone and again closed the ticket.

While this was going on, I received this email saying I am a Platinum customer enlightening me about the special privileges etc. Now atleast I thought, there is some ray of hope, but platinum or steel, it made no difference to the service advisor or his Manager. Then I wrote a mail to Head of Services about my great service experience as a Platinum customer and I got a prompt response saying the problem will be resolved on high priority.  Then followed a series of calls & even visits to my house to check the signal strength etc and I was told the problem will be resolved in a month’s time as they had planned for some upgrades.

Now it’s quite some time since this happened, nothing much has changed, I am still fighting with myself to come out of the clutches of  customer loyalty. Platinum customer is just a label for some service leaders & their team and they may never understand what customer loyalty is? Only the customer understands the emotional connect with a brand…

Critical Reflections:
  • Do 1 in million customers really matter to very large service providers? Is the customer taken for granted?
  • Why the customer support executives fail to go beyond the rigid procedures & transactions and why they fail to understand the real problems of customers?
  • Is the Service Leadership about building long term service loyalty or just the growth and quarterly revenue targets?
  • Why is the passion missing in Service teams and no focus on Value creation and differentiation?
  • Are we only trained to follow the instructions, how can we jump out like the vegetable vendor and go the extra mile to create Value?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Managing by Command & Control:

Effective Managing requires all three styles of Management i.e. Art, Science & Craft, they need not exist in perfect balance but they do have to reinforce each other. Too much focus and obsession with any one of these styles can lead to negative styles like –
  • Obsession with Art leads Narcissistic or Commanding style, namely art for its own sake and Winning at any cost becomes the only priority.
  • Obsession with Science leads to Calculating or Controlling style with relationships that can become dehumanized.
  • Obsession with Craft leads to Monotonous style i.e. driven by mental models that are programmed by assumptions of past success, where Manager may develop skilled incompetence and never venture beyond his/her experience.
The Narcissistic or Command Leaders at the pole of Art obsessed with Winning at any cost, don’t accept failures. They want to avoid mistakes, risks & conflicts and as a result the teams also end up playing safe, hiding mistakes and not raising valid questions. The narcissistic style forces the leaders to pretend to be commanding all the time; they always want to look good. They are passionate only about their Vision & not the shared Vision which many times increases the Gap between the current reality and organization Vision. The overemphasis on competition makes looking good more important than being good.  Pretending to display best faces in public, pressure to beat the competition and the compulsion of winning at any cost adds up to manipulating information, numbers, position & relationships etc. They work on competitive strategies focused on Win or Lose game and look at competition as threats & enemies, taking them too far outside the core capabilities of Knowledge creation and Value creation in a Collaborative Community. Unlike war and sports, business is not about winning and losing, Companies can succeed spectacularly without requiring others to fail.
Calculating or Control Leaders at the pole of Science tend to be paralyzed with analysis. The linear models of Analysis, Standardization, Specialization, problem solving etc worked very well in the industrial age has been given us success after success for the last two centuries. At the pole of Science, standardization brings lot of policies & processes which is good if used as an enabler to business but process which only stands for controls, compliance & metrics brings rigidity. Similarly, functions that are organized based on specialization works well if every team is connected to the big picture but if they turn out to be silo’s with no integration, it can slow down the entire organization. Command & Control style worked successfully when both means and end were known; like an assembly line where the input and output were clearly defined & agreed. In today’s multi-polar world of globalization, where the ends are confused and conflicting, there is yet no problem to solve. This conflict of ends, uncertain & unique situations cannot be resolved by using these standard analytical techniques. The phenomenon of complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflict do not fit in to our analytical models.
Monotonous Leaders at the pole of Craft caught up with assumption of past Success. The problem is our Managers still continue to apply the command & control model of industrial age and the win-lose strategy of military operation.  The past success of 200 years has programmed our mental models to behave and look at everything through the lens of winning and problem solving. Past success of our Leaders gives them the authority to command & control and hence makes the team to just follow the rules with no scope for inquiry and creativity. Listening to others ideas, feedback, & criticism and Learning from mistakes, risks & conflicts has very little room when the teams are used to conform &  just following instructions. In fact, many times it’s the people who follow the rules & instructions without challenging or asking any questions are the ones who get rewarded. It’s 100% conformity, whether its process compliance or performance metrics, survey ratings etc, 100% catches everybody’s attention and the team is naturally motivated to hide mistakes, suppresses discontent, avoid risks, conflicts and showoff only the Wins. When we hide the problems and don’t accept the mistakes, there is no problem to solve and very little to Learn. Prof. Chris Argyris calls this "skilled incompetence," skillful at protecting ourselves from the threat and pain that come with learning, but also remaining incompetent and blinded to our incompetence.
Command & Control model breeds bureaucracy & Win-lose strategies encourage manipulation, once these are ingrained in our way of doing business, we often do not recognize it and even if we are aware we rationalize it by saying that’s the way of life. Bureaucratic mindset is elusive and always makes us to believe that other people are the problem and pushes us not to take the responsibility. The need for winning, to be perfect, to grow, to achieve economies of scale, to impress our stock holders work against the spirit of openness, trust, risk taking and innovation. The ladder of inference always picks the data points that only fit into our beliefs & assumptions and ignore the rest, we don’t even realize this. The contexts we are in, our assumptions, and our values channel how we jump up the ladder, we are so skilled at thinking that we jump up the ladder without knowing it.
The dominant context here is one that fuels Fear & Fault, giving shape to a culture which is seized on eliminating Fear & solving Problems. Robert Fritz said “Problem solving is taking action to have something go away –the problem. Creating is taking action to have something come into being –the Creation”.
In this Knowledge Era, the rules of business games have changed; indeed the game itself has changed. Unlike the command & control model of industrial era or competitive war games, business is not about working under the fear of winning and losing, nor is it about fault finding or fitting in & following instructions. Companies can succeed spectacularly without requiring others to fail. In a very real sense, management is about life itself. When managers create Open Space for creative ideas & undiscuassables and breakdown the barriers of defensiveness caught under the mental model of fear & faults, they face life in all its complexity to Create New Possibilities.
Above all else, management is a practice, where art, science, and craft meet and reinforce each other without getting stuck in any one style.
Copyright Sunil P Rangreji

