Tuesday, 1 March 2016

VALUES DRIVEN BUSINESS



Values Driven Business

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it mean in my organisation?
  • When does it count?

A good conference is one that gets you thinking long after you’ve left the building. The unstated theme of the LGPro#16 Annual Conference in Melbourne was rate capping – how to manage this? I listened to three people passionate about their mission – two on the podium and one in the audience – who were prepared to grapple creatively with LESS.

It was Dr Helen Szoke, CEO at Oxfam, who stated the importance of values in business. That Oxfam is a charity makes no difference. The issue of making tough decisions is common to both public and private sectors. Both need to determine what they stand for; what’s important; what their mission is. The question for Oxfam is: how do you respond to need beyond your capacity?  Dr Szoke referenced this to Oxfam’s values: human dignity; consultation; and empowerment. Ask people how you can best help. Use the resources that all parties can bring. Empower people in their own solutions.

I heard a similar story from the staff at One Tree Community Services. With a limited grant to assist indigenous people in a remote community, they facilitated local solutions using local resources to meet a local problem. Teaching people how to troubleshoot problems together and offering advice and support long after the grant is gone is one way to meet their mission of helping communities develop.

The startling creativity of unlocking community participation was evident in the results of the 7-Day Makeover program with David Engwicht, Director of Creative Communities. The beautiful public space created at Bay Bell-Paihia, New Zealand is shown below but there are many case studies on their website at www.creative-communities.com to admire.
Small local areas with minimal budgets have been able to brainstorm exciting and surprising new public spaces with donated labour, seed funding from Councils, repurposed junk and the sponsorship of local businesses. Again, bringing people together to focus on the need at hand, the resources available and unfettered collaboration within a tight time frame has resulted in extraordinary spaces that communities love and ‘own’.

Is there a take-away for business in all this? I think so! We hear of best practice in management to encourage leadership from all levels of our organisations. We hear about best practice to give permission and encourage innovation in our teams. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Managers have to be willing to restate the mission, be clear on the Values, and let others lead. Managers must be prepared to consider new outcomes that they would not have foreseen, little yet planned, to unlock potential. We encounter challenges all the time. Some risk must be taken. The public sector is generally risk averse and yet here communities have been allowed to lead. If they can do it, surely we in business can, too.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Way of the Champion - expert tips for Success


Lisa Curry MBE, AO, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Champion swimmer, won 24 gold, 21 silver and eight bronze swimming medals representing Australia 16 times over 1977-1992. Lisa would have to be the very definition of sporting success. It was utterly rewarding to hear her speak frankly about her life and the nature of success at the #cssummit #customerservice National Local Government Customer Service Network annual conference at the Gold Coast earlier this month.



Lisa (centre) with Well Done operational staff (L-R) Kellie and Liz

Noticed at a young age at the local pool, Lisa was invited to join a swim squad. Inspired by Shane Gould world record breaking performance and three gold medals in 1972, she trained hard, followed all of her coach's instructions precisely and quickly generated outstanding results. By 1974 Curry was the fastest 12 year old female swimmer in the world and went on to compete at the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980), two world championships (Berlin in 1978 and Ecuador in 1982) and the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978.

Competitive swimming was conventionally held to be a young person's game at this time, and one reason why Shane Gould retired at 17. Curry questioned this and, bucking the trend, made Olympic come backs after bearing children not once, but twice, to swim for Australia in Los Angeles in 1984 and again Barcelona in 1992 when she was 30. While Lisa obviously had natural ability in this sport it was clearly mental focus that kept her in the top 25 swimmers in the world for the duration of her career since age 15 and helped her ignore critical comment going into big races.

The question is, what can a champion like Lisa teach us mere mortals? 

Lisa's honesty and emotional were appreciated by our audience. She also talked about handling failure, and eventually turning this around with her competition surf boat racing team. Too engrossed, I can't relay the biographical detail but I can report what I thought about later arising from what she said. Consider this...

Do you have a goal or an interest? Competitive sport doesn't reward mediocre. Commitment in this context is training every day, not flaking out if the weather doesn't suit.

What are you prepared to do to achieve your goal? You really have to consider all aspects of your life - personal and professional - to make the adjustments needed to reach your potential. Is it worth it? Do you want it? Are you prepared to commit?

Goals are about priorities. Goals help us prioritise the myriad of tasks that wash over us daily. They help us set course and tack back to where we want to go.

It's not about the winning, it's about getting there. The day after you've won gold and the congratulations have been made, you move on. It's really about appreciating progress and what sort of person it makes you. This is really where our resilience comes from, if you think about it. 

