One of the basic qualities of a good leader is the willingness and ability to listen and to act decisively. You have to act before problems grow big or opportunities disappear. This is a lot easier when your process management tool becomes social and collaborative.
The larger and more complex the organisation the harder it can be to distinguish important signals from the white noise of everyday communications. What is the status of our change program? Are people transitioning or are they stuck? Are there any successes we can leverage to encourage the rest of the organisation? Answers to such questions are most often based on anecdotal evidence that you hear through the grapevine. Now there is a way to listen to – and engage with – a large or dispersed organisation in real-time.
Listening to the Voice of the Organisation with a process management tool
Imagine being able to listen in on most process-related conversations that are taking place throughout the organisation? Let’s take a concrete, real-life example.
Jane, a manager I once heard of, was leading a Customer Excellence program. The goal was to ensure that front-line employees became more customer-focused in their day-to-day behaviours. Jane did what most managers would do. She travelled extensively to local sales offices and call centres. Jane recruited customer service “ambassadors”. Finally, she even hired an agency to develop a range of success stories based on what she picked up during her travels. Still, during the first year results didn’t materialise. Jane talked with different people but didn’t get any closer to an answer. At this point in time, the consensus in the organisation was that the program was failing. Jane was reassigned in the organisation and I lost track of what happened.
I don’t know if her program was at the bottom of the change curve or if it was indeed failing. Had Jane picked up those early warning signs in real-time, then she would have acted in time. This brings me to a new way of engaging in a dialogue with people in a dispersed organisation.
Social Tagging as a Way for Leaders to Micro-communicate
If Jane had run this program today, then she could have taken a different approach. She could have included her customer-facing processes in a process community by using a process management tool. This would have allowed her to build a community around each of the company’s customer touch points. E.g. a community around complaint handling that involved people from Customer Service, Marketing, Senior Management and Logistics. A vibrant community can bring conversations that normally happen in small groups online for everyone to see. For managers in central teams, such as Jane, this would provide a window into the workings of the informal organisation. Jane would have a Newsfeed all customer-facing processes that may have looked like this:
Scanning the discussion on a frequent basis (perhaps with help from team members) would allow Jane to pick up on emerging problems, ideas, tools and successes. She would, in fact, be listening to work-related discussions in the context of the process. Whenever she found something worth noting then she would spend literally 3 seconds labelling the comment or file that she found interesting.
In the process of doing this Jane would automatically be communicating the first signs of change to all the people that are working with the specific process. Everyone working with the process would see this in their news feeds.
Anything that she picks up she can label and allow her team to pick on action items. Now, the excellence team is very attentive and responsive to the organisation. Listening to the organisation and giving feedback to a large group is done in a matter of seconds. Of course, solving problems may be harder but labelling makes it easy to capture and organise information for those regular improvement workshops.