It is probably human nature, but when asked about a business problem or the reason for a dip in performance results, the responses that I often hear are about something or someone else and the responder forgets to look in their own backyard. If we changed this tendency and did look internally first, we would solve problems and improve organizational results at a much faster pace.

Here’s what I mean….

In Sales: I worked in sales organizations for many years and when employees were not meeting their sales quota the most common reasons given were that their sales quota was too high or that their sales territory was “bad”, as compared to other sales territories. Very rarely did I hear, “I need to raise my game. Make more calls, improve my sales pitch etc”.

In Tech Support: Now that I work in a technical support environment, I hear a different set of “not in my backyard” statements. For example, “We missed our service level target because product quality is bad or we had to wait a long time for the customer to get back to us.” “Our customer satisfaction results missed target because the customer did not rate Tech Support, they rated their experience with the company overall. We can’t control that”.

There are definitely occasions when these statements are true. Sometimes product quality does suck. Sometimes other departments drop the ball and do not follow through. And, sometimes customers take a long time getting back to us. BUT, I would wager that in 80% or more of the cases, the reason for the performance results miss is partially or completely in our control and in our own backyard. We may not be able to fix the issue(s) completely, but we should be able to minimize them.

Let’s use the Customer Satisfaction Survey example….. In my recent experience, one of the most common reasons that customers give lower survey scores is because we, (the department) could have done a better job keeping them informed during the problem solving process. They do not site the product quality or what other departments did/did not do- they just want to have visibility into what is going on. This is completely in our control.

What about the situations where we contact the customer for more information and they take a long time getting back to us? Is it possible that we could have checked back in with the customer more frequently to see if they had any questions or needed more info? Is it possible, that we could have set better expectations from the beginning For example, “Ms. Customer, can you please get back to my by Tuesday at the latest, so we can resolve your problem quickly?”. It is true that we can not control what customers do, but we CAN influence what they do.

For every situation that starts with a focus in someone else’s backyard, after further discussion and understanding, there are always opportunities in our own.

Here is a home-made comic that illustrates this point. Enjoy! (Click on the image to view a larger version.)

The Bone_Not In My Backyard_Process Improvement Cartooon
Not In My Backyard

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