Originally published as Peeling Back the Five Layers of in a Restoration Business
June 22, 2016 in Restoration & Remediation Magazine (R&R)
By Jon Isaacson
How many times a day does the phone ring and it's a customer calling wondering when your organization is going to get the work done, when the crew is going to arrive or what the schedule is?
Is it more often than it should be?
Who holds the responsibility in the organization to communicate these details to your customers? Before we start to point fingers, let's follow the sequence of information.
Organization Layer 1
Our customer called the office because they have not been communicated with, the last person at the job was an employee who was there over 48 hours ago. We ask, why didn't that employee tell the customer what the next sequence of work was going to be?
At the conclusion of our investigation into Layer 1, we are ready for a heated discussion with our lead technician assigned to the project. We say our organization values our customers, but we are not demonstrating this with clear and consistent communication.
Organization Layer 2
We track down the responsible employee who was last at our under-informed customer's home and it turns out that employee didn't communicate scheduling details with the customer because that employee was not provided with sufficient information to intelligently pass along to our customer. While we were prepared to discipline this employee as the source of miscommunication, we discover that there are additional parties involved with this malady - there are more layers to investigate. In addition to this discovery, our employee brings to our attention that they regularly don't know what they are doing for the day when they show up for work.
As an organization we would say we value our customers, we also would say that we value our employees, we may even have these values posted on our walls, and yet we are not communicating with clarity or consistency to either party.
Organization Layer 3
As a manager, the frustration is turning is now bordering on anger. We march forward to discuss these disturbing findings from the previous two layers with our employee's supervisor. Rather than uncovering the head of the snake, we reveal that our production supervisor hasn't been clearly or consistently communicating scheduling or work details because they haven't been receiving them from their supervisor (in most restoration companies we are now at the estimator level/layer of the org chart).
Our production team hasn't been communicating in the manner we would expect with customers or employees because they are flying by the seat of their pants with the work being handed down to them. We are uncovering that our issues are as much with systems as they are with persons.
Organization Layer 4
Each layer has revealed an additional layer, managers who are willing to investigate may now be fearful of encountering additional worm holes within the system. Not us, we continue our investigation and gather the estimators into the conference room for the final tongue lashings.
As a related side note, everyone serving in the 24/7 emergency response industry knows that work comes in at all times, in all sizes and has no mercy with regards to holidays or special occasions, yet just because we service emergencies does not mean that we shouldn't have as clear a process that we can develop.
Our management team unravels the layers of investigation stemming from the call received by our confused customer, the estimators relate their challenges in working with how the work flow is initiated. Work flow with relationship to how assignments are handed out, especially when our organization is serving the needs of clients who are all in various degrees of distress, is essential to setting our teams up for success. We are faced with a reality that our response process may be broken or at least damaged and needs some TLC in order for our team as a whole to be successful. If we value our customers and we value our employees, we need a system that communicates with clarity and consistency.
Organization Layer 5
The investigation goes full circle and we have determined that there are issues related to a lack clarity and consistency in the work flow process which is affecting us at every level. In order to fix this, we will need to address the system from top to bottom and will need every layer of our organization to be invested in the restoration of our process.
Communication is our organization showing our customers that we value them.
Clarity and consistency is our organization showing our employees that we value them.
Scheduling is the result of a commitment to preparation for success and a successful scheduling system enables everyone on our team to communicate with clarity as well as consistency. Our efforts to create a system of clear and consistent communication from start (receiving a request for service) to completion (creating a happy customer) will require intentional efforts as a workable schedule will not create itself.
The reason we spent all these words (all this time) just to establish the problem, is that while scheduling should be the foundation for any service organization, the commitment to clarity and consistency is rather uncommon. Often we get so wrapped up in the emergency nature of our business, that we forget to build around our values. When a customer calls with a valid complaint, this is an opportunity for some honest organizational evaluation as well as a wake up call for action.
What Must We Do?
Property restoration as an industry requires multiple aspects of technical knowledge in our fields of multiple service offerings as well as communication of multiple work details across multiple data entry points to keep multiple parties involved with a given loss updated on work progress.
Clarity At The Point Of Work Intake
Do we have a consistent process for gathering as much information as we can when a call for service comes in? Regardless of who answers the phone, we should have a clear and consistent process for acquiring the details necessary to set our teams up for success. When we answer the phone, we communicate to our customers that we care by getting the details right and we communicate to our service employees that we care by providing them with the details they need to start a project off with good information.
