Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Fire-Fighting isn't Good Business

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not a post about our noble emergency service workers. I view them with nothing less than awe. These people would risk their lives to save mine, and they don't even know me.

This post is about business in North America. Talking with a number of associates from different industries, and looking at the literature out there I've come to realize that many organizations spend most of their effort in putting out fires. That is to say that they only have time to fix the things that are critically broken. There is never time to build or grow as an organization.

When organizations engage in change efforts, they are often radical change efforts. "We are redefining ourselves." "We are going to shake up the company."

A post by Tom Vander-Well titled The Mantra of Mediocrity got me thinking about this in the context of Call Quality.

I've seen the Fire-Fighting approach to Call Quality:
"Agents aren't branding! We must fix this. We'll start doing monitors that only listen to the opening and make sure the agents brand. Anyone who doesn't will receive a Zero Score."

I've also seen the radical change approach:
"Our CSAT has dropped 5 percentage points. We need to completely redesign our Quality Guideline!"

The Fire-Fighting approach 'Over-Solves' the immediate symptom and rarely improves actual Call Quality. Unfortunately, most radical change efforts fail as well. The amount of resources and energy to lead a radical change effort are immense and generally not available as they are devoted to fighting fires.

Instead of Fire-Fighting or radical change, we need to consider true continuous improvement. I'm especially enamoured of Jim Collins' Flywheel concept. The idea that we continuously give that flywheel small pushes, speeding up the wheel to incredible speeds and ultimately making that Breakthrough.

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