In too many companies, a chain reaction festers where employees toil in darkness, customers complain and defect, and companies reel from increasing costs and declining revenues. Customer experience leaders in those companies scratch their collective heads wondering how the systems and processes failed. They wonder why they can’t get the metrics to move in the right direction.
To answer those questions, read this illuminating parable. Thanks to John Case for his well-written book Open-Book Management where I found it. He attributes it to Charles Coonradt in The Game of Work.
Work is like bowling – “except there’s a guy called a supervisor who stands in front of the pins with a curtain.”
He can see the pins, but the bowler can’t. The bowler throws the ball, hears something, and says, “How’d I do?”
The supervisor says, “Change your grip.”
The bowler says, “But how did I do?”
The supervisor says, “Move your foot.” The bowler changes his grip and moves his foot and throws another ball.
He hears the pins fall and asks, “How am I doing?”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got a review coming up in six months. We’ll let you know then.”
The irony in the parable, of course, is that the supervisor and the bowler are on the same team. Both benefit when results improve.
Oftentimes, we neglect the most important players in the experience… our team. The only way to make the vision of delivering world-class experiences a reality is to communicate expectations and make adjustments.
If you are the bowler, maybe you feel as if you’ve been asking “how’d I do?” and still don’t know. So take the first step and provide your input to your supervisor. Your impressions form the basis of a fruitful conversation with your supervisor.
If you are the supervisor, remember that bowlers benefit more from immediate and specific feedback. Sometimes that means difficult conversations (I recommend Fierce Conversations if the tough discussions seem too hard) and sometimes it is an opportunity to highlight several strengths. Either way, we owe it to the bowlers to be thorough and thoughtful when conducting appraisals. After all, we’re on the same team.
The pivot point is that all customer experience interactions begin with employees. Their progress must be judged continually, not annually. Allowing poor performance to go unchecked, or great performance to go unnoticed, starts a dangerous chain reaction which limits your organization’s success.