One of the challenges that businesses face is providing a consistent level of service to its customers. This is even more challenging for businesses with more than one location. In the quest to assure consistent service, many companies impose standardized policies on its employees. Unfortunately, standardization can lead to service that is consistent but appears insensitive and uncaring to the customer!
In this brief treatise, I propose a method for overcoming that weakness.
Many in the business world will recognize the acronym CRM as Customer Relationship Management. Like many acronyms, it has different meanings in different industries. In the aviation world, for example, CRM stands for Crew Resource Management. As a pilot, I was required to learn and use CRM principles every day. With my varied experiences in aviation and in business, I believe there is a need for Crew Resource Management in the business world.
Today in aviation, CRM is the application of personal and team management concepts to enhance the safe operation of aircraft, both on the ground and in the air. In the early days of aviation, the Captain was the sole source of presumed expertise on the flight deck, even if there was an experienced and competent co-pilot in the right seat. In fact, jokes were made that co-pilots were “self-loading baggage.”
After some high profile accidents, such as United Airlines Flight 173 in 1978, it was recognized that all members of the cockpit crew should be more assertive in ensuring the safety of flight. Thus was born Cockpit Resource Management.
Shortly thereafter, it became clear that flight attendants had an important part in ensuring the safety of flight, and the same acronym now stood for Crew Resource Management to acknowledge their significant role. It was soon recognized that every company employee played a role in flight safety, and, for a short period, the acronym became Company Resource Management. It has reverted to Crew Resource Management, probably because it sounds more compelling.
CRM includes not only the pilots, but the entire aircrew, ground crew, and all others inside and outside the company who work together to ensure the aircraft arrives safely.
I propose a new acronym for the business world, TCRM, Total Company Resource Management, to suggest that employees at every level need to understand their role in fulfilling the company mission. To accomplish this, senior management must ensure that all levels of management understand the human factors involved in staffing a successful business. Since not all will naturally have this understanding, managers, and especially new managers, must participate in human factors training. resource management services This is the only way that TCRM principles can become company philosophy.
Basic Concepts of TCRM
Management must understand that lasting changes in behavior take time. Company employees are not just a collection of competent individuals with a single task; they are people who interact with one another on a daily basis, a team, if you will, all working to accomplish the company mission.
Everyone’s behavior should foster company effectiveness, with everyone contributing to success. To be successful, there must be opportunities for practice. For example, off site meetings could be utilized to train employees on how to make a contribution, other than their day-to-day job assignment, to company success. Who’s to say, for example, that the mail clerk who visits every department can’t observe a process and ask why it’s done that way, and offer a suggestion for improvement.
This will only happen if there is an open environment of inclusion, with a standardized vehicle for making suggestions for improvement. In many companies, however, the physical suggestion box has become a joke, resulting in its removal. The successor to the suggestion box is a company email system with a place for employees (and customers, in the best companies) to provide feedback and suggestions.
But more important than a virtual suggestion box, is the opportunity for managers to see the employee in action. A great management style, in my opinion, is that used by some companies in the early 1970’s and made popular by management consultant Tom Peters in 1982. This is called Management by Wandering Around (or sometimes, Management by Walking Around). Why wait for a monthly or quarterly report to spot a problem, when you can mingle with people and immediately observe or hear that a change is needed. Managers must recognize that companies are made up of people, not numbers!
Furthermore, every manager must practice the principle that what is right is more important than who is right! Managers must also understand why people do what they do. There are always underlying reasons why we behave the way we do. Every manager should be required to read appropriate magazine articles and books on human behavior as part of his or her job. The wheel doesn’t have to be re-invented, but we do have to understand how it works. If we can control our behavior, we can predict our performance. This is true at every level.
It is important that TCRM is recognized as a normal behavior, not just an emergency procedure when things don’t go well. TCRM should infuse the business!
TCRM training includes some very specific and focused topics. Team building and self-assessment are important parts of this training. We must understand each other’s weaknesses as well as our strengths. However, I agree with the authors of a Gallup Poll study that says we should focus on our strengths, and not on our weaknesses.
The concept of team building comes from the world of horses pulling wagons. Some horses just don’t work well together. When you find a pair that does, they pull together, turn together, and share the workload. That’s what a team in the workplace must do.
TCRM training also includes understanding problem solving and conflict resolution principles, and the concept that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level, leaving only major decisions for senior management. Of course, clear written instructions that are not open to faulty interpretation can help employees at every level understand their authority.
Awareness and Communication
In the aviation world, maintaining situational awareness refers to being aware not only of other aircraft in your space, but also of one’s environment, including weather. Time, speed, and distance are important factors to keep in mind when in command of an airplane. In the business world, situational awareness could include being aware of new and emerging technologies, competitive forces at play, and governmental interference.
Internal communication is still a weakness in many companies. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.” The method by which information, by which I mean information that is clear, concise, and correct, is transferred from the management suite to the production floor, or from the shipping department to the quality control department, can sometimes be frustrating. Instead of complaining to one another, every employee should feel comfortable bringing the problem to the attention of management.
In an airplane, the use of automated systems (like an autopilot) ensures a stable and passenger-friendly flight. In the corporate world, standardized procedures try to accomplish this so that customers have a consistent experience. The challenge is to allow for the varying levels of expectations by customers. This is especially challenging for companies with brick and mortar stores across regional and national boundaries.