Challenge the norm

Written by
Ross Coundon

Challenge the norm

Written by
Ross Coundon

Challenge the norm

Written by
Ross Coundon

This is a blog about field service and workforce management but first I'd like to tell you an interesting (and appropriate, I promise) story about monkeys.  

An experiment allegedly took place a few years ago involving five monkeys. These monkeys are placed in a large cage and at the very top of that cage is a bunch of bananas. And beneath the bananas is a ladder.

As you can imagine, the monkeys quickly spot the bananas and almost immediately a hungry monkey scales the ladder, salivating at the prospect of sinking his teeth into the prize. But as he greedily ascends the ladder suddenly a jet of icy cold water soaks him and all of his friends.

Shocked by what just occurred, all the monkeys sit and take stock of what just happened for a time but it's not long before the lure of the lovely ripe banana proves too big a temptation and another of the monkeys begins to scale the ladder.  You guessed it, all the monkeys get soaked.

Again, they all sit, now somewhat bedraggled, and consider their options.  Some time passes before a third monkey decides the temptation is too much but this time, as he attempts to climb the ladder the others quickly drag him from the ladder and beat him up until he relents.

(Stick with me, I promise there's workforce management context coming shortly...)

Next one of the monkeys is removed and replaced with a new monkey.  Of course, he immediately wonders why on earth all the monkeys are just moping around when there's free food to be had and off he goes to scale the ladder.  Just like before, the monkeys assail him and beat him until he gives up.

Now things begin to get interesting.  Another monkey is swapped out for a new resident.  When he tries to climb the ladder he's beaten by all four monkeys, including the monkey who has  never been sprayed.

This process is repeated until none of the monkeys in the cage have experienced being sprayed with water but  none will even consider climbing the ladder.

I think this is a fascinating study of behaviour in monkeys.  I think it's an even more interesting study of humans.

In a modern field service organisation (See, I told you there'd be context) there are many types of people that make sure the operation functions properly.  The customer service agents, the product specialists, the sales team,  dispatchers, technicians out on the road, to name but a few.  To maintain an effective, sustainable and profitable business, each of these functions must work in harmony within a set of coherent business processes.

This, of course, can be easier said than done but why should it be so difficult?

Do I have the monkey mindset?

Some people thrive on change but the fact is that the majority of people find change difficult.  But change is a fact of life and change is what is needed for a business to grow.  A business cannot expand and stay the same; that's a contradiction in terms.  A struggling business cannot stay the same and become successful.  It sounds really obvious, I know, and sometimes identifying what needs to change can be as difficult as implementing it.

Field services organisations are the ones we encounter the most often because helping those kinds of businesses to become more effective is our speciality.  In doing so, we often encounter people who have inadvertently adopted the new monkey mindset.  Perhaps you've heard it said that,

"...because we've always done it that way"

is the most expensive phrase in business.  I tend to agree.  The new monkeys in the cage adopted obstructive behaviours and mindsets because that's the only way they'd ever experienced the world. They'd learned from their peers, they'd adopted the conventional wisdom and as a result incurred punitive costs without ever really knowing why.

So my challenge to you, the reader, appears quite simple.

Ask "Why?"

The next time a customer appointment is missed - Why?

When a job isn't fixed first time- Why?

When you have a higher rate of customer calls about a particular piece of equipment than any other - Why?

Maybe you spend hours and hours every week rekeying work orders between systems - Why?

Or a customer calls and asks what the status of their work order is and you don't have the information to answer them - Why?

A VIP customer logs an emergency call and you don't know where the closest engineer is? - Why?

When your performance appraisals for your field staff are mostly subjective - Why?

Do you struggle to attract new staff to your workforce - Why?

This list is a simply a subset of typical questions we encourage our customers to ask themselves.  Of course, some of these questions may not apply to your workforce but I guarantee you that there are activities within your operation that are being performed in a particular way simply because that's the way it's alway been done.

It's often difficult to even notice that this is occurring because we develop convenient blind-spots that help us to unconsciously justify our actions.  Sometimes we need outside help to reveal where our blind-spots are. That's when investing in some time with a consultancy with a proven track record for determining areas ripe for change and the management of the implementation of that change quickly pays dividends.

We’d love to hear from you if you’d like a critical friend to help identify the areas of your business that are holding you back.