Schlagwort-Archive: Monitoring

Planned futility – eyes shut and get through

The absurd business acceleration and geographic dispersion and the flood of data in the VUKA world force executives to think in new ways. Trapped in their attention horizon, they have limited foresight and an inability to master cultural realities and the data deluge. Short-term (mis-)successes determine their fate. It does not matter if leaders ignore accessible data, do not find available insights, or fail to foresee circumstances. Eventually, it leads to decisions that pursue modest intentions without considering possible side effects. Nonetheless, the top team is expected to produce impactful decisions and outcomes. It develops plans to avoid individual disadvantages that seek change while holding on to the existing to avoid personal risks. This approach has come to be known as Planned Futility.

Since the last remaining raison d’être for leaders are their directional decisions, they must face the question of how to manage unintended consequences. The following four leverage points expand the awareness. They reduce the occurrence and downsides that appear out of nowhere.

  • Aligned, although not targeted?
    Simple planning relates solely to the desired outcomes – What? To what degree? By when? With what budget? That way, an orientation is given, but the essential aspects of targeting are missing, i.e., not considering basic conditions to avoid unintended consequences. It leads to unwanted surprises. It is smarter to consider as many dimensions of the initial situation as possible (e.g., with STEP). (1) To ensure that one has sufficient knowledge regarding the task, a Google search of the topic is recommended. (2) During preparation, the support of the relevant stakeholders must be obtained for having sufficient room for maneuver. (3) It helps to review from the affected parties’ point of view for considering their interests at an early stage and make them to people involved. On this basis, the probability of achieving the desired results increases.
  • Active, although the time is not used?
    The ever-flatter structures of companies increase the number of decisions managers take. The fear of making mistakes causes some to freeze. In doing so, they overlook that time moves on and that even the avoidance of decision-making are momentous decisions. In order not to leave the decision-making to others, leaders have to keep moving. In the process, the horizon of attention shifts incessantly, and the original findings lose their significance. Intermediate outcomes or the interplay of building blocks may be affected. Leaders must revise their decisions to reflect the evolving interests of stakeholders. The results are decisions that lead to plan changes that must be communicated to all stakeholders and affected parties. These adjustments further ensure that unintended consequences are avoided whenever possible.
  • Monitoring, although conclusions are not drawn?
    A popular solution seems to be comprehensive reporting. Instead of enabling solutions, vast amounts of measurement points are established. The stakeholders must deliver them with great effort in ever shorter periods. If qualitative aspects are involved, adequate surveys are set up to generate the metrics. In the end, one gets a vast amount of measurement data that is difficult to utilize and even does not result in actions through appropriate traffic lights. We can only hold seven-plusminus-two chunks in short-term memory. This means that we cannot handle this flood of data at all. For this reason, we should take the time to find the essential checkpoints that let us see the progress or developing needs for action. Since many influencing factors are not accessible to neutral observers, an intensive exchange of ideas with all those involved is crucial for leaders. Management by Wandering Around is a prerequisite for it. However, the collected findings must subsequently be put into a format (e.g., using a satisfaction scale or a heat map) understood by those involved. With manageable reports, you lower the occurrence of unintended consequences.
  • Assessing, although there are no sanctions?
    The desire to assess leadership quality creates new performance assessment models (e.g., Feedback, 360-degree Assessment). The focus here is on measurement and less on effects. Looking at large companies, you often see that even measuring is canceled as soon as the results become nasty for the individuals. How detailed leaders are examined is more important than the consequences. Except: Rewards are in place. What is missing in most cases are sanctions that tangibly punish misconduct. Why should leaders try hard if they do not have to expect any disadvantages in case of failure? Beware! It is about the leaders, whose role models and leadership are the remaining tasks. Failure due to poor preparation, visible inactivity, and lack of visibility are building blocks of homegrown leadership failure. Without sanctions, decision-makers lack the inducements, ensuring that there are a few unintended consequences as possible.

Bottom line: For artisans, it is easy. Mistakes are immediately visible, audible, or tangible. The soft tasks of leadership can be approached with a similar mindset. An example provides the German federal government’s handling of Corona. The actions are focused on providing sufficient intensive care beds. The unintended consequences in the economy and society are ignored. Every effort is made to contain the spread of the virus. In a year, nothing significant has changed. For example, it has not been achieved to collect the incidence even on weekends. The evaluation of the situation leads to ever-changing limits, but not to effective measures against the active dissidents. As a result, any pleas fall flat, and industries face a broad wave of bankruptcies. The federal government’s unilateral action is an excellent example of planned futility – eyes shut and get through.

