Internal Partners

As Don Cherry or Yogi Berra might have said, “It’s not rocket surgery — Dissatisfied servers rarely produce satisfied customers.” Demoralized team members seldom improve the quality of their organization’s products or services.

A large “we-they gap” in many organizations has service/production and support staff bitterly denouncing management, resisting their changes, and mistrusting their improvement initiatives. Meanwhile managers point fingers back across the divide and blame frontline people for the organization’s performance problems.

Effective leaders act on a belief system that management systems, organizational processes, and technology exist to serve people – customers and those serving customers, producing products/services, or supporting those who do. The first step to improving an organization’s performance is to better serve the servers and producers. This “servant leadership” means closing “we-they gaps” and bringing all parts and levels together as partners focused on improving service/quality to the organization’s customers.

Signs of Weak Internal Partnering:

  • Servers/producers are regarded as the source of service/quality problems.
  • Servers/producers are treated as employees not partners.
  • Blurry line of sight to external customers, especially for support staff.
  • “Internal customer” tyranny between departments/divisions that often has little to do with improving service/quality to external customers.
  • The voice of the customer is rarely heard beyond the front serving/sales lines.
  • Servers/producers are serving management and internal bureaucracy more than external customers.
  • We/They Gaps between departments/divisions and/or servers/producers and management.
  • Trivializing the views of servers/producers as “not reality, just their perception.”
  • Managing to the lowest common denominator with rules and policies that convey mistrust and treat people like children.

Keys to Internal Partnering:

  • Review customer feedback to trace how negative internal culture, systems, and processes cause poor external service/quality levels.
  • Partner with servers/producers to identify and remove/reduce those issues that are reducing their satisfaction and effectiveness.
  • Involve servers/producers in a continuous service/quality improvement process.
  • Identify and reduce the status symbols, hierarchy, bureaucracy, departmentalism, technical elitism, language, etc. that widen We-They Gaps.
  • Build broad ownership and commitment to customers and service/quality improvement goals.
  • Focus on the majority of people that are trustworthy and take pride in their work not on the tiny minority who may not.

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