Look inside any organization and you can find what is of value to them.  If the front-line is manned by low wage earners without the ability to make decisions important to customers.  And further have their every move controlled by management using technology, policies, procedures, rules, audit, scripts, reports and an assortment of other management control mechanisms.   The customer is of little value to you.  Your organization loves itself more than the customer.

When 20% of all employees can create or add value and the other 80% add little or no value you have a problem.  If this 80% spends its hours devising ways to entrap or disable what customers value from the 20% that create value costs will skyrocket and customers will flee.  And BTW, that 20% are almost exclusively front-line workers and management.

So few can create or add value because of system design . . . the 80% outnumber them.  For every one step a value creator takes forward, the people paid the most in positions that customers value least find ways to entrap or disable taking two steps back.

The challenge is to design a system where 100% can create or add value.  The problem is overcoming those that have grown accustomed to status or position and not value for customers.  This matters little whether your organization is 80/20, 63/37, 40/60 or whatever the number you might find in your service organization.

Designing better systems requires service organizations to stop doing certain things and begin doing better things.  Ultimately, some activities just need to be stopped.  If you believe that stopping smoking is the right thing to do, you don’t need to put something else in your mouth that is bad for you.  The 80% left without better things to do, almost always find activities to replace those they just got rid of that are just as bad.

So what is a good way to assess what your organization values?

Go to the work and see who interacts with customers and those are your percentage that can create value.  Or better do what one manager did, pull the fire alarm and send everyone to the parking lot.  Get on the bull horn, and tell all those that interact with customers to go back inside.  What you have left are an assortment of space eaters and management.  Suddenly, you will make the realization that you don’t have a capacity problem you have a design problem.  The organization has designed in roles that can only produce waste.  And your customers already know.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the Vanguard Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.