It’s difficult these days to blog about work, but work is what I’ve been mainly caught up with. Perhaps I can refer to general ideas which many of you may identify with, without being very specific.
My concern, as always, is about doing work that isn’t strategic or scalable.We could very well be doing work that can actually be delegated to others, or outsourced more completely. Apply a little managerial accounting (activity-based costing + opportunity cost) and the truth will out. But there are many other factors coming into play, such as our own uncertainty, our newness to the role and the need to be in control, and a limited budget (which is usually an issue for everyone isn’t it?).
The other thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to conform to whatever system has been designed for them. Systems are not meant to sit around for years, untouched, becoming increasingly irrelevant as needs change.
For instance, a system may capture generic information when it can actually pinpoint the needs of specific customers or segments. Why don’t we fine tune that further, just like how the market-oriented MNCs do it? Don’t tell me “we can’t do it because we are not an MNC” - I need a better reason than that.
I’ve also noticed there is usually a fear that IT will fail, and changes take time and money. Improvements are seen from a short-term, cost perspective far more than from a ‘benefits’ perspective, because costs are immediately visible, but benefits take place over a longer period of time and are harder to quantify.
Others who do see the need for change may not have authority to do so. But, the world around us is changing and we must adapt to it. Not all the time, of course, for that would be more effort than it’s worth, but surely it can be done in strategic phases. Look at it another way - we probably spend more time servicing and upgrading our cars and other gadgets, than the valuable systems we use at work to serve our customers better. Isn’t that a shame?
Another area of neglect which I’ve noticed through my various work experiences, is the user interface. Ah, not a very important or strategic area, you may think? Well, think again. Think of the time spent by each employee figuring out an inherently confusing interface, as well as the hours spent giving training, and the fact that many employees use the systems only when absolutely necessary because they are such a pain to update.
I’ve used other systems, mainly the Web 2.0 offerings, which do not require a thick instruction manual. I enjoy using them, and keep coming back. It’s much easier to spread knowledge and keep track of things when it feels almost effortless.
I challenge all internal systems providers to think of your internal product as if it would be sold to the market. Would anyone buy it, or would your rivals outclass you? What would you do to make customers want to use your product more? And what is stopping you from doing it?
Beyond these knowledge management and operational efficiency aspects, another challenge I’m throwing will be to bosses. What makes you a boss? Is it purely your rank, your extra years of experience, your qualifications? Or should the title of ‘boss’, ‘manager’ or day I say ‘leader’ be also conferred upon you, by those above, around and especially, below you?
In the words of my dean, Frank Brown, are you a LINO - a Leader In Name Only?
How often do you make the effort to mentor your team members, if at all? Or do you come in mainly after the work’s been done, because it is easier to judge then. and you’re too busy to guide them at the beginning? Do you also look at potential rather than where things stand, presently? Do you have a big vision that can be articulated to your team, or are you merely following orders? How do you deal with top performers and poor performers? How do you set a good example, foster a healthy, open work culture and incentivise your team to focus on the right things?
These are all questions I would ask before making a decision to stay or leave. And the jury’s still out on that.