Continual Service Improvement: By Design Or Default?


Continual Service Improvement; love it or hate, we all need to be doing it and probably are, all be it “by design or default”. Approaching such tasks by design, with planning and forethought, always produces the best results and ensures the “Big Picture” remains in focus throughout.

The following will hopefully provide you with a useful analogy when communicating with non-initiated-staff regarding Service Improvement projects; it is a further excerpt from my recent talk in Manchester at the #SDIevent “Leading from the front”. The following are the three fundamental questions that I believe need to be asked when considering any change/improvement project:

1. Where are you now?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

You’ve arranged for someone to meet you at your office and you’ve given them the address; they’ve put the details in their SatNav and are about 10 minutes away, checking their watch, the traffic, etc. when they hear those dreaded words, “You have reached your destination”…Inevitably, they call asking how to get to your work place and the first thing you ask them is “where are you now?”

Why? Because if they cannot answer this, you have no frame of reference with which to guide them through the process required to achieve their end goal – reaching you! You do this by asking questions to enable you to Measure and analyse their current situation:

You: “What do you see?”
Them: “I see a large water feature”
You: “OK, we have a water feature in the city, it’s 2 miles long! What else?”
Them: “A parade of shops and pub called ‘The Red Lion’”
You: “Great; are you on the same side as the pub or opposite?”
Them: “Opposite.”
You: “Right, now I know where you are, let me guide you…”

As seen, some data is less helpful (water feature), whilst other data is key (pub, relation).

2. Where are you going?

In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he cites “Habit 2” as being “Begin with the end in mind”. Simply put, if you don’t know the destination, and it may be just a stage in a larger project or a large project within a programme, how do you know when you’ve got there? Covey says “If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”

It is in the same vein, Best Practice asks us to consider and identify the following key elements of any improvement plan:

• What are our Critical Success Factors (CSF):
• (What is the goal to be reached e.g. benefit realisation)
• Key Performance Indicators (KPI):
• (What specific balanced information must be gathered to identify success? e.g. travelling at the correct speed in the correct areas to ensure timely arrival, etc.)
• Metrics
• (What raw data is needed to ensure success? E.g.: starting point, speed, direction, etc.)

By considering these factors in this order, we ensure we do not end up drowning in a sea of data available to us but never being able to identify the specific information required to assist us in getting to our end goal.

3. How to get there?

Ever had a holiday where you rent a home or caravan off someone for a week and you find a sandwich bag containing a jigsaw? Guaranteed, the more pieces there are, the more complicated it will be!

As per the “lost” example, once you know the answers to where are you now (how many pieces should I have!?) and Where are you going? (what’s the picture on the box), the how to get there becomes much simpler. Final thought…

Don’t allow your fires of today to consume your potential for tomorrow!
Raymond Paxton

Simply put; if you’re in a crisis situation, don’t expend all your energy putting out fires, work smarter not harder – use CSI to recognise the long-term gain over the short-term pain and work towards to bigger goal.

We’ll be talking in more depth about the value of CSI and implementing processes in September at our Naked Service Desk experience event in Milton Keynes. With a blend of case studies from Marsh & McLennan Companies, Leeds University and Fujitsu as well as numerous interactive workshops you’ll leave with the practical knowledge that you need to create great processes on your own Service Desk. You can find out more and book your place here.  

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