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
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