Saturday, June 06, 2009


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· Introduction to Architecture
· Architecture Leads to Improved Service ... or Not
· Exemplar from Tom: Planetree Alliance
· More Tom: The Customer Comes Second
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Tom Peters Times -- June 2009
Introduction to Architecture

Over the past months the Tom Peters Times has been illustrating the different elements of the Future Shape of the Winner model. We come now to architecture, which is the topic of this issue. Defined as the structure, orientation, and supporting systems of an organization, effective architecture enables people to connect, collaborate, share knowledge, allocate resources, and work productively. If the architecture is well-designed, it provides a framework within which the talent of the organization can execute its purpose in the most efficient way possible.

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Architecture Leads to Improved Service ... or Not
Architecture Leads to Improved Service ... or Not
I've recently had the frustrating experience of supporting my elderly aunt whilst she was being treated for "severe mobilisation problems" in a big general hospital in Southern England. She was admitted when she was no longer able to get out of bed unaided. In this case, the medical treatment and nursing care provided by the UK's National Health Service were excellent. But the continuity of service was poor, so much so that after four weeks in hospital, my aunt came frighteningly close to being discharged with a broken hip that hadn't been detected!

Connecting the different elements of patient care involved appeared to be no one person's responsibility. It seems that the only person who looks at things from the patient's point of view is the patient! (see Tom's recent U.S. healthcare-related rants) We might quickly become very critical of the people who deliver the customer service, but there is a bigger picture to consider. Institutions like the UK's Health Service are full of committed professionals who want to give their patients good service. Excellence is required, so these people must be placed in a context that sets them up for success. The organisation Architecture (structure, systems, processes) must make it easy for them to connect and collaborate with others in the customer value chain. The Performance dynamics (goals, rewards, incentives) must be balanced carefully to generate the desired behaviours and avoid unintended side effects.

Organising service delivery along value streams is conventional business wisdom these days, with companies like Amazon delivering seamless, personalised service at very competitive costs. But it is one thing to set a company up from scratch to deliver such excellent service, and entirely another for mature organisations with ingrained attitudes and practices to do the same. Like many complex organisations with a wide array of professional specialities, the Health Service's Architecture organises people into functions and silos. Each function has its own targets and measures performance individually. The sense of being part of a customer service value chain seems to be low in management's priorities. Some individuals take that responsibility very seriously and work heroically to deliver service to the patient, but others seem to distance themselves from problems that are out of their immediate control.

Setting departmental performance targets improves some aspects of the service to patients. However, the unintended consequence of over-focusing on these targets within a functionally based structure is to distract people away from the primary purpose of the whole organisation and patient (customer) care. Then situations such as my aunt's arise!

What can leaders do if they are concerned their business architecture may be disrupting their customer service? First and foremost, it is vital to step back and take a holistic view of how service delivery fits with the organisation's other priorities, as people perceive them. The Architecture and Performance elements are incredibly powerful determinants of organisation culture, and often set up behaviour patterns, helpful or otherwise, which are incredibly hard to shift. Just listen to the squeals of opposition we're hearing now from banking circles at the very notion that their bonus culture has to change!

Here are some suggestions for taking on these two powerful elements in your team:

• Read Tom's XF50/Cross Functional 50 List for things you can do to counter the disruptive influence of a silo structure and mentality.

• Collect and share feedback about customer experiences AND employee feedback about their experiences working for your business.

• Show that this feedback is important to you and to your business.

• Set up your own informal "customer experience group" to build relationships up and down your supply chain.

For those who'd like to be more scientific about finding out where the most promising targets for improvement lie, take a look at TPC's Excellence Audit and Future Shape of the Winner model. By involving key players on your team, you can discover their ambitions and frustrations, and prioritize improvement activities that will engage their full-hearted contribution. See also our new Distance Learning package for those who want to incorporate FSW thinking into their own business or practice.

Madeleine McGrath
Managing Partner, UK
Consultant, Facilitator

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Exemplar from Tom: Planetree Alliance

For a real-life example of a patient-centric healthcare vision, take a look at Tom's PowerPoint that showcases the Planetree Alliance. In one of the opening slides he describes the practice: "In the midst of ceaseless gnashing of teeth over 'healthcare issues,' the patient and frontline staff often get lost in the shuffle. Enter Planetree. While oceanic systemic solutions remain out of reach, Planetree provides a remarkable demonstration of what healthcare--with the patient at the center--can be all about."

The subject of patient care stirred up quite a debate recently on tompeters.com, with Tom's Ways to Succeed #162, titled "Process > Outcome. Happy Staff, Happy Customers. Kindness Is Free! (Kindness SAVES $$$$.)" In this post, Tom reiterates the Planetree difference of understanding how patients feel about receiving healthcare. He concludes that
(1) Process "beats" outcome in evaluating an "experience"--even one as apparently "outcome sensitive" as a hospital stay ...
(2) Happy staff, happy customers. Want to "put the customer first"? Put the staff "more first"!
(3) Quality is free--and then some.

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More Tom: The Customer Comes Second

For Tom Peters to state that the customer comes second seems like a contradiction, but see #2 above, where he claims that to put the customer first you must put the staff "more first." He introduced this notion with a PowerPoint presentation, The Customer Comes Second, and expounded on it with a blog post he called "Sorting Out Causes and Effects." Again, the heart of the matter is that "to put the marketplace customer first, I must put the person serving the customer 'more first.'" We think it warrants some repetition.

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