Saturday 28 August 2021

10 Year Anniversary

Wow - 10 years flies by!  

10 years of running my own business.  

Now a total of 18 years of business transformation using systems thinking methods - helping leaders, teams, departments and whole organisations improve how they deliver service to their customers.

Thank you to all those who have sent me good wishes on this anniversary.

And thank you to all of my past, present and future customers - I am very grateful that I have a job that I love so much.


07775 595 595

Thursday 7 November 2019

It’s all about the people.

It’s all about the people.

I was talking to someone this week about “the people” in transformational change. Its always about the people, and often in ways you might not expect.

I’ve worked with Lisa and her Madabout team for years (we’ve known each other about 20 years now…) and I remember vividly one of our first collaborative conversations - about a new piece of work she’d won to help train hotel receptionists.

The receptionists were getting lower than expected scores on their NPS.  So some ‘happy’ training planned.

I was obviously delighted with her win.

Then I asked some questions.
  • Why are the receptionists unhappy?
  • Surely the HR Director didn’t recruit unhappy receptionists?
  • What has happened to make them unhappy?

It certainly turned the assignment on it’s head.

And using some basic root-cause analysis soon highlighted the real issues - management had tasked the receptionists with jobs to do at vital times - such as cashing up the till at 8am as the guests were trying to check out…  

And the root cause of that was because the central Finance Director needed cash reports at a fixed time in the afternoon, and the message had been relayed down the chain - whilst everyone forgot about the customer, and about purpose…

So, yes, people did need training.  But not the happy people that had been employed, and who’d then got upset…

This happened many moons ago - and yet it’s a common issue that I continue to see.

At a seminar this morning hosted by Michael Page and Change Associates, the guest speaker - Matthew Taylor from the RSA - talked about the challenges of employment in the modern age (not just IR35 issues) having been tasked by the PM in 2017  - and produced the paper : Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.  He also talked about how business should be focussed on “Creating Community with a Cause” - and I couldn’t agree more.

Having been undertaking system change programmes for years, I’ve left my clients with all sort of ‘nice problems to have’:
  • The Council Chief Executive who was surprised at the smiles on his teams’ faces, and ‘thank you’ cards from citizens,
  • Contact centre managers where staff weren’t leaving because they were enjoying their jobs because they were allowed time to investigate issues and resolve to conclusion,
  • The Managing Director who is driving his business, taking control of sales, and is successfully expanding, and
  • Working with a couple of bright-young-things in a council Highways department who very quickly picked-up the baton and ran with some tremendous service improvements.

What matters.

You can’t beat it.

Want to know more:
 - about Matt Arnold
 - give me a call on 07775 595 595
 - email on

Thursday 17 October 2019

The right information - right first time

Whether it be electricity billing, payroll services, or fixing potholes, ensuring the work starts correctly with the right information is often the first issue I discover as I undertake my diagnosis.
  • Why aren’t all the electricity bills going out? Because not all the information about the customer has come from sales, and/or not all the meter technical details have been transferred across, and/or other data that was due in still hasn’t arrived….
  • Why is the person that has left still being paid?  Because the process for a manager to contact a remote HR/payroll team is too complicated, something else causes a distraction, and the deadline gets missed…
  • Why are gangs of workers not able to fix the problem on site?  Because they’ve been given inaccurate, incorrect, or out of date information to undertake the work. They arrive on site and then can’t complete the work…

It’s easy to dismiss these things as simple issues that happen sometimes.  But in all of these examples, they were happening every day, day-after-day, and often for years.  
All of them hit the bottom line directly.
  • I’ve seen double digit percentages of unbilled utility accounts, all hitting profit, undoubtedly worth £m’s…  We analysed the system of work, and the majority were resolved over a few months.
  • I’ve seen teams of people dealing with over and under payroll payments - all of them unnecessary if they had the information right-first-time - certainly worth many £000’s per year…  Designed out in hours, and fully implemented in weeks.
  • I’ve seen organisations where at least one of their twenty gangs (man/men in a van) have been stuck in the depot each day.  They don’t earn if they’re in the depot.  Approximately £1000 a day.  £1/4m per year…?  Re-engineered over a few weeks with all the team on board, and the problem resolved.

It has the potential to happen anywhere, sitting there undiagnosed and often unseen, and yet can be the key to customer service, and improved margin.

Want to know more:
 - about Matt Arnold
 - give me a call on 07775 595 595
 - email on

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Are you twice as busy as you should be...?

In my last post, I talked about the potential waste in systems and processes in the service industry, call centre, and processing centres.  So I’d thought I’d add another simple example.

I was helping an HR Director with one of her Payroll Managers and teams.  The team just seemed so busy - twice as busy as the felt they should be.

So, we got stuck in and looked at the flow of work:

Timesheets : about 10,000 were received each month, with half arriving from outside the UK.  We soon found that many were coming through with errors - incorrect cost code, no signature, can’t read the writing.  Many had to be returned.  And then even some of those were sent back with further errors.  Back and forth, back and forth.  The total number of touches was closer to 20,000.  Literally doing all the work twice.

Expense forms : same again.

New starters : often not enough data to process the first payment in time, resulting in re-work, chasing telephone calls, and an unhappy new member of staff.

Leavers : a complicated process, often resulting in the continuation of payment of the employee had left, resulting in difficult additional work to collect he over payment.

Literally, doing everything twice. Everywhere. Every day.

And it’s worth remembering:
  • everyone was trying to do a good job
  • and if you’d walked through the office, everyone would be looking busy (probably a little frazzled)

It takes different thinking to stop, look at purpose, the value work, the waste work, the flow - and to start thinking about a different way.

I’ve seen the same in banking, billing, debt collection, payroll, HR, ‘man and van’ systems.

