How to Increase Productivity and Improve Service Simultaneously (and Easily)


Improve Service and Productivity at the Same Time

Many people think of improving service and improving productivity as diametrically opposing objectives. Increasing productivity means doing more with less, which means reducing service levels. Meanwhile, upgrading service means doing more than before, which causes productivity declines.

These views may be common sense, but they are also incorrect. Improving service and productivity go hand in hand and are easy to accomplish when you have the right understanding of what service really means.

Here’s our definition: Service is taking action to create value for someone else.

With this definition, any action taken inside a company that does not create value for someone else is unnecessary, it’s not productive, and should be classified as “waste”. Yet there is a tremendous amount of wasted activity inside large organizations. This occurs as a result of ignorance (“I’m just doing what I’m told to do”), or legacy processes (“Because we have always done it that way”), or misaligned metrics of performance (“I’ll do whatever is needed to hit my KPIs”). And in many companies these behaviors persist year after year, because no one asks the right questions about who and how we serve.

Improving Service means working with questions like these:

1. Who do we serve externally and internally?
2. What results are most important to them?
3. What outcomes do they truly value?
4. What else will they want, need, or value in the future?
5. Which actions will be essential to deliver this value?
6. What other actions could we take to create even more value?

Increasing Efficiency means working with questions like these:

1. Which actions can we eliminate and still deliver value?
2. Where can we find wasted effort in our work?
3. How can we shorten processes, streamline procedures, or reduce requirements?

Improving service means creating more value for others. Improving efficiency means not doing what does not create value. Eliminating waste liberates time and resources. And you can use that energy to take new actions that do create value.

The conclusion is clear to see. Improving efficiency is a natural ally of improving service – as long as you start with the right definition: Service is taking action to create value for someone else.

Where do you see wasted effort in your organization? What actions do not create value? What new actions would create more value?

Categories: Service Improvement Process
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7 Responses

  1. Michael Podolinsky says:

    Brilliant post Ron! People and governments think it’s about hiring more people or some tech gadget. Maybe… but rarely. In fact, adding people can reduce the overall

    The key is in developing people to do their best. Treat your people like you’d like them to treat your internal or external customers and the organisation will reap a massive productivity benefit.

    This is not rocket science. It’s common sense. Back it up with some solid analytics to measure it and returns of 50% to 1000% have been proven.

  2. Dheeraj says:

    Absolutely right Ron!

    It was just that we never tried to see the link. I am sure once we start observing things as stated above, both productivity & Service improvement would be taken care-off easily.

    Thanks for enlightening us.

    Warm regards

  3. Aki Kalliatakis says:

    I completely agree, Ron: Great post.

    I love the model that Kim and Maubrorgne use in “Blue Ocean Strategy.” They talk about the four most important questions to ask in creating a new value curve:

    1. What do we need to reduce to way below industry standards because it adds little or no value for our customers?
    2. What can we eliminate altogether that our industry takes for granted.

    These two free up the resources, (people, money, time, etc.) to focus on the next two:

    3. What must we do more of, or increase, that our customers would love, and would make us “the best in the world at”?
    4. What must we create from scratch that our industry has never offered? (Not only best in the world but also FIRST in the world.)

    Simplifying the way things work in organisation inevitably resonates with both customers and employees – and it’s almost inevitably cheaper too.

  4. Ann says:

    On the pulse as always Ron! What I love about your work and insights which over 20 years have remained current, challenging and innovative, is the direct and personal response they engender. These apply not just to the global and multinational operations with whom you work .They are gems of leadership and group challenges for small and medium size enterprises as well because they can rely on these facts- you have seen and made them work. My particular interest comes from the application possibilities to many areas of life and engagement that can and do benefit from your guidance in people skills and focus management. One day perhaps you and my friend Brian Mayne will share a platform and that will be an unmissable event. Harrambee.

  5. Riham says:

    That exactly where creativity take place … Good one Ron !

  6. Tosin says:

    Thank you Ron. I’m going to apply that to my business.

  7. Dawn says:

    So relevant to the organization I am working in. Hit the nail on the head as always Ron – organizations need to drive change through innovation and this can only be done by taking appropriate steps to create a workforce that are motivated and thereby productive.

    Love reading your blogs Ron – keep ’em rolling.

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