In our work lives, be we corporate employees, small business owners or something in between, we are often so busy doing our work that we dont take the time to stop and thing about why we are doing the work or the underlying assumptions we are making as we go about our business.
I remember receiving a wake up call in my corporate work – a ‘yeah, you’re doing a great job of what you are doing, but is what you are doing the best direction and use of your time?’ type wake up call.
A little background first. I was a member of the senior management team with responsibility for customer service and all that entailed. My staff were very capable, and proactive – we were continually improving processes and outcomes. Everyone was happy.
That continual improvement, however, was always incremental. It was never a huge leap. I hadnt questioned some of the fundamental assumptions and paradigms of our customer satisfaction process for a long while (and probably become somewhat jaded as well).
My wake up call came in the form of a newly appointed Director of Customer Service from our overseas parent company. And because we were doing such a good job of customer service here in Australia he made the journey out to visit and spent a day with me and my team.
I was a bit chuffed at that.
He came armed with a series of very intelligent, well thought out questions. Most of which I could answer. But then came the ones that gave me the real wake up call. Do you measure such and such? Um, no, I dont think so. Why are these two issues on your critical components list? What proportion of the business does this cover? And so on… and on…
This guy had been with the organisation 2 years, I had been there 18 years… and so while my knowledge of the business was second to none, I had become immune to some of the systemic issues and in a rut as far as big leap improvement was concerned. Yes, we were improving. Yes, we did have a positive effect on the bottom line. Yes, we did rescue clients who were ready to walk – every single week. Yes, we did provide them with useful, meaningful analysis of customer satisfaction. Yes, the boss and stakeholders were more than happy with what we accomplished.
I realised that whilst I have been doing a good to great job of what I was doing, I wasnt doing a brilliant job of questioning the underlying paradigms of our business. It took someone fresh and new to the company to help me do that.
Some takeaways from this experience:
- What have you been taking for granted?
- When was the last time you turned the snowglobe upside down and took a different look at your job or your business?
- In the absence of someone new coming in, how else could you change the perspective? Become a client for a day? Walk through your business pretending you dont know anything about the business and ask every question that pops into your mind (a dictaphone would be a great asset for this), then try and find out the answers
- Every now and again, stop and ask the stupid questions (like – why do we do this?) – you may just be very surprised by the answers
- What are your underlying paradigms and assumptions about the work you do?