We saw in a previous post that one of the best ways to improve performance was not to push to people to make impossible things but to get rid of the constraints that crub their performance. Once that said, if the vision is understandable by everyone (rather than trying to push something large in a blocked thin pipe, better unblock and enlarge the pipe), it’s still useful to see what can be done in the day to day work.
So let’s find out what those constraints are and how to get rid of them. This will also be a good way to understand that enteprise 2.0 is not a goal by itself but a trigger to achieve organizational goals.
• Ressources constraints
It’s possible that not enough ressources are available to help people to achieve their goals. But it may also happen that the matter is not the amount of ressources but their availability and their identification. By availability, I mean that employees spend a lot of time doing unproductive things. I’m not talking of facebook or any internet thing but the needed time to find the ressources they can rely on (the so-called ressources not being available too…) or the time wasted for unnecessary coordination or reporting. By identification I’m talking about the difficulty to identify the “right and revelant people” within the organizsation according to a given need. Generally speaking, it’s possible to do more with the same or less people by getting rid of the the time spent in useless intermediation activities.
Other key ressource : information. The fact it’s hard to find the right information because one’s overwhelmed with wrong, useless or unsollicited information also play its part.
Worth exploring : social networks and communities (how Cisco was able to deliver more by working in a “community” mode), the “right plumbing” that helps to find the right information without being flooded by useless things. And, once, again, social networks to improve information’s availability thanks to the people-people-information link.
• Time Constraints
There are two kinds of time-related constraints : time as a ressource and the difficulty to find “common times” to work together. Even if the first was dealed with in the previous point, asynchrounous exchanges made possible by web 2.0 tools, blogs, wikis, social networks or video are a good way to get rid of this constraint.
Worth exploring : exchange platforms inspired by the general public web and adapted to corporate business requirements.
• Policy constaints
I’ll distinguish two kind of policies : those that are social and those that are laid down directly or undirectly by the organization
Social constraints come frome the corporate culture and the management model. If the habit is to do nothing without one’s superior approval, even the most trivial thing, without any reason except that “it’s like that”, or if the so-called superior want to give his opinion about everything, even pointless things, be sure it has a real impact on the speed of decision making and action. And sometimes it impacts the simple fact things are done or not. This leads us to management issues, mainly in companies when “management by fear” is the rule. When people are afraid of doing anything, of proposing, of trying, there is no surprise if things happen very slowly or if they don’t happen at all.
Then come the policies laid down by the organization. Of the the most obvious example is the impact of the evalutation and rewarding models on the way a group operates. They would be more efficient if they helped each other ? But in order to get a good evaluation and the related rewards and bonuses they have, in the best case, to ignore each other, in the worse case to play the one against another.
It’s, for instance, the cumulated consequence of both that block any kind of innovation in many companies.
Worth exploring : it’s the very notion of leadership (2.0) that has to be reinvented. Evaluation models aligned with what matters could also be a great point, as well as stopping to focus on local optimization when facts need us to think in terms of global systems.
• Sales constraints
How can you staff produce more if its production depends on sales..that are not made. You can put all the pressure you want on them, it will be useless since the issue is elswere. So sales people have to sell more / faster. A few trends observed these last years can help :
- adhoc teams for each opportunity, making possible to quickly gather scattered expertises located in many departments / locations, in order to provide the prospect with the best offer. This is made a lot easier by internal social networks platforms. The impact is obvious on both the quality and relevance of the offer and the lenght of the sales cycle.
- the so-called platforms also make it easier to build up the best practices that improve the average sales performance and the newcomers ramp up.
- in the same way, it’s easier to upsell (or retain current customers) when you can build an continous relationship with them, in a project or an informal mode, in the appriopriate kind of discussion spaces. Here again it dramatically lowers the sales cycle.
- if you sell through chanels, with retailers, these practices have to be scaled up : imagine, each of your retailer on is territory, on his market, being able to replicate the others’ best practices and being engaging continuous conversations between his experts, yours and his alter ego’s ? This social network approach applied to retail chanels may bring significant results.
Worth exploring : mobilize expertises in adhoc team that involve people beyond the sales force, increase the average level by improving best practices transfert, scale these practices through your retail network. There again, tools won’t do the whole job, but enterprise social networks will support you initiatives, power them.
• Marketing constraints
We broached the sales performance issue in the above lines. But don’t mistake ourselves : even the best staff can’t sell what’s unsellable. What’s said in other words means that sales performance is made easier when the product is good, the positionning is good to, the discours is credible, the corporate and product image are good and the price is unbeatable according to the perceived value. It’s what Goldratt calls the unrefusable offer. An easy shortcut could makeus say that listening to the “voice of the customer” should be enough to provide the market with an offer people won’t be able to refuse. It’s not that simple.
I’ll spare you the explaination of the “unrefusable offer” which is perfectly done in the above mentioned article. On the other hand we can wonder about the best means to gather the informations that help to determine what is valuable for the client, to what extent and, if need be, to make the client be conscious of a need he sometimes ignore. More than listening to his voice, it’s about co-building an unique value proposition. This implies a deep understanding of the client’s context that only a continuous, trusted relationship with continuous informal exchanges makes possible. Even if it’s far from being enough, a community long term approach may be very useful. The few returns of experience I have from people using this method are clear : the best way to have the needed information and to build such an offer is to have a deep and intense relationship with the client, which is the condition for fruitful exchanges that help building the unrefusable offer.
Worth exploring : learning to know and understand each client and it real needs, take him to express what he’s not necessarily aware of buy building a trusted long term relationship. Technology will not make miracles but will host these trusted networks and the conversation they will produce as well as keeping the attention (and the tension) between two meetings “in real life”.
• Human behaviors constraints
The first that comes to my mind is lack of trust, which is the main cause of many blocks and barriers to performance. Lack of trust between managers an staff, among staff…many reasons that make people…not doing anything, or doing things badly or slowly, that intermediaries are added and that, at the end, an incredible energy is wasted keeping a watch on each other. I invite you to read whatI already wrote about that.
Worth exploring : improving leadership, on profile selection.
To conclude, I can’t prevent myself from having this thought : in the above lines we did nothing but explore how to increase performance by removing constraints instead of adding pressure. We can also wonder if this is not the components of an action plan aiming at a successful implementation of the enterprise 2.0 and management 2.0 concepts in the current organizations. If yes, maybe it’s the first step toward a radically new definition of enterprise 2.0.