Friday, August 20, 2010

KeFactors Fridays: Teamwork and Problem-solving

Take a look at this video:

The matter of how teams learn has been studied for decades, and nowhere does team problem-solving become more important than in customer service.

A customer is unhappy…often they don’t know exactly what’s wrong with a projector process, but they feel something’s not acceptable and they want the problem fixed. Or they’ve diagnosed the issue, pointed out the perceivable causes, and they want the problem fixed.

Setting aside team dysfunctions such as chronic distrust, finger-pointing, and extendedgrumbling, let’s consider the dynamics of a team that works well together.

Recognizing patterns. The team has solved complex problems before—in fact, it’slearned from those scenarios, and that knowledge has been faithfully stored in the team’smemory or some sort of company database.

Defined roles and quick responses. The team is so expert at problem-solving, everyoneknows and does their part—often with a great deal of skill, so not a lot of time is wasted.

A history of team successes. This sort of team is often analyzed for the ingredients of their effectiveness, praised at association conferences, showered with professionalrewards. Thus the team knows its knowledge is solid and unbeatable.

The video illustrates “intentional blindness”—made aware of one task, another facet of the picture was missed.

And therein lies the problem—or problems.

1 . “You’re only as good as the problems you fix for us.” Service recovery is oneof the few opportunities we get to show our customers what we can really dofor them. If anything, customers expect a reputable team to fix problems morequickly and skillfully. Pressure’s on.
2 . Misdiagnosis. The team is too quick to diagnose the problem (recognizingpatterns) and arrive at a solution. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is easy when timeand money are running short, and customer displeasure is high.
3 . Failure is a stranger. The team springs into action but when its efforts arenot met with success, a great deal of time is wasted in dismay and growingfrustration—“But this worked with the XYZ account…why didn’t it work now?”

Complacency may be the biggest disease in corporate life today, creating formsof “intentional blindness.” We often have to detach from not only the problem but also our usual problem-solving dynamics to fully perceive everything that’s happening in the picture. Next time your team is confounded by a problem, bear in mind—keeping your eyes on the ball may not be the only fix.

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