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.

  • Marygreening

    Nice Post! When you say “provide input to your manager” do you mean on his/her performance or about your own performance?

    • http://pivotpointsolutions.net/ andy_mcf

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the question. What I meant was that in the absence of feedback from your manager, employees should take the first step.

      Something like: “You’ve asked me to do X to help the company meet its goals of Y. So far, I’ve accomplished Z. Is this the kind of performance that helps the company? Can you think of ways I can improve or other areas I can contribute.”

      By taking the first step you open up the feedback loop in a non-threatening way (especially useful when dealing with first-time managers).

  • http://blog.assistly.com Alyson Button Stone

    This is a wonderful post. Very, very insightful.

    • http://pivotpointsolutions.net/ andy_mcf

      Alyson, so glad to have you as a reader. Hope you found a few nuggets you can apply/use!

  • David Mellon

    Key Performance Indicators or KPI are required to make every task relevant. Most companies do not go through the effort to fully understand what they want to achieve in a process, or how to measure its success. Any process should provide one of three values, to the customer, to the company, or to a regulatory requirement.

    Any step in a process that does provide value to one of these three areas, should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible. Most management teams look at the end result, and not how they get there. You can travel from Austin, Texas to Houston but way of San Antonio, or La Grange, one is easier, one is more direct. Both provide the same results, but the KPI measurements would be very different.

    • http://pivotpointsolutions.net/ andy_mcf

      Thanks for the comment David. I think you are on the edge of a good post topic yourself. Namely, the relevance of KPIs.

      There is an adage that “you get what you inspect, not what you expect.” KPIs help set the course for our employees. Indeed they drive behavior.

      As you point out, many companies don’t take enough time to understand (a) what behavior they want and (b) how to set KPIs to help them achieve their goals. A quick look at sales compensation plans can shed light on this fact. Are the goals aligned to grow revenues? Grow margins? Grow customers? Is the revenue KPI so tantalizing that the company “buys” revenue at the expense of margins?

      In the end, our goal regarding KPIs is to enable achievements, not merely activity. (Think of the hamster on a wheel. Lots of activity, but hasn’t really gone anywhere.)

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