Some varied experiences as a customer prompted me to reflect on what makes some organisations feel human while others seem much more “Computer says no…” . Many factors will be influencing that: the economic and industry environment, reward systems, leadership style, training, recruitment practices…and of course culture.
While all of those will have an impact, I’m also curious about how our focus on measuring may be helping and hindering organisations; and shaping the experience of customers and employees. We’re all aware of the saying “what gets measured gets done” and recognise the value that can bring. Perhaps we need to pay attention to the impact of that approach, as often “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done”. Examples are readily found in the NHS where the focus on measurement has created ways of working that are focused on achieving targets like bed occupancy at the expense of compassion and caring which aren’t being measured. In the private sector, we find contact centres where a focus on response rates and call times means that agents are prevented from listening with empathy. In both examples, the measurement is getting in the way of a successful outcome; a rapid recovery for the patient, and a sense of being served for the customer calling the contact centre. There is a temptation to say that we just need the right measures and while that may help, my sense is that we need to think more boldly.
Maybe we need to let go a little and trust the people in the organisation get on with the job. I’m not suggesting abdication, more acceptance that we can’t consciously control everything that goes on in an organisation. Much as we trust our legs to get us across a road safely and our eyes and ears to keep alert for any traffic. We don’t get in the way by setting a KPI for our legs to get across the road at an average of 2mph, instead we focus on the outcome e.g. I want to get across to Starbucks. The consequences of our body having to constantly report performance against KPIs doesn’t bear thinking about, our brain just couldn’t deal with the information overload and our heads would probably explode. Organisations tend not to explode; rather a focus on targets can cause them to implode with data gathering and reporting becoming internally focused cottage industries at the expense of building real connections with employees and customers.
What can you do about it? Start with a couple of questions to reflect on, and ask yourself and your employees:
How clear are we about what really matters in our business and the key outcomes we need to deliver?
How are the measures and targets we have in place supporting employees to deliver what really matters and those key outcomes?