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Conformity

December 10, 2008

Although I speak about conformity, its really about uniformity. That means that the each member of the teams contributes with their own strengths, weakness and uniqueness with the same goals in mind. What this in turn means is that the customer, whoever they may be, gets the same experience each and every time that they deal with the organisation.

Standards will dictate what that experience is what variation to that experience is acceptable.

In this instance, documentation is promotion. Documenting lays it out for all team members to review and measure up against. In dispatching emergency ambulances, we use a system known as the medical priority dispatch system. This system functions both as a check list for the emergency call taker and a set of standards for them to work by. This means that no matter what the emergency is, the call taker sounds professional, provides the right advice and assists the member of public regardless of their level of experience. It also means that each person who calls, gets the same experience, regardless of who they are dealing with.

What this means is that each team member has the same goals and same tools to achieve them. It also gives the organisation an opportunity to measure their effectiveness by controlling one element of their service. This means that any improvements the organisation makes are not by pure chance.

If this was not effectively documented, how would this knowledge be disseminated?

Affect on training
The training burden would increase dramatically. The training team would need:

  • to develop their own content and then measure it’s effectiveness during operations (Does this training actually produce competence?).
  • more experience and knowledge as well as the discipline to adhere to agreed practices (Without standardised procedures, trainers would need to return to operations regularly to confirm their skills and knowledge are in line with current trends).
  • to define their own training standards or adopt multiple standards based on the personal preferences of the trainers (is what is important to one trainer important to the all?).

Finishing what we have started

This extends to all facets of the organisation and it is uncommon now to find an organisation that doesn’t have policies for customer service, quality control and workplace safety. All are well documented and are an auditable trail of the organisation’s commitment to ensuring team members conformity to standards. Why should the way they go about their core activities differ?

Regardless of your business, it’s the day to day activities that keep it running. If one member marks the lid of a cappuccino with circled C and another with the word “Cap” does it really make a difference?

It does to the barista that is filling in from another store and is backing up orders trying to decipher the the codes, it does to the manager who has to explain what happened to the customer with the wrong order (not that I mind caramel lattes) and it does to trainer teaching to the work experience kid that there are 2-3 ways of doing everything and the correct way depends on who is working on the day.

Sound familiar? It might only affect one order in a thousand or it may be the straw that tips the office politics into a full blown team melt down. It doesn’t matter. Workplaces of this nature follow trends and adjust their practices with the ebb and flow of staff. It comes down to one simple rule – until we have a standard, we are still figuring out how to do it. Documenting how we do it means that we have figured that part out and we can now focus on how to do it better.

It also means that as a team, we are all doing it the same way and as a team, actually getting better at it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    December 11, 2008 6:39 am

    Wow, great post. I really loved your comment, “the customer, whoever they may be, gets the same experience each and every time”. In retail/service industries this is important, but when you’re talking emergency services it becomes critical, right? I mean, this is the ultimate case of the customer not giving two hoots about your lousy day or how it’s hour 9 of a 10 hour shift. They simply demand the service they are expecting, and anything less interferes with the customer’s experience and interaction with the organisation.

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