In the person-to-person enterprise, smart leaders avoid specific policies whenever possible, stating instead the principles they wish to embed in the corporate culture.
“Person-to-person” is the phrase introduced in my upcoming book, Lewis’s Laws (IDG Books, due on shelves next March), to describe how businesses will operate in the emerging post-process era. It means business success depends on how well individual employees connect with individual customers. A person-to-person business puts employees in the middle and views processes and procedures, information technology, knowledge-sharing systems, along with the telephone and office furniture, as nothing more than resources each employee may use to be more effective.
As for IT standards … the policy-ridden centerpiece of many IT organizations’ relationship with end-users … in the person-to-person enterprise these are defined and managed to make employees’ computing environment better, not more restrictive.
The following story, related by a regular reader, did not come from a person-to-person enterprise:
“My wife manages a help-desk call center. The IT department in her company is responsible for, among other things, maintaining the telephones. During a recent week, the telephones went down six times, for a total of about 7-1/2 hours. This was a very serious problem. My wife had one of her people create a simple Microsoft Access table listing the date, time and duration of each outage and sent it in an email to the IT manager. She asked the IT manager to fill in columns listing the cause of the outage and the corrective action taken in each case.
“When the IT manager received the email, she called her staff together. However, rather than talk about the problems with the telephones, the discussion centered solely on how to stop users from using an application (Microsoft Access) that wasn’t supported by that IT group. The telephone problems were completely ignored.”
Please pay close attention. In the person-to-person enterprise, the proper response to a reported problem is a root-cause analysis, not a shot aimed at the messenger. A crash-prone phone system does not promote employee effectiveness. When the problem persists, end-users have every right to ask what’s being done to fix it.
All is not lost, though, because the same IT department prides itself on monitoring the quality of its (internal) customer service. As evidence, my correspondence offers the following, related by a director within the IT department:
“The IT department sent out an electronic survey to the users within the company asking how the department is doing. When all of the responses were received, the IS department threw out all of the bad responses. Then, to partially offset the obvious bias caused by doing that, they also threw out the “really” good responses. (I’m not sure what criteria they used to define “really” good.)
“Evidently this is the practice that they have been using with this survey for a number of years.
“When the company CEO asked the CIO about the results of the survey, the answer was: ‘We are above average. The results are really the same that they have been for the past few years.'”
In a person-to-person enterprise, the goal of end-user surveys is neither self-congratulation nor self-flagellation. Surveys are a tool for finding opportunities to help employees become more effective.
In the person-to-person enterprise, employee effectiveness is the name of the game.