I doubt that there was one person there that didn't take at least one powerful lesson home - be they carers in their personal life like me, professional trainers, managers or aspiring newcomers - whether this was a personal goal, a review of work-life balance or a startling new business initiative. 

In some ways, Lisa is quite uncompromising, and this clearly sets her apart. However, if we are less so, and do compromise, it is worth doing so consciously with our eyes wide open and not by default.

Monday, 3 August 2015

The real costs of handling your calls


A recent blog in UK newsletter Call Centre Helper by Carolyn Blunt, Director of Real Results Training, highlights some real choices for businesses - http://bit.ly/1I5NgO4 This blog is written for companies managing their own customer care teams, but when you consider the role of an outsourced contact centre partner like Well Done, it becomes more complex.

Businesses usually hope to reduce the Average Call Handling Time (AHT) of their calls to reduce their costs, but this can be counterproductive if you…

(a) Lose the customer or prospect or

(b) Fail to address the problem and force the customer to call back.

Outsourced call centre providers come under this pressure from clients to reduce handling times and costs all the time, so productivity is a key focus across services.However, industry best practice now suggests that the better approach is to consider the Customer’s Experience. Many corporations are taking the opposite tack to bringing down AHTs. Instead they are providing online tools so that customers mostly don’t have to call and, for those who do call, forgetting about reducing the AHT and focusing on resolving the customer problem so that they will be happy with the service and not have to call back.

Refreshingly, Blunt suggests that in some cases, however, we can address BOTH costs and the customer experience. Simply, she suggests that we think about the impacts of reducing AHT or redesigning the process journey from the customer’s point of view.

For example, reducing AHT is great for customers if this reduces their wait time, so the question we need to ask ourselves instead is ‘what can we do to help with this from the customer’s point of view?’

You may come up with your own answers, but how about:...

  • IVR routing to help you push calls to different answer points so that simple calls can be handled quickly (this could even be an answering service role) and perhaps customers may be prepared to wait a little longer for complex support?
  • Considering what can you do to improve the process for customers? Streamlined processes help reduce AHT, too.
  • What about your systems? Is there an easy link on your system to pull up the customer’s details so that less needs to be checked during the call? Web based systems are best - Virtual Private Network (VPN) and remote log in systems slow handling times dramatically in an outsourced contact centre environment.

Your outsourced call centre provider often isn’t party to this discussion and ends up handling the brief given to them, which isn’t ideal. At Well Done we prefer to see us both working as a team, so don’t be wary of asking us for an opinion!

Friday, 29 May 2015

INNOVATION FOR SURVIVAL


At the 2015 LGPro Annual Conference Dr Amantha Imber, world class thinker and researcher on the topic of Innovation, gave a keynote address on the topic Innovation Survivor: How to Outthink, Outsmart and Outlast [your competition, I presume]. Dr Imber is an innovation psychologist and consultant. She was recently awarded the BRW Client Choice Award for Best Management Consultancy in Australia, she has a PhD in organisational psychology, and she works with major corporates like Coca-Cola, Commonwealth Bank, McDonalds and LEGO to facilitate innovation.

The session was a mix of theory and practice.The theory concerns what we are trying to do when we innovate. The practice recognises that we're human, and suggests ways that we can use the model to create great, new ideas. 

Ideally, the process of innovation has the following elements:
  • Someone submits an idea; 
  • The idea is assessed;
  • If successful, the idea progresses to a prototype.
However, in reality, is this process clear to anyone in your organisation who has a great idea? What is the climate for risk taking in your organisation; how comfortable are people with risk? Even if you have people generating great ideas, does the organisation have the skills to develop breakthrough ideas through to prototype? 

To embrace innovation, Dr Imber recommends that we analyse where our organisation sits in terms of the Innovation Framework (below) and assess the level of commitment that we are willing to make to nurture innovation. 




Which brings us to the key question - what prevents us from innovating? 
I wasn't surprised to hear that the main barrier is our assumptions. If we configure every problem with all the same variables as we have now, often this will prevent a new solution from being found.

Dr Imber recommends that we identify our assumptions and crush them - this might be to give our selves permission to imagine another outcome and ask 'What if the opposite was true?' We should consider all kinds of assumptions, too:
  • Neutral assumptions - in other words, describe things as they are;
  • Negative assumptions - try not to rule out options in your brainstorming;
  • Positive assumptions - recognise that some assumptions may be contingent on factors that may not apply.
For example, how did Apple come up with the iphone, what must be the most commercially successful mobile telephone design to date? They clearly didn't assume that a phone had to have more than one button and their enquiries into touchscreen technology must have followed on from there...

