In my work, I spend a fair amount of time helping people bring
change to their companies. That’s what improving customer service is
all about. The companies that make a substantial and permanent
improvement in how they serve their customers have discovered how to
change their organizations.
Seth Godin has some useful things to say about this. Here’s a great example from his latest book, Tribes:
“Sternin went to Vietnam to try to help starving children.
Rather than importing tactics he knew would work, or outside techniques
that he was sure could make a difference, he sought out the few
families who weren’t starving, the few moms who weren’t just getting by
but were thriving. And then he made it easy for these mothers to share
their insights with the rest of the group.”
Godin goes on to quote Jerry Sternin:
“The traditional model for social
and organizational change doesn’t work. It never has. You can’t bring
permanent solutions in from outside.”
This is powerful stuff. This tells us we need to think and act
differently than we have been. The old model, as Sternin points out,
has been to look outward for the big solutions. So we hire consultants
to come in and tell us how to do things better. And sometimes that
But mostly it will not. Here’s why.
Unless your organization is completely dysfunctional, you already
have most of the solutions you need. They exist in the knowledge,
creativity and experience of your management, your employees and your
customers. These people know your company best. Put them all together
and nobody has more insight into how your company works.
The key is to engage all three of these groups so they want to find
and implement solutions. I call this “getting everyone involved”. To do
this you need to create a persistent and transparent flow of
information between these three groups.
This enables you, as a manager or leader, to dive deep into the most
valuable asset your organization has: your employees and customers.
Find out what your customers want from you. Figure out how to deliver
that in a way that is sustainable and meets your goals. And ask your
employees and customers to help you deliver on that promise.
It’s okay to get help from the outside. You need to keep abreast of
what’s going on in the world. And bringing in new ideas from the
outside can be healthy. Otherwise you risk becoming stagnant and inbred.
But don’t expect complete solutions from the outside. Don’t look
outside for every detail on how to implement your plans. Just because a
specific model or plan worked in one company does not mean it will work
for yours. Because your company is different.
The key is to take in the best ideas and from them synthesize a
solution that will be most effective for only one company: yours. And
you need to do this with your people: you employees, your managers and