Thursday, 12 August 2010

Process Technology and People have to be in balance

A recent reply to a comment on a forum that presense of business processes were negative in a business promoted this response.

Process technology and people have to be in balance.

However processes are vital, without them you have high variability non managed customer experiences and high costs. Processes are as much important assets as people.

What we see so often is badly designed standardisation resulting in some of the appaling customer experiences that we have to deal with today as customers. So just because process design is done badly is no reason to deny the value of process management.

Any business above a certain size can't function professionally without some process framework a SME can, to some degree, and that is why small compapies often do so well in a competative environment based on service; however get beyond a certain size and the cottage industry approach tends to fall apart, unfortunately.

The people issue is interesting. I have worked in failing organisations with no process or very little and they always promote "our people" as assets the result is people running around in mad chaos making things happen due to lack of process and creating a culture of indispensible people - prima donnas and heroes. In these companies costs are out of control and the inefficiencies errors and customer service are highly varied. They rush from one crisis to the next. In a market where day rates and salaries have plunged and supply of people is high people, subject to training of course, are a fairly easily replaced.

Businesses say people are their main asset and perhaps they are but most fail to treat their employees and engage them correctly. Corporate mantra of HR is that people are our assets but the reality of this doesn't often manefest in how folks are treated.

HR often believe what they wnat to believe in a group think manner - is "our assets are our our people" a corporate buzz-phrase?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Extreme Contrast

I was fortunate to have a day on the Ffestiniog Narrow Guage railway recently. One of the thoughts I had was how different this railway was to mainline companies; and one in particular I used daily whilst on a contract.

In accepting the vast differences in scale the overriding difference was cultural.

The daily commuting line I used seemed to treat its customers as the enemy with revenue inspectors, penalty fares, process driven ticket staff who had no empathy or concern for anyone other than their rules and inflexible procedures. Many posters of corporate mantra of customer focus but the reality is that its staff ,who are effectively inenabled due to the corporatised nature of the organisation, have a culture of resignation and "whats the point" - this is how things are done around here.

To be fair the trains run on time, well mostly, but the experience of this large company imposes on its monopolistic customer base is quite unpleasant.

The mountain railway was the complete inverse and it was all about engagement of its staff; they loved what they did, many being volunteers, smiles and fun were the theme throughout. It is so interesting to see how culture and coporatisation of a culture can create such variance. I know this is an extreme experience comparison but the well known commuter line could learn a lot from this bunch of committed amateurs in North Wales.

My observation here is about how coporate cuture can destroy the essense of customer service and how employee engagement is so key.