The pendulum in the service desert

Once upon a time in the retail sector, the physical customer, who made an effort to go to a shop, had the full attention of the staff. Nothing was more important than direct contact, personal advice, and friendly interaction with the customers. Some callers were desperate at that time because simply nobody answered the phone as long as a customer was in the shop. Today’s automated answering machines, which automatically keep customers away with always the same questions, only to finally announce in the friendliest 22 kHz voice that all lines are busy and that one should please call back at a later time – and the whole question-answer litany starts all over again. The frustration gets the subcontractors of the subcontractors at the time of the delivery, who, at the end of the value chain, maintain the remaining customer contact – without being part of the webshops, having any influence on the overall process or getting a reasonable share of the turnover. The service pendulum has swung back imperceptibly. We now find ourselves in a clumsy consumer world in which the consumer is allowed to pay, but without claim to an appropriate deliverable.

What should companies do to provide their deliverables appropriately if they want to stand out from the competition?

  • Omnipresent contact
    The legislator has stipulated that all providers must be available to customers – try it at Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Alibaba, or Facebook. A notable exception is Xing with its imprint. Providing competent contact persons is an additional effort, but one that is rewarded by customers in the long run. But be careful: Today’s computers work more reliable than call centers in India.
  • Multi-Channel Access
    Content can be reused in the offline and online channels. Businesses with local reach can approach customers outside the Internet with posters, direct mail, but also in their shops, and with mobile market stands and trade booths. This does not mean that you do not need an online presence: website, email marketing, and participation in social networks. It is not only about initiating sales but also about support in the selection, deployment, and problem-solving.
  • Fixed opening hours
    The Internet promises 24/7 availability. For economic reasons, many people offer their deliverables only during regular office hours from nine to five. Customers understand this as long as they do not have any queries. With today’s expectations of quick contact, it is smart to offer for the remaining hours an emergency channel, allowing customers to get rid of their inquiries at short notice.
  • Minimized response time
    In any case, answers to the customer should be given quickly. It is useful to ensure a response time for the customer – inquiries from the night are processed immediately, the next morning. It is not enough to assign one employee who then handles dozens of incoming requests. What counts is the time it takes for an inquiry to be processed. If the capacities are not sufficient, the response time should be extended, or more positions should be provided. Customers without an answer might be lost forever.
  • Personal address
    The back door of well prepared, automated reply mails, which do not contribute to the solution, is of no use anymore. The customers know that “We will take care of your request as soon as possible” means that nobody has taken care of it yet. Feedback should be expressly formulated, with a personal salutation, the reference to the problem, and a first sketch of the solution.
  • Sound monitoring
    Requests via the Internet can be easily tracked. But today, calls can also provide data with the appropriate ticketing system. The duration from receipt to solution shows possible weak points. This includes the weaknesses of individual persons. With all the protection of employees, it would be fatal to not being able to make their performance visible.
  • Consistent elimination of weaknesses
    If weaknesses become visible, they should be addressed in the short term. In Japan, anyone can stop the production line if an error appears. This is the only way to avoid the accumulation of poor outcomes. Even in the case of employee data, the ultimate aim is not to impose sanctions but to improve skills through appropriate measures.

The cost advantages of online retailing, without store and Sales staff, but with the economies of scale, unlimited scope, and flexible supply chains, have wiped out not only the retail industry but also the service mindset. If a problem occurs in an online shop, people search for a long time until a contact is found and established – if at all. And this applies less to the small shops that fear reprimands than to the large corporations, such as the GAFAs (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple). If packages are additionally reported that cannot be found or are not available at the place where they should be stored, then the house of cards collapses over the customer who is willing to pay – and the responsibility always have the others in the value chain who are to blame.

Bottom line: The New World of consumption has prevailed, despite a poor CO2 balance, precarious jobs, and the complete loss of the service idea. Customers generate income, but companies have found ways to make the expensive offers of retailers disappear. The customer accepts this as long as the price is right – i.e., cheap, as long as no support is required, and no problems occur. Since this will not continue, the providers should rethink their approaches. Why not offer a clear point of contact? Or offer deliverables to customers through a variety of channels? – With precise opening hours, zero latency, and a personal approach. At the previous Point of Sales (PoS), providers had personal contact with customers’ questions and needs. Today, they use an IT-supported monitoring system. If the identified weaknesses are then eliminated, the pendulum starts swinging back again – out of the service desert.