A while ago, we mapped out a customer journey for one of our clients. (We map it out on a roll of brown paper, looking at all of the touch-points that the customer has with the team, and who is involved at each point.) Their journey was about twenty-five feet of brown paper long, and so confusing that my head hurt when we’d finished.
The sales team were involved from start to finish of this journey; I’m surprised they ever had time to sell! The customer had to speak to four different people in order to do business with the team. Supporting the journey there were four teams, all over-lapping in terms of the roles they were performing, and all doing things in a very different way.
What had happened was what happens a lot in successful small businesses. Maybe it’s happening to you. They had started small; the owner and three trusted team members all of whom were very clear about their role and very focused on it. Communication was tight, everyone knew what everyone else was doing and the larger business picture. They quickly became successful and with the success came a bigger team, and an even bigger team, until very soon they were a team of thirty.
With such rapid growth ‘the way we do things around here’ had become confused, as each of the four original team members gave new people their version of what the operating processes were. Then those people trained others their way and so on until chaos reigned. As a consequence, their service and delivery times were poor, they’d lost consistency and they were losing staff almost as quickly as they could hire them.
Our job was to work with the team to unravel the Customer Journey (always easier when you’re not in the thick of it), to look for the simplest route for the customer, and the most logical way to support their journey. And then with them, to develop the ‘one right way’ to do everything. To regain consistency from the chaos and to restore the company as ‘easy to do business with’ and a great place to work.
It’s easy over time particularly when you’re growing quickly to lose the one right way and that tight system of communication. Having those things in place at the beginning of your business, having the one right way, the ‘How To’ for each task and solid lines of communication embedded in your business gives you reliable foundations for growth. And the one right way isn’t stagnant. If someone comes up with a better way of doing things or technology allows an improvement then that becomes the new one right way and gets trained in using a new How To.
Regularly reviewing your Customer Journey will ensure you’ve not added hoops for your customer to jump through as your business has evolved.
Do two things:
1. Think about your Customer Journey; view it through your Customers’ eyes through each tiny step right from:
- How many feet of brown paper will you need?
2. Take your daily routines and start to develop ‘the one right way’ (your How Tos) with your team. Start laying those solid foundations for consistency and growth.
Thanks for reading :)
‘9950! I just need to go up and down stairs a few times; I’m nearly there!’
Are you hooked on your 10000 steps a day? It’s that time of year again when we review how those new year resolutions are going. Use the stairs, eat less sugar, get off the bus a stop early.
With the state of obesity and the impact on a stretched NHS, there’s a real abundance of programmes and adverts out there helping us to eat better, sleep better and particularly move more. The aim is 10000 steps a day. Apparently that number was a pretty random figure, yet like me, you probably know someone who is addicted to achieving it daily.
Many of us have started to use watches and fitbits to measure our activity and keep us focused on our daily steps target. Research has shown we can get so hooked on our target that we’ll (literally) keep going that extra mile, to ensure we achieve it.
So if personal targets like this can work so effectively, what about business? Are targets in business good or bad? Well, I would say that it really depends on the target.
Did you hear the one about the train driver that went straight through every station to ensure he kept to his timetable! (Probably an urban myth.) But I did know of an organisation whose target was to process work in two days. So guess what happened to work not completed in that time? Yes, it got fitted in as and when, so managers could concentrate on getting new work done in the timescale by which they’d be judged. These managers were celebrated even though their old work was piling up. But at that time the age and level of that work was not a target and not measured, until it began to impact on the Customer. You probably have your own examples of targets where true customer service is not at their heart.
If you set a target and either celebrate it’s achievement or give people hell if it’s not reached, guess what? People will start to deliver it at any cost. If that target is not holistic or engenders fear of failure, somewhere down the line the business and your people will suffer.
So there can be dangers in target setting but also great rewards.
So what makes a good target?
A good target will always take you towards your business vision - so you need to be clear about that for starters.
It will be holistic - in the best interests of both your Customer and your business to engender a culture of excellence.
You can’t set targets just to improve profit - you’ll probably succeed in the short term, but what will the long-term cost be if you’ve achieved your target by cutting corners on quality?
Equally, you can set targets aimed at driving Customer satisfaction above everything else, but this could cause big problems if you ignore the needs of your business profit.
You want productivity – but if you focus on productivity without any thought for quality, customer focus or value for money, you may end up being very productive doing all the wrong things.
You get the gist.
Targets, like your SMART* goals, will be challenging, but achievable. You’ll be able to measure them, and celebrate their achievement with the team.
The very best targets drive your people and your business to excel and give everyone a real sense of achievement - just like your fitbit!
Do one thing: Review your business plans and ask yourself - are my plans a route map to my business vision / my destination? Do I have targets as key milestones along the way and are those targets holistic with the customer at their heart? Do they create a culture of excellence? Is my whole team involved in their creation and achievement?
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
*SMART goals traditional definition:
S - Specific
M - Measurable
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Time-bound
I’m a big film fan and one of my favourite clips from ‘The Untouchables’ is Sean Connery chasing a baddie, then gasping ‘Enough of this running sh*t!’ And I’ve read a few articles recently denigrating business plans which put me in mind of that line. So I was intrigued to know why people held this view.
I found some common themes:
And I suppose that there’s the rub. It’s not business plans that are useless, it’s more a question of how good your planning process is. If your plan is just a wish list, too complicated, if it hasn’t involved the team and it’s merely been done to tick a box then I would wholeheartedly agree. But when used well, I believe it’s a powerful tool to give focus and energy to your business.
Planning is the platform on which your innovation and creativity can blossom and shine. And that’s just one of my top ten:
The benefits of Planning:
1. Helps you to spot opportunities
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. To go from being a hamster to being a meerkat, if you like. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.
2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business, even a small one like yours, can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done.
Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.
3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’
It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames.
Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.
4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution.
Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it.
How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?
5. Exposes your blind spots
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots.
It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.
6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.
7. Keeps your products relevant
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them - that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.
8. Builds a stronger management team
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
9. Determines priorities
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results.
You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.
10. Builds ownership and accountability
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan.
Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.
Do one thing: Start planning this week for a successful 2019
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Almost without fail, whenever I say the word 'process' in a conversation I can see the other person glaze over. It's almost instantaneous ...'process'...gone! It has the same effect on people as the words 'insurance' or 'double-glazing' or 'accounting'...and yet, we all have process in our lives somewhere. Many of us love them. Some of us are even addicted to them - what do you think OCD is based on?
And besides, none of us can avoid them.
Even the most disorganised person will have process in their life...the order in which they put their clothes on...the way they make a cup of tea...the route they follow to work. It's systematic...following the same process...simply the way they do these things.
In business it's the same. A business owner may decide that they don't want to have any process in their business, that they want to be free-flowing, empower their people...build a successful operation without being tied to systems. The reality is though that they will have a way of doing things....the people who work for them will create their own way of doing things...organically, without appreciating it, they will develop processes...and because they haven't developed them consciously...they will, very often, be inefficient and wasteful.
Processes are perceived as restrictive...akin to some sort of straight jacket... but this could not be further from the truth. Efficient processes do not remove creativity or innovation from a business. On the contrary they provide a solid, logical platform which frees the people in the business to be creative.
If you have bright, creative people working with you, they will continuously innovate with your processes and make them better, more streamlined, more efficient over time. The outcome...continuous improvement, and a better and better experience for your customers.
Simple, logical process & systems make everyone's life easier...yours, your people's, your customers'...they are the ultimate liberator, time saver, control giver...in life and in business. What's not to love?
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Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)