One Secret Weapon to Service Improvement

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt

I have not been subtle in past blogs about the need for change of thinking.  One thing I see in command and control organizations that is a staple is fear.  More specifically, the fear of failure.  Fear drives thinking in command and control organizations.

Front-line workers know it and W. Edwards Deming recognized it . . . Drive out fear was the 8th of his 14 points for transformation of US industry.  Service industry in particular is enthralled with the performance appraisal, merit rating and annual reviews to determine the performance of the individual.  All waste . . . as Dr. Deming pointed out that 95% of the performance of any organization is attributable to the system and ONLY 5% is attributable to the individual.  All this attention to the individual worker drives conformance and not innovation, because of fear. 

The command and control manager and executive are not exempt from this fear.  Missing targets both financial and performance can spell doom for this group.  Fear?  Yes, of course.  I read an article recently by Russell Ackoff called Why Few Organizations Adopt Systems Thinking.  In this article, Dr. Ackoff talks about errors of commission and errors of omission.  "Errors of commission occur when an organization or individual does something they shouldn’t have done and errors of omission occur when an organization or individual fails to do something it should have done."  He argues that the deterioration or failure of organizations are almost always due to something they did not do.  Fear drives errors of omission.  What will be the consequences of failure? 

So this is the one secret weapon of improving service organizations.  How does your organization handle failure?  Do they hide it, persecute it, or encourage it?  When I talk to service organizations about failure demand, several executives have stopped me and said that their organization does not use that word (failure).  Too bad because failure typically leads to success.

Systems thinking organizations run towards failures and not away from them.  A leadership development or organizational change management program devoid of the topic of failure is missing the opportunity to change thinking.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control management and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at

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