Spray and Pray – The Base Coat

I kicked off a discussion about the hit and hope nature of employee engagement surveys. In summary it’s about why ask so many questions? Are our business leaders that far out of touch that they need to quiz us to that depth?

Jonathan Wilson offered some useful views which I share with you here:

Detailed social surveying produces at least three emotionally satisfying illusions. First is the illusion of activity. Just investing in the survey and getting everyone to complete it is a real activity that engages everyone and takes a lot of time. A survey of 50 questions will probably take a mean of 30-45 minutes to read, answer and submit. In a company of 100,000 people, if 80% respond that means it will takes about 28 person years, or more than £500,000 just to complete, before the costs of processing it.

The second is the illusion of precision. Few people read the small print that shows that any survey is a rough plus or minus estimate with distortions built in. Few surveys will claim retest reliability more than within 5%, 95% of the time. Because they include some percentages, which they choose to show to two or more decimal places, people are misled into thinking they are accurate to two decimal places. Can you measure your own attitude to two decimal places? So do you think they can measure thousands of peoples’ more accurately?

The illusion of precision leads to the illusions of tangibility, grasp and control. We think things we can measure are more ‘real’ than things we find harder to measure. We think we have a better grasp of them and can control them, or at least measure them again.

Other dangerous illusions include a mistaken belief in linearity, that the difference between 4 and 3 is the same as the difference between 5 and 4. On an attitudinal scale of 5, those two differences are huge, the difference between indifference, interest and passionate engagement.
I suggest that every manager should learn and be licensed in statistical literacy before being allowed to take or influence decisions based on survey responses – or anything else actually!

Statistics offer real insights, but rarely answers. Understanding them helps you see the questions better. The challenge is to meaningfully respond to the questions and the challenges they raise. What do you think?

Fear – The Chronic Curse

Candour – or the lack of it.

How many people walk away from meetings and have actually bought into the agreed actions? How much candour is there in most meetings? I find that the people with the least candour in a meeting are often the ones that complain most after the meeting and never really agreed on the actions. This behaviour causes dysfunctional teams, and dysfunctional businesses.

I think that lack of candour is usually caused by fear. For too many people, fear is a chronic curse on their lives. When you see someone rushing, it is because they fear they will be late or miss something. When you see someone interrupting, it is often fear that they may miss their chance to make their point or forget what they were going to say that causes the interruption.

Fear shuts down people’s receptors.

  • When you see people not objecting to bad behaviour, it is fear that constrains them
  • When you see people saying yes when they want to say no, it is usually fear that is driving them
  • When you see people staying silent when they should be speaking out, it is fear holding their tongues
  • When leaders ask, “Is that agreed?”, they often take as agreement the silence that is most people’s greatest protest.
  • When you see senior management not sharing their concerns with junior staff because it might harm morale, it is fear that is causing them to keep their secret. That fear denies them access to the creative minds that may help them solve the problems causing their fear.

And when I say fear, I also mean dread. It goes under other guises too: anxiety, worry, doubt, nervousness, concern, sometimes even sensitivity.

Occasional fear in small quantities is handy. The adrenalin helps you run, fight or hide until the danger is past. But chronic fear cripples and shrivels you. It reduces your mental capacity and your creativity. It isolates you. It disintegrates organisations, teams and people. That is why Roosevelt said, “You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” We can learn to diminish our fears and focus our energies more positively and engagingly. We can learn, and good leaders do, and help their people to generate the confidence and openness that brings the connectedness and resilience that enables teams and organisations to succeed in the most difficult times.

A practical thing that one can do at any meeting is to ask, “What have we agreed to do?” and in turn, “What are you personally going to do to help us achieve what we have all agreed to do?” Then listen for a SMART objective. Anyone is more likely to deliver what he or she hears themselves commit to aloud in front of their peers than to fulfill someone else’s draft of the minutes of a meeting long after the discussion. That commitment and delivery builds positive trust very quickly. Lead the way!

I think this is the first time I’ve gone back and updated a previous post. I want to add a link to a powerful talk I’ve just watched on TEDx. It’s by Jonathan Fields and it’s called, Turning Fear Into Fuel. I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and invest less than 20 minutes enjoying this liberating and interesting talk.

What's The Big Idea?

Following on from yesterday’s insight from Andy Hornby, we promised you a first look today at some exciting developments. So here goes. Well firstly, there are four big ideas. No, make that four and a half.

1 – Cut the distance between our customers and us.
2 – Ambassadorise everyone
3 – Ban incentives
4 – Go public!
4.5 – Personal Service

Cut the distance between our customers and us.

By the time customer feedback makes it from the front line to the policy makers, it has passed through so many filters that it bears little resemblance to its original self. We then go ahead and make policy decisions based on this distorted view. Devolve the decision making close to the edge of the organisation. Speed up.

Ambassadorise everyone

You know when you are down the pub and someone asks “who do you work for?” I think I’ll keep that to myself in case the next question is “well my phone line/broadband/mobile etc etc ain’t working, who do I call?” Use knowledge management to enable me to find the answer and get back to my drinking buddy and solve his problem with him. If 100,000 BT people did that for 5 of their friends….that’s a lot of great customer experiences!

Ban incentives

Are we actually paying people to do dumb things? Everyone comes to work wanting to do a good job and intrinsically they know what’s right. Then we go and spoil it all by offering financial incentives which drive the wrong behaviour. How can that be good for us and our customers?

Go public!

Use the power of social media to share stuff with, and learn stuff from, our customers! Get blogging, facebooking, myspaceing, whatever. Set up a problem blog on BT.com, be open and encourage customers and BT people to answer the questions. The blog you are reading right now came about as a direct response to this idea. We’ve seen evidence of Twitter being used as a means of improving the customer experience too.

Personal Service

Something else that came up repeatedly was the power of the single point of contact. Most of our positive experiences involved the personal touch. So why not replicate that in BT. When you have a customer contact you, it is your responsibility to deal with it, own it and fix it, on behalf of your customer. Personal service from BT – how powerful.
We had great fun coming up with these ideas and we’re working on bringing them to life.

Can we make them work…what do you think?