And automation isn’t the answer - without the right approach, it’s very easy to think these working practises are ‘normal’ and end up embedding them into a new automated system/process.

So, doing everything twice - costing twice as much as it should, or half as efficient as they could.

Need a hand taking a look…

 - give me a call on 07775 595 595
 - email on
 - about Matt Arnold

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Doing a good job? Or not? Or not sure…?

It’s easy to walk into a large contact centre or processing office and see lots of people, head-sets on or working from screens - all looking busy - but are they really being effective…?

But take a closer look, and it doesn’t always look so rosy. Without purpose, you can very quickly find yourself, and your organisation, getting very busy, but unknowingly going around in circles.

Let me give you an example I came across a few years ago, a large government body who was managing ‘grants’ (for want of a better word) to certain vulnerable adults to help them live an independent life.

Prior to meeting their CEO, I took a look through their glossy report and accounts for the year.  In large, bold writing across a number of pages they showed how hard they were working by quoting the volumes of work they were processing: 

  • Staff c.280
  • Applications of c.9000 (per year)
  • Post at over 150,000 items (per year)

Sounds good doesn’t it - nothing to see here.

And trust me, everyone was working hard, was well-intentioned, and committed to doing a good job.

But when you understand purpose, customer, value demand and waste work, you begin to understand where to look and which questions to ask.

So, some simple maths from the example above:

  • This is equivalent to giving 1 application, to a cross-sectional team of 8 people, and allowing them a whole day between them to complete the application.  ie, 8 man-days to complete one application.
  • And each application appears to involve, on average, 17 pieces of post.

This doesn’t sound very efficient.

And it’s like this everywhere I go:

  • I worked in a large service centre where 100 or so agents are working on billing customers.  Each month, a few customers weren’t billed, and those customers weren’t billed the next month either, and so on.  This got to the point where 10% of the customers where unbilled at the end of each month.  Working with the team, we uncovered the complexity of the unbilled accounts, worked them a different way (by working to conclusion, account-by-account), and resolving root cause issues for the whole customer base.  In-month unbilled reduced to 2% within just a few months.
  • My first assignment at a Housing Benefits department was taking 59 days end-to-end to complete each claim.  I was able to reduce this to 19 days by doing things right-first-time and removing the waste work.  The last time I was in Housing Benefits, we managed to reduce the work such that half of all claims were undertaken in less that one hour.

The advantages of doing it right in both these examples is enormous.
  • Massive improvements in customer satisfaction.  
  • A significant cost reduction as work is processed once, and not multiple times. 
  • Massive improvements in staff satisfaction.

As I said above - these services are full of great people, doing some great things.  What’s difficult to see in the day-to-day busyness of the office, is that much of the work is just contributing to going round in circles.

This isn’t just changing the processes. It’s changing the whole system, including the management system and the way people think about their work.

Most of these examples were solved by:

  • senior management looking at the root cause
  • allowing staff to spend as much time as needed to resolve the issues, rather than the usual ‘2.5mins’ allowed in calling handling
  • working on ensuring information is gathered right-first-time.

It’s the management team that need to understand there’s a better way of doing things.

I’ve recently been getting involved with some organisations that help vulnerable adults and homelessness - great people, doing some great things, helping those most in need.  The system of work is surprisingly similar to office type work, and I’m worried the same thing is happening there.

These are examples of waste-work that is locked-in the system - hiding in plain sight.  I have no doubt that it is the same in other industries:

  • health care - we know there is great work going on in hospitals and surgeries, and yet there is the frustration of multiple visits, poor communication between departments, the feeling of being forgotten, the next appointment in 2 months etc…
  • adult social care - where a vulnerable adult is passed from one siloed department to another, each team getting a ‘tick’ for completing their thing, but leaving the customer feeling like they’re going round in circles…
  • homelessness - where having poked around this system in recent months, I fear there are many many people, all working hard, but probably in a way that is sustaining the problem, not resolving it…

For a better understanding of where the benefits lay, click on the links below:

Want to know more:
 - about Matt Arnold
 - give me a call on 07775 595 595
 - email on

Thursday 11 April 2019

Take your customer's view

I came across this picture a while ago.  It’s a bit of fun, but a good reminder to always take your customers’ perspective - what’s it really like to interact with your own service?

So, the question for the picture above, what number space has the car parked in?

I’ve seen some great examples over the years:

  • incorrect telephone (IVR) paths that don’t work, where no-one had tested it…
  • continually chasing customers for bill payment, where the bills were continually full of errors…
  • customer services teams focusing on customer complaints, rather than what is actually causing the complaints in the first place…

If you really want to find out how good your service is, go and be a customer.  Shadow some customers through your service and see what they experience.

Need a hand with this, then call me on 07775 595 595.

Oh, the answer : 87

Just turn the screen around ;-)

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Book Review : Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

A fascinating book that explores the economy as a system of many factors, offering up a new way of measuring success as we face multiple global challenges.

How do we measure the state of the economy - easy - GDP%.  A single number - 1.5%, 2.0% 3.0% - and we immediately have an understanding of whether things are good, bad, or changing.  Or do we?  What is growth?  What does it really mean? And is it really right for the 21st century?

In Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth, Raworth asks these questions and begins to formulate a way to pull together the keys issues of the 21st century, and builds an economic framework around: resources, climate, pollution, as well as the social foundations for health, wealth and well being.

It highlights how the economic models of the early/mid 20th Century may have been useful then, when it seemed like ‘growth’ would continue forever with infinite resources available and the earth could service anything, but we need to look differently now.  It’s a ‘Whole System’ approach that ensures we balance the system, and consider all aspects of modern life.

It makes you wonder how we survived with measuring such a complex system with just one percentage figure….

Read more about Doughnut Economics here:

Buy the book here: