Between customer experience, culture & transformation I’ve written 10 articles (will list and link them at the end of this one) in last two years alone: collective views on organizational set up has also emerged as most liked and read category of all my articles, a close 2nd being my thoughts on politics, history and social commentary on recent events. I’m not surprised by this at all, for the fact that after educational institutions the longest time that I’ve spent in any set up is organizational, various companies that I’ve had the good fortune of working with, therefore it is only natural that when I write about it … people tend to spend more time on it. So, I thought, for my 2nd last write up of 2018, I should take the count from an ordinary 10 to an auspicious 11; the most logical choice for the next and the last will be a social commentary; do come back for it.
I have written extensively about the benefits of promoting the right behavior and therefore setting the tone for culture to set in and hence to avoid the risk of repeating myself over I wouldn’t get into underscoring it again beyond saying that: We’re a collection of our habits, habits are formed by behaviors and these behaviors aggregated is a good representation of culture of the setup in which one expresses himself, verbally or by his deliveries. Therefore, it is vital to look at the culture at an incident level just as much as it is important to be looked at and understood at an entity level. Cultural signature becomes an inseparable part of one’s identity; it is true for a person, a family, an organization and also a country. We don’t say it as often, but we do assign a lot of importance to it; for instance, Finland is known for its quality education system, Singapore is known world over for its service mindset, Japan is often associated with loyalty and pride, America is torchbearer for individual liberties, England has heritage on its side and so on.
We’re in the process of seamlessly transitioning into a service economy from an agrarian one; manufacturing’s grip has been weakening over the course of last decade with our neighbor, China, making tremendous progress in low-cost mechanized manufacturing. Aggressive investments aren’t being made to boost India’s manufacturing capabilities either, under the current central regime we have observed year on year decline in the manufacturing index, over 80% of new money getting added to the economy is being pushed in the services sector; naturally, ‘service’ is becoming favorite of the business world. There is money to be made in it … everyone is willing to jump in … but do all succeed? You and I know, that it is not the case … many are running in the race only a few will get to make it to the qualifiers, let alone getting any closer to one of the three medals that are there for them to grab. There comes the question … which one will succeed and WHY?
Well, the answer is hidden in the premise of the question: Whichever organization succeeds in making service their working culture will walk away smiling with the trophy; everyone else will have to return unawarded from the show.
What is service, really?
Service in its purest form is a selfless act(s) done to help others will no expectation of a return of any kind. Our setting is not charitable and therefore we will have to modify the definition a little to make it useable. Modified: Service is an act done for others with an intention of solving pain points of the customer (whoever is willing to pay is a customer, either today or in future) by extending convenience to leave him with the feeling of being cared and warm enough for him to return for more (repeat buy/business).
Phrases like – “customer centricity”, “from the perspective of the customer”, “the customer is the king”: are overused, mostly in the context of lip service. Very few, regard what they say in whatever they do. Customers get written about in fancy pamphlets and magazines, designed and drawn on creative posters but more often than not the message remains there. It doesn’t really get translated into real delivery. This failure is attributed singularly to the lack of the ‘culture of service’. Leaders do not supply enough enablement… no real effort is made in shaping behaviors right. Don’t trust me? Open your current annual operating plan and try sighting an item called ‘service culture’ building in it? Chances are you will find toilet paper, tea bags included in the list of spends but not ‘culture building’? Am I wrong? Let’s get real here .. even soft aspects need resources. Things will not change because you find the idea warm .. things will change when you provide it with resources that will keep it warm and buzzing. Business leaders must make real efforts by throwing in the game some skin, invest money and time in building the culture right and then demand a return on it. For instance, if you’re looking at ending the year with a net profit of 18% without any dedicated expenditure on culture building, you should commit bucks to culture building and then demand 25% or perhaps, 30% from your leaders in return, if not in the first years in following years so sure. If real money is being invested it is justified to have a realistic expectation of return from it: Business 1.0.1, isn’t it?
Ever since I began my career as a front-liner, I dreamed of becoming a CEO, one day; I’ve made decent progress … the run thus far has been exciting and God willing, I see myself becoming one in the near future (when and where is not quite known at the moment, but I’m confident, when the time is right opportunity will present itself). I often, think and journal, the lofty ideas and the idols that I’ve picked up from 283 books on management that I’ve read and from being in company of great business leaders, which ones will I implement first and how: No matter how many times I do the math in my head, creating a service culture in my organization comes right at the top of my list of priorities. And to do that below are the three things that I think I’d like to do. When I’m saying this I must make it clear that these may not be the perfect set but one has to make a beginning somewhere and should it fail, the opportunity of course correction will always be provided by the strong intention of being successful in a meaningful way.
1. Create a clear statement of intent: When you deal with large heterogeneous groups of people, you can rest assured of distortion, distraction and sometimes also degeneration among other great things that people achieve, there is the innate conflict between personal value systems and the choices that people make. Let me give you an example: For finding a satisfying meal someone on the Jain diet will look for a place which offers onion and garlic free food. On the very mission, someone on a non-vegetarian routine might love a garnishing of fried onions on their plate of fresh and warm chicken biryani. You see the purpose in both the cases is the same satiating hunger but people from two set of behaviors approach it in ways they find most suitable but unknowingly they are in stark conflict with one another. The organization is no different, such small mindless choices do cause a derailment and therefore a very clear, unambiguous statement of intent is required to be made ubiquitous. Way to do it, through AOP, yes I’d like a culture building spend as an item. Carefully chosen Vision, Mission, and Value charters.
2. Review and Reiteration: Unlike with art & poetry business doesn’t have the luxury of time, it is always strapped for it, duty bound to move quicker than the competition on one end and nimble enough for the consumer on the other end. In the hustle of everyday, it is normal for people to miss the message, not everyone has been fitted with an IQ of 130+, only some of us have that gift and therefore .. missing is an everyday occurrence. Therefore, it becomes essential that with the outcome of the act, the intent is also reviewed just as thoroughly and regularly. Meaning, when you review a business units’ performance, you, of course, will see how well they did on the top and the bottom line, but you will also pose to the team additional questions to understand the intent. Why was a certain action taken, why was a certain product launched, price revised, hiring done etc to gauge accurately and objectively how well the thought process is aligned with the philosophy of the organization. Let not a misaligned intent hide behind results of either sparkling success or frustrating failures. Whenever you find a potential disconnect with the service mandate .. you will need to reiterate. Some will have to be momentary while others will necessitate a more structured intervention through, training, value improvement plans or leadership development sessions.
3. Aligned & committed decision Making: You’ll have to prepare yourself to take tough decisions to protect your commitment to creating a culture of service, it could mean short-term loss in some instances, parting ways with business opportunities or favorite team members and even taking a strong view of one’s own conduct sometimes, here it is important to note that matches are not won in the ring but in the training grounds ( Remember the boxer Mohammad Ali?). If you are building for the future .. if you wish to be remembered then you will have to ACT in conformance, every single time. It is like the route of a drug addict after his rehabilitation, even one lapse could result in a complete reiteration of the addiction. You just can’t slip .. not even once.
The generation that grew up on typewriters will end on palmtops that is amount of transformation that one has to go through in one lifetime, life of an organization is alike, it will need to keep reinventing itself to remain relevant and the “culture of service” as a commitment is worth becoming a constant cornerstone .. because business will exist so long as customers exist and so long as customer exists .. it will pay to love them obsessively hence the culture of service.
As promised, here is a link of other 10 articles written in 2017-18 on organizational setups. Thanks for your time and continued support!