Services and Things gone right

Tom Peters and James Brain Quinn are at it again. When we last heard from them, Peters and Quinn were asking us to rethink time honored beliefs and methods regarding organizational design and structured. This time, Peters and Quinn have surveyed the management and organizational scene of the 1990s and have projected ‘that operations’ practices, will and must look different in the year 2000.

Peters and Quinn want us to take the traditional view of operations and turn it inside out. Modern thinking about operations and operations management which we have communicated to you in this article emerged from the factories of the late nineteenth century and Henry Ford’s innovations in those factories. It should not be surprising that operations traditionally have been a matter of inputs, transformations, and outputs. That is what happens to steel, automobiles, and in late years, computers. Nor should it be surprising that this production operations emphasis was the platform on which people sooner or later came around to talking about service operations. In short, it is no accident that you have an operations course in your curriculum but probably not a services course.

Peters and Quinn now advocate, in effect tossing out that legacy and approaching operations from a new angle. Their reasoning is straightforward: Operations is a matter of talented human beings using heads to deliver value to customers. This applies whether we are talking about building jet aircraft at Boeing or serving clients at the hair stylist’s salon.

Managers are recognizing this and running their organizations (and also restructuring their organizations) to tap this talent – which Peters calls brain-ware/ software and Quinn calls intellectual assets. As customers become more sophisticated around the globe, Peters and Quinn continue, the successful operations will be those that serve these intelligent customers with comparably intelligent services. Peters and Quinn conclude that all operations turn on running what Quinn calls an “intelligent enterprise”. Peters says, simply yet powerfully. All firms are becoming professional service firms.

An important consequence of this different and more and more popular view is that the principal criteria of operations effectiveness must also change. Peters says that operations are typically managed on a “Things Gone Wrong” basis. You have seen that in this article discussion of efficiency and productivity; establish a standard and, if operations fall short, you have a “thing gone wrong”. Peters says that in an era when intelligent customers help “run” your business, customers do not care what your “Things Gone Wrong” index reads. They want service that enables them to serve their customers well. In this context, Peters says, operations must be run on a “Things Gone right” (for the customer) attitude. A Toronto Ontario hospital executive strives with his colleagues to make a hospital stay a “great experience”. For anyone who has ever stayed in a hospital thus knows how stressful that can be, ‘a great experience’ is a remarkable operations objective.

Preparing for the Work force of the future:

Virtually every manager today is looking for ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. Particularly in the larger cities, there is often no money or space for large reception areas, roomy storage areas, and ornate employee offices. This, coupled with advances in technology, is encouraging managers to be more active in seeking ways to utilize corporate assets more efficiently through employee workplace alternatives such as the hoteling system pioneered by Ernst & Young. According to Jack Staley, managing partner at Ernst & Young’ s Chicago Office hoteling will prepare Ernst & Young for the work force of the future.

What they have built here will prepare them well for the workforce of the future. It is happening very quickly. You will find individuals working less out of their physical offices and spending more time in client offices on projects which is where they ought to be in a professional services firm.

We are going to see a greater use of people resources – people who happens to be in other cities, more seasonal people, and more people who at some time in their careers want to take leave and have a family.

By using concepts like hoteling, by having networked data that permits personnel to link into the system from off site locations, to transfer data, to do research in the library we will benefit our clients and our workforce.

All of this would be cost prohibitive if we had the space that we had ten years ago. It would be hard and costly to make this kind of investment in technology in a building that does not have the wiring the walls and the floors.

Hoteling is a cultural thing. People have to understand it, to get used to it. All of its benefit can’t be achieved on day one. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to grow and to add professionals without having to take any more space.

Planning, organizing leading and controlling all come together in this single projection into the future through an operations management perspective.