IN 2017, here are 7 things that any manager can undertake to begin to foster thinking processes in his/her organization:
1 – Do a quick audit of your people who have customer relations responsibilities – listen to their conversations in full and determine if they really are thinking about what they’re doing and saying to the customers. Are their responses clear and thoughtful? Are they targeting the issue when responding? Are they talking in circles in hopes of defeating the customer’s complaints? Are they talking down to the customer to avoid squarely addressing the issue? And, so on.
2 – Re-train these personnel with good strategies for thinking through problems and addressing the issues well and thoughtfully – The times that a customer service representative can successfully assist a customer counts as a customer saved and loyalty generated.
3 – Look thoughtfully at your operations managers – what is their orientation to problem solving, thinking about issues that assault the company? Are they dismissive of any complaints? Do they get defensive when issues in their sections/departments are brought up? Or, are they willing to look candidly at problems as they arise and seek clarity and issue resolution. If in this assessment, you find that you have a large number of “nay-sayers” among your management/supervisorial staff, you will want to think about switching some of those for more positive, thinking individuals.
4 – Once your operations managers are composed of thinkiing and acting personnel, have regular meetings that foster these goals – a la Edward Demmings’ methods (see my new book, SUNDAY ON THE HILL for further explanation.
5 – Look critically at your leadership team – those who head the divisions in your organization – your VPs, CFO, CFI, COO, etc. Determine the overall make-up of this group and assess that make-up carefully. Determine if you actually have critical thinkers surrounding you or if there is a large group of “yes men.” Yes men serve no purpose other than to prop up flagging egos of the CEO, so jettison these individuals for better quality staff, or change behavior to thinkers and analyzers.
6 – In the same manner as for your leadership team, determine the make-up of your board of directors – are these individuals actually pulling their weight by thinking with you about the issues that the company faces or are they “Wells Fargo”-like board members who go blissfully along when there are serious problems at hand. Begin to make changes in the board structure so that you can assure yourself that you are surrounded with the best and brightest – people who will think about current mindsets, misconceptions.
7 – As a final act in the house cleaning for 2017, declare your company a “company of thinkers and problem solvers – you’ll be amazed at the difference that this redirection can make!
Happy 2017!

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