EN | NL Recognize this? Trying to win the eternal battle to optimise your operational model in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, KPIs, deviation reports, etcetera etcetera? But do you keep running into a wall of demands that you don’t seem to be able to achieve, such as fast delivery times, less production errors and increasingly tailor-made orders for clients?
My dear business friend Rijk van Vulpen and me do. We usually work at organisations at the operational level. We are asked to solve problems such as ‘our clients demand superfast delivery times’ (industrial SME) or ‘the digital handling of interactions with civillians must be faster’ (public sector). We feel that those are not necessarily the right questions to ask. That we are solving issues at the wrong level. That we focus too much on details. That managers try and solve such issues by asking even more checks, thereby increasing the pressure on their employees: the control dilemma.
That is why we have developed a method. A method that results from our pact as reframer (Rijk) and purposer (Marloes). Last week we led a gamified workshop of 2,5 hours at the Enterprise Design conference (Intersection19) in Lisboa (find the slides here) the method, which can be summaried as:
5-step programme | how to escape efficiency-frustrated operational models
#1. In short sprints of a week or month, instigate immediate, small changes that free up the operational manager’s time by evaluating whether the technology offers fast implementable, smart solutions.
#2. Shift responsibility down in the organisation by appointing intrapreneurs and give them a far-reaching mandate for leadership and change. This frees up the manager to move upwards in the organisation towards strategic thinking and thinking ahead.
#3. Investigate the organisation´s purpose. Talk to or let the manager talk to the intrapreneurs, your business partners and friends, back home and to your clients. Why was your organisation originally founded? What do you regard as essential values in your business? What is the connection between your capabilities and your ideal customer’s needs? What gives your intrapreneurs energy? Don’t get too concrete just yet, but think of one of the following 7 domains from Amica’s ZENITH value system: Progress, (self) Improvement, Trust, Connection, Safety, Performance, Freedom. Turn this into a catch phrase specific to your organisation, which can act as a handle for further implementation among the intrapreneurs and as a point of direction for organisational change.
#4. Look for three reframing themes that are valid for both you and your clients. One of the three themes should be the value you selected in the previous step. For instance: Progress, Surprise, Sustainability. Now look for a frame, a metaphor, that solves these three themes simultaneously. This can be something out of the box, such as a three star restaurant. What does this metaphor teach you? What new, suprprising operational model can you imagine that delivers the value proposition (which follows from your purpose)? Plan this implementation by means of a strategy method such as the Intersection stack.
#5. Realise that the steps above are impossible. Because: who possesses exactly the right ingredients to make all of this actually work? The mandate, budget, agreeing actors in the value chain?
Point 5 is of course no fun at all. We experience monthly that our interventions don’t work. Or that our clients don’t get where we are going. Or think we are too out there. Or feel the job is done after step 1. Or move in an opposite direction in between sprints. And still it is important to know and commit to this framework. Among the mentioned topics you might find hooks that your client or manager agrees on, which can then act as openings to start moving upwards in the organisation. If you envision a clear path, you just might show signs of leadership, and get people to follow you.
A key ingredient: a fellow warrior. Rijk and me did not make a pact for nothing. Do you know anyone who reads books about purpose or reframing? If not, we’ll gladly think along with you, on a we-also-don’t-know-peer-to-peer-level. And we’ll share our further reading with you. So mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because with a fellow warrior, you will surely escape from the unwinnable battle for efficiency.