A clever strategy she recommends is to consider how someone else might solve a problem; we could try thinking "like Apple", "like an airline", or "like a gamer".

She also warns against decision fatigue - apparently the research shows that the quality of our decision declines throughout the day, so important decisions are best made first thing. As we get tired, we become more likely to take the easy way out instead of thinking things through.

These days the pressure to keep up and pull ahead is on as never before, yet I always think that being over-busy is the arch enemy of great ideas. Being able to play is key to innovative thinking. Children know it. As adults it's time we gave ourselves permission to think outside the box and play with our ideas, too.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

INNOVATION and COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP



Out of adversity and challenge, innovation. At the recent LGPro conference in Melbourne I had the pleasure of speaking with the graduates of the Brimbank Community Leadership Program. 

Here was a Council that had failed its residents to the extent that the Council was placed into administration and the relationship with residents and ratepayers had to be rebuilt. There were no elected Councillors. The challenge was how could Council earn the trust of its people, identify community leaders, and facilitate their input into Council's activities at all levels. What they did was quite interesting, and I believe quite successful...

Admitting the problem was clearly a start. Council decided to put together a training program to impart leadership skills to potential community leaders and provide in-depth knowledge of Council systems and people. The program has been through a few years now. The first graduates were more drawn from recognised organisations, but the current crop of graduates speaking at the session were interested individuals. People who saw the ad, and wanted to make a difference. They were from a variety of cultural backgrounds and ages.

But how does an individual become a leader? Answers to this varied.
  • Some wore badges so that people could start a conversation out in the community about things that worried them;
  • Some started a small group using rooms provided by Council and leveraging off events Council might be holding that had some traction for them;
  • Some were contacted directly by people needing help (perhaps because there were no Councillors);
  • Some became involved with other groups over time even though they put their hand up to serve as an individual in the first case;  and
  • Some weighed in on issues that came up that interested them simply because they knew how things worked, who to contact, what might be done to help.
Council, for its part, kept in touch. Alumni received regular notifications from Council about upcoming speaker events, quarterly meetings, programs and issues. These community leaders knew Council staff, they were invited to forums and events with special speakers. Many commented on how the program had helped them in their life and career - the program seems to have been a classic win-win.

While the role of these community leaders was a bit like that of a Councillor, there was an important shift. Here Council was trying to help the community solve its own problems. It was not just inviting complaint, it was inviting engagement. This is actually a much better use of scarce public resources, if you think about it. There was even one case where Council staff took an idea developed with the community and fashioned it into a submission for State Government for funding, something that the community alone probably could not have done.

Now Brimbank is an outer metro Council. I live in a regional area myself (City of Shoalhaven) where people have a real sense of community and communities. I had to ask - would this model translate to urban high rise communities? The panel had no hesitation in answering YES. Community gardens, community focus - here's an idea that travels. How's that for DIY innovation? I was utterly impressed.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

SOCIAL MEDIA AS INNOVATION


At the recent LGPro Social Media Conference in Melbourne we received a mind-boggling overview of Telstra's social media marketing paradigm from their Executive Director Communications and Chief Social Officer, Jason Laird. (All credit to Jennifer Bartlett at Red Rebel Communications for organising this.) This presentation became the back drop to all discussion that followed on the theme 'Transforming the way we do business.'

In recent years apparently Telstra decided to use its very scale to its advantage in social media, encouraging all 32,000 staff to use their networks to put out the word across an array of the company's brands. The reward for doing this might be a donation to their local preschool, for instance. Each store now also has its own facebook page. Some use this well, some don't. Telstra is running a numbers game and fielding enough horses in the race is part of the strategy. Most of us would worry about the risk management this approach involves, but Laird described mis-use of social media as a performance management issue like many others. Of those 32,000 only one person has been dismissed following misconduct, and in their view this particular incident could easily have happened on other channels instead. Tellingly, half of Telstra's customer interactions are digital and the rate of increase shows no sign of decline.

Various sessions at the conference looked at uses of social media in local government to meet key objectives - support disaster coordination, provide responsive customer service, promote events and services, engage people in decisions about their communities, give a human face to organisations and promote community spirit in local areas. Generally the people responsible for social media in local government juggled multiple roles and responsibilities and either monitored their channels on an unpaid volunteer basis after hours or not at all.

