Did you think that this article would be about creative techniques and training courses? That would be too simple!
First of all let us think about training to be an athlete. We have to put in lots of effort – hours on a bike, in a boat or maybe the gym. Then we have different types of training where we train for intervals and have short breaks or perhaps we do something completely different. Finally we might think about tapering our training before a major competition. Most coaches will tell you that to get the best out of our bodies we need to push them hard and then rest. If we do not push hard we cannot improve and if we do not rest we injure ourselves.
It is exactly the same with our own organisations. If we wish to embrace creativity and reap the benefits then we cannot pull out our book of techniques once in a while, we need to use them so that they become second nature. We also need to work hard i.e. practise on real problems not trivial issues in workshops and have regular breaks. If we use creativity all of the time then it ceases to be creative. But what about tapering before that big event? Well in the calm before the storm we get ourselves organised. We ensure we have the right equipment (pens, flip charts etc.), right environment and right people so that when we get to the starting line we are ready to go.
And if you really wish to push the point, British sprinter Linford Christie always said that you ‘start on the B of the Bang’. For us this means getting ahead of our competitors.
Culture can have a huge effect on customer service. This can manifest itself in many ways. This week I have been on the receiving end of some poor customer service yet again.
This time the offending company was a courier company who shall remain nameless. I had ordered some sportswear online and was excited to receive an email the following morning telling me that my goods were with a courier and they supplied parcel tracking information. During that day I tracked my parcel from arriving at the depot to going out for delivery.
Later on the status of my parcel changed. Apparently a card had been left because nobody was at home. The next day this also happened which was strange because although nobody was at home, no cards were left. Since I had no card I did not have the contact details for the courier!!
Being fairly resourceful I tried to find contact details by searching the internet. All I found were bulletin board posts by disgruntled customers. Finally I did find a number but for the wrong part of the company. The person answering the phone was very helpful and gave me 2 further freephone numbers.
At last I could talk to someone who knew something about my parcel! A nice chap told me the name of the courier and gave me his mobile number. He also revealed my suspicions that the parcel depot left the phone off the hook because of the large number of complaints. These, he said, were mainly because of the couriers themselves.
I called the courier on his mobile and arranged delivery for Saturday morning. He was very helpful and polite so I asked him where the cards had been left. ‘I did not leave any’ he said ‘because I could not get into the security gate. That was the only option I could tick on my PDA’.
So we have overworked couriers (they are given too many parcels to actually deliver at any one time) with dodgy systems in place who seem not to trust the rest of the organisation causing huge numbers of complaints that cannot be heard because the people they do not trust (and who don’t trust them) leave the phone off the hook! Wake up guys, your customer service will not improve until you start talking (as opposed to shouting) to each other. And Mr MD you have your part to play in this too.
Just one example of how poor culture can affect a business. And to fix it? Get couriers to talk to the rest of the company in a meaningful way and stop the huge number of complaints so that the phones can be put back on the hook and used in the way in which they were originally intended.
Is there an ideal workplace?
Despite all of the predictions of a futuristic workplace we all seem to inhabit vastly different offices and factories. So will there ever be a workplace where everything is ideal? What actually will the workplace of tomorrow look and feel like? The answer is probably not because of the compromises that must exist. But it is likely to offer flexibility and empowerment to the people that work within it. Such a place must try to accommodate the requirements of the business (usually in line with commercial stakeholders) and those of employees (and social stakeholders).
These fall into 3 main areas:
1. The organisation, Leaders and Managers
3. Working environment
Roles will change
Leaders and Managers will find their roles changing. They will be the ‘senior citizens’ of the organisation and will no longer exert influence through power and hierarchies. Influence will be through their experience, knowledge, wisdom and vision for the future. These senior citizens may very well have portfolio careers (a term used often by Charles Handy). They may work for more than one organisation. They will exert influence but with less cost than the full time management of old.
Employees are the citizens, still able to contribute knowledge and experience but not to such an extent. Contracts of employment may very well be zero hour i.e. employees will not be contracted for a minimum period of employment per week. Instead, their efforts will be summoned on demand. Perhaps 30 hours one week and 40 the next (or none). This will give businesses flexibility but could also leave employees some freedom to create valuable IPR in their time off as a trade off for the new contracts.
The working environment
The working environment is perhaps the thing that we are currently closest to. Efficiency dictates some sort of hot desking, perhaps hot desking with feeling so that the immediate working environment is not sanitised and can be decorated or personalised. With a distributed workforce, a certain amount of sickness absence and site visits, we no longer need the amount of office space that we did in the past. Making such environments ‘modular’ also means that we can add or subtract capacity easily.
The name of the game in the future is compromise and flexibility on the part of all parties.