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Service Strategy & Tranformation

At the core of Service Strategy is the act of Transforming resources in to Valuable Services. Service Strategy represents Vision & Goals, Service design, transition and operations are progressive phases of the lifecycle that represent change and transformation. Continuous service improvement represents learning and improvements.  The Structure of ITIL Lifecycle is an organizing framework.
The ITIL Service Strategy uses the Systems approach which is based on the “4P Strategies” model defined by Prof. Henry Mintzberg. According to Prof. Mintzberg, “Strategy, is one of those words that people define in one way and often use in another way without realizing the difference”. One of the main reason why strategies fail is “because of the assumption that thought must be independent of action”. The key for Crafting Strategies is establishing intimate connection between Thought & Action.
4P Strategy merges formulation and implementation in to a fluid process of Learning through which creative strategies evolve.
·         Perspective gives the sense of purpose , direction, and governing set of Values. A Strategic Perspective articulates the business Philosophy of interacting with customers and the manner in which services are provided.  
·         Plan is often referred to an Intended Strategy; it is the deliberate course of action, charting path towards strategic objectives. Plan defines the organization, structure, policies, processes & methods for execution. 
·         Positioning becomes the mediating force between the Organization and the environment i.e. between internal & external context. Position describes the decision to adopt a well-defined stance.  
·         Patterns describe a series of consistent decisions and actions over time. They are the basis for Emergent Strategies, distinctive patterns in action reinforced over time by repeated success. 
All Strategy making walks on two feet, one deliberate, the other emergent.  The use of all 4Ps, recognizes both intended as well as emergent strategies.  Best practice service strategies mix these to maintain control while fostering learning; see the Big picture while deciding on details.
Prof. Henry Mintzberg describes the characteristics of Managing under the three dimensions of Art, Science & Craft-
Art encourages ideas & insights that give shape to Vision & paint the Big picture.  Walking on two feet, one leg on Perspective and the other on Plan helps us to define and articulate the Vision. Perspective provides the sense of Purpose & Direction to formulate the Vision and Planning takes us to chart out the concrete steps in terms of resources, methods & timelines to implement the Vision. This is can be compared to Art, where one needs to see the Big Picture and same time paints the picture with intimate knowledge of material in hand.
Science provides structure and order, through systematic analysis and logical steps. Science walks on Plan and Positioning to Create the outcomes in line with the articulated Vision. Plan defines the organization structure, roles, responsibilities, process and technologies Positioned to Serve the customer environment. Positioning becomes the mediating force between the Organization and the environment i.e. between internal & external context.  
And Craft makes connections between the intended strategy and the emerging patterns, building on tangible experiences. Craft Walks on the legs of Positioning and Patterns. Like a Potter who sits before a lump of clay on the wheel, while his hands are working on the clay, his mind is making connections using his past experience and future prospects to Create the best product. He is in harmony with the material at hand, feeling of intimacy, long experience and commitment to envisioned future product.  As we implement the Vision using a Plan and move to the operations run phase, everything may not work exactly as per the Plan i.e. as per the intended/deliberate strategies. Craft helps us to see the Patterns i.e. the emerging strategies and connect the dots to bridge the Gap between Vision & Execution, Theory & Practice, Knowing & Doing.
Copyright Sunil P Rangreji