In some ways the concluding panel session was the most interesting. We considered the known facts, trends and threats:
  • Volumes of social media interactions will increase dramatically as more of the general public (and particularly young people) elect and expect to interact online with organisations; 
  • Social media is an opportunity for a conversation without media intermediaries; many Councils are releasing information on their facebook pages rather than via traditional media releases for this reason;
  • Posting information online is cheaper than newspaper advertisements or home letter drops and is a viable alternative in many instances;
  • We may need to rethink business processes as well as people go mobile - links to submit online are more user friendly than paper forms;
  • Social media engagement can be immediate and measurable;
  • Social media can allow extended conversations around complex issues and help Councils make better informed decisions;
  • Social media can be more effective in engaging particular audience segments (e.g. the young) than traditional channels
  • Social media communication is best harnessed with a whole of organisation approach, a diversity of voices and open two-way communication with audiences; 
  • To do nothing leaves us at risk of irrelevance and mediocrity.
It was a classic innovation dilemma. In this room full of social media practitioners, who was really prepared to let go of control and invite others, perhaps many others, in their organisation into the inner sanctum to post, tweet and respond to the general public? Best thinking indicates that we need to encourage everyone in our organisations to be leaders and nurture innovation. But at the top, we are risk averse and hesitate to let go.

It's a massive cultural shift to be willing to open the agenda to new possibilities, try new approaches, admit the possibility of failure, develop what works, and move on. Some of the younger people attending were quite pragmatic about this, advising that it's OK to make a mistake because it's ephemeral - the discussion moves on in a day or so - just don't 'hurt the brand'. For the older and more risk averse this is a new frontier with new rules, but even most savvy social media practitioners attending were reluctant to release control (even with appropriate user guidelines). We were all put on the spot and left to wonder if, how and why we could open these channels more to others, given the signposts we'd seen in the course of the day.




Friday, 17 April 2015

DIY INNOVATION


There are such roles as Innovation Manager now in the world! I had the pleasure of listening to two such pioneers describe what they do; Rowena Morrow (pictured), Innovation Leader at the City of Booroondara and Rick Bottiglieri, City of Yarra spoke at the LGPro Annual Conference in Melbourne.

They characterised innovation as leadership, but the locus of that leadership varied markedly between the two. Rowena was tasked by her CEO to 'subvert' the order to change processes - outcomes were not specified. Rick took more of a leadership down tack, focusing on activities to generate new ideas at the top. I will focus on the bottom up approach here because I think that it is intrinsically more challenging for Managers to invite innovation from their subordinates, and this approach can potentially yield more results.

There was agreement, however, that important pre-conditions must be put in place for effective innovation - leadership and strategy. By this, they meant:
  • Clear understanding of the purpose, vision and goals of an organisation
  • Passion - managers must walk the talk
  • Innovation must be encouraged at all levels
  • Time (space) and resources must be set aside specifically to encourage innovation
  • Someone must be scanning for trends and potential areas for innovation by observing and reflecting on what others are doing and benchmarking the organisation against best practice; and
  • Opportunities must be provided to stakeholders (staff, customers) to give feedback on processes and results.
Further, to support innovation there must be trust. Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum:
  • There must be a mindset to empower and support people to bring innovative solutions to completion;
  • Organisations must build the agility to shift or obtain skills and resources to meet new and emerging needs and opportunities; and
  • Be prepared to make it quick - give change a try and be prepared to let some ideas fail quickly.
Rowena Wallace told us that at Booroondara the innovation initiative started with a few premises:
  • Make space for new ideas;
  • Subvert the hierarchy - anyone can have great ideas; and
  • Talk about challenges, not problems  - what can innovation do for you?
The first step was to allow people to allocate time and space to innovate. For example, there was:
  • The 'Crazy Ideas Group', which focused on users and stakeholders and encouraged diverse input; and how about the....
  • 'Randon Acts of Coffee' iniitative, where people were given coffee breaks with people outside their work teams to encourage them to get to know other parts of the business and build connections; 
  • The 'Ideas Portal ', which invited people to submit ideas online for consideration; 
  • Newsletter stories were published internally about what was possible;
  • Unusual open office layouts were implemented (including some hot-desking) to get away from the physical (and by implication) mental delineation of roles in the workplace; 
  • Ideation Teams - team volunteers invited to look at ideas, experiment with them and evaluate their practical implementation in projects; and
  • Design It Challenges were held where teams of 2-3 people drawn from across the organisation were invited to deliver a report and potentially see it adopted.
The focus was squarely on learning from doing and trying to convert ideas to projects. To this end the following framework was provided to us to illustrate the approach:

It was clearly recognised that engaging staff was the key to making innovation work, so 'Innovation Temperature' surveys were conducted to see where staff rated Council's innovation were conducted at the beginning of the project and progressively thereafter. (By the way, these showed progress!)

This session certainly had me thinking and any medium to large scale organisation could probably find something in these ideas that could be of benefit in their workplace.