Yesterday, I wrote about the “obvious” management practices that are often overlooked. Why does this happen? There are many reasons, but one not often considered is “I was told not to.”
While perhaps not quite so explicit, this happens more often than we like to admit – usually out of a desire to improve the process. The result – making what should be simple, quite complex (like the children’s game Moustrap, which creates a Rube Goldberg complex approach to the simple process of catching a mouse).
Adrian Ott explained this phenomenon well in a recent blog post on Harvard Business Review, saying:
“As psychologist Barry Schwartz has observed, many areas of life are increasingly bound up with rules that limit the ability of individuals to use judgment and make the best decision for the specific situation. … The blame lies with management that sets rigid rules and metrics that disable employee judgment and create so many approval hurdles for mundane decisions, that overworked employees say, ‘Why bother?’ …
“As important as performance metrics are, problems arise when performance metrics become overly dominant as a managerial principle, as they are in too many organizations. Metrics earn an outsized role because managing by the numbers is easier than managing people. …
“Yet customers need more judgment, not less, from the employees they come in contact with. When customers contact a call center, it’s because there is an exception within the existing process and they need judgment that only employees can provide.”
Ott is writing in response to the Delta Airline employees who required returning military service members to pay extra for their luggage. She could as well have been writing about a series of comments from customer service providers I recently read in which they described common practice of disconnecting or blindly transferring a call to another representative. Why? Because any call lasting more than two minutes resulted in disciplinary action for the rep.
Think of the multitude of dissatisfied customers created because of a metric misapplied. How much better (and proven to be more successful) is Zappos approach of two rules for customer service representatives: (1) Do whatever you think is right for the customer. (2) When in doubt, refer to rule number 1.
How simple. Train your employees well, then trust them to do the right thing. Simplicity is the key in successful employee engagement as well. Ron Thomas wrote recently in TLNT:
“What I have found is that small initiatives in each of these situations engage the employee base 100 percent. Whether it was part of a larger initiative or just a one-time event, these type initiatives are almost always successful. They are successful because they are simple.”
What engagement practices are overly complex in your organization? How could they be simplified for greater impact?