Clarity At The Point of Work Initiation
The reality In emergency response to disasters, work comes in at all hours of the day as pipes break, fires occur or a host of other scenarios play out for homes and businesses in our area. Because of these contingencies, our schedules can never be fixed to the point that they cannot change at a moments notice. As such we always have to build into our schedules a certain amount of flexibility. Our production managers have to be aware that they cannot send all of our resources to the furthest reaches of our service territory and still be able to reallocate personnel to respond in the middle of the day to a customer that is in need of emergency services. We have to be honest with our customers about what we can and cannot do as we have to fulfill our prior commitments while evaluating our abilities to service new ones. Being busy is a good problem for any organization, this usually means we are growing, but being chaotic is unhealthy and will lead to failure.
Clarity Within The Organization
Establishing a visible joint schedule for our organization is an essential means of assisting all of our teams to prepare for the day ahead while enabling us to update our customers with our strategy for keeping their project moving forward (read our previous article about visible schedules HERE). Our people deserve to know, as best as management is able to communicate, what their assignment will be for the following 24 hour period so that they can mentally prepare and ready their teams to respond to our customers needs. Our customers deserve to have consistent communication of job progress and to know when strangers are going to be in their home. Find the medium that works for your team, but make the schedule accessible and visible by all in the organization as this creates great accountability through transparency. When the concerned customer calls to ask about their job, the person answering the phone should be able to say, "Let me pull up the schedule. Yes, I can see we are scheduled to be at your home between 11am and 12pm today, would you like me to get ahold of the technician who will be responding or the project manager assigned to your loss?"
Clarity Within Your Work Communication
For our team, we inherited a system of carbon copies for printed work orders (or field scopes). Carbon copies served a purpose at some point in time...a point in time right around when the dinosaurs became extinct. We were able to adapt our hand printed work orders (penmanship is a barrier to clarity) into a Microsoft Excel format so that they could be typed - allowing us to ensure they were readable and savable which allows us to track and reference these forms.
The first order of the work order is that in order to be effective the work order must be legible, must have sufficient details and must be executable by the team members assigned to the tasks. Notes on a piece of paper are useless unless those composing the document have been intentional to be clear with those who will be touching the project.
As our system for work orders evolved we wanted our system to be easier to input and more readily shareable by our entire organization. We needed a medium that would allow team leaders to communicate effectively with team members the details of work scopes and resource allocation. We looked into mobile and desktop applications as well as cloud based systems, most of the ones that were the most appealing were also fairly expensive. We experimented with free versions of popular systems but found many of them to be a time consuming venture that did not have the return that we needed, especially with our shorter term projects.
Our schedule needed to show management where our fleet would be assigned, which personnel would be responding to an assignment and what production tools would accompany that crew to complete their tasks. We found that some of the best resource were those that we were already utilizing (see a fun video we made introducing our simple systems HERE). Google calendar is an effective means of creating a shared calendar that could be viewed by anyone in the organization at any time with features such as assigning a color to individuals to enhance the ease of visual review. (We gladly borrowed this aspect from a local plumbing company who showed us their production system). Through the shared calendar, each technician had an email that would show up in their email as well as their calendar with details such as the job address (which assists with OSHA compliance), the job number, contact information for the customer and a detailed scope of work written out for each day in the body of the calendar notes. Team members that wanted printed copies for their folders could have those in their hands and those that were savvy with their mobile devices always had records for reference.
Each organization is unique, for us the values we are building around are:
1. Our schedule should be visible - anyone in our organization should be able to see where our resources are assigned at any given time (to the best of our ability)
2. We want to show our customers that we value them by being clear with our communication
3. We want to show our team members that we value them by being clear and consistent with our scheduling
Clarity and consistency in communication requires the commitment of everyone in the organization, top to bottom - from the point of receiving a call for service to the completion of a project. We have to be intentional about improving our systems as the systems (good or bad) do not create themselves. Our systems may never be perfect, but we will reap what we sow.
If the phone rings more often than it should with confused or upset customers, follow the layers to yourself and get to work on fixing the problems with the system.
If what you say you want does not align with what you do then internal confusion will create external turmoil. Clarity + consistency + accountability = leadership [goals].
Election cycles are always interesting as people are a bit more vocal about expressing their beliefs about politics and “how things should be run.” In the presidential season prior to our current one, when Romney was running against Obama, I remember discussing politics with a few people and asking, “Do you think your vision for how the country should be run (IE the things you say you want the President to be doing) is reflected in your approach to business?”
If you dare to take a moment, take a position that you were particularly vocal about when the political debates were raging, got it? Now bring to mind a time when this issue was present in your life - if a) it isn't applicable, then throw that issue out of your dialogue; b) if it is applicable, did you respond to said issue in relationship to your stated values?
I thought to myself, do I manage and lead my own team in the manner that I believe the President should be running the country. Do my actions reflect my utterances? I know I can see inconsistencies between what other people say, especially with regards to political persuasions, and how they lead their teams. I, like many, feel that I am rather good at juding others (Uncomfortable laughter slowly dies off). I am sure others can see the gaping holes of inconsistency in my own actions without having to peer too far behind the curtain.
Maybe it’s just me, but many times we can be hardliners on issues, many of which are real life issues that affect our businesses which in turn affect the people in our organizations, and yet when we are faced with these issues in real life situations – we don’t act in accordance with what we say our values are. Perhaps this is a blessing (ble$$ed #), because so many of us are still learning to lead. I may puff up my chest on an issue, and I am primarily speaking of those political issues that intersect with business, yet I do the opposite when it comes time to make a decision. Either my philosophy of business needs a re-tooling, or my business persona needs an update, or more likely the answer is both.
What I think leads to what I do and what I do needs to be reviewed and revised from time to time. It’s easy to play arm chair adviser to the President from my couch while watching a debate. It’s simple enough to judge my peers from my perch in the back seat of their lives. In the midst of my keen review of others how often do I take my own inventory to judge my own actions against my pontificated values?
Get right son, or at least get clear, consistent and accountable. Leading by example is the most challenging and the most effective because it calls the “leader” to lead themselves first.
Regardless of the name it is given in an organization - teamwork or unity or something fancy like synergy – issues are par for the course when humans are involved.
A normal day becomes a day of trials when upon entering the office there is that feeling in the air – the leader knows, there is a disturbance in the force. When a synergy shift is noted, it’s time to put the detective hat on and determine whether these are temporary disturbances that are normative or if there is a deeper disruption festering within the group. In the course of an investigation of discordance a good sleuth will distinguish between symptoms and source(s).
When it comes to deficiencies in teamwork, often inexperienced leaders will address unity as its own source when in reality it is a symptom. Here's a thought - teamwork is not fixed by teamwork. To put it another way, talking about unity, training on cooperation or attempting to force synergy into the system often will not cure an issue as all of these efforts are chasing symptoms rather than addressing source. Teamwork is a product, it develops from other sources within your team. Conversely, a lack of teamwork is a symptom, it manifests to expose sources of malignancy within your organization. At its foundation, teamwork is a product of trust – the “T” in Team is for Trust.
Trust Springs From The Head Of The Fountain
When trust is built into the fabric of a team, teamwork will thrive. Without trust, teamwork will be cyclical at best and will not be able to establish roots within the organization. In the process of building a team, trust has to be a core value from the top down. A few questions that will help reveal whether there is a foundational trust issue include: 1) Does leadership trust each other? 2) Is the leadership team setting an example of trust? Leaders who believe in the vision, who respect their co-workers and promote the beauty of both will organically transfer a level of trust throughout the organization. Leaders who have not bought into the vision and/or have reservations about the trustworthiness of their coworkers will emit a level of distrust that will hinder the development of unity in the organization.
Trust Starts With Trustworthy People
Does your hiring process seek and add trustworthy people to the organization? Employees are watching who leadership hires, as who and how a company hires reinforces or contradicts what leadership has declared as it's values. Is there consistency in how leadership deals with core issues that test the building of trust within the team? The working measure of trust in the workplace is, “Can I trust you to do what you say?” When a team member commits to performing a task, regardless of how simple or complex, can the other members of the team trust that their teammate will do their best to follow through on their commitments?
Trust Builds Momentum Through Consistency
People that may not have the strongest interpersonal relationships can still work with each other, if they have trust. When there is a disturbance in the force, when leadership is asking why teamwork is scant, the investigation trail should be aimed at sources of trust/mistrust within the organization. Low teamwork does not mean throw more teamwork at the void. The question should delve into sources that are undermining trust. Do team members trust each other? Does management trust it’s employees?
Trust Flows Or Sputters With Conflict
If teamwork starts with trust, trust survives or dies with truth. Truth fleshes itself in an organization by having a clear vision and bringing people who are invested in seeing that vision through. Truth can be a source of conflict. When conflict is brought about by a tangling among team members over truth, this interaction can be a constructive encounter and must be managed properly to net a positive result (read more on this in our article Embrace Conflict). A commitment to truth, the development of trust and the momentum of teamwork are all ingredients that must be intentionally maintained over the life of a team.
Every organization desires unity, synergy will only result where teamwork is demonstrated, trust is protected and the truth is that teamwork has to be demonstrated. Are you an example for your team as to what teamwork looks like? Do your words and your actions establish the parameters for trust within your organization? The next time you have concerns or issues with teamwork, take a look at where trust is being built and where it is being undermined in your organization. Build trust by being creating clarity around truth in your organization, consistently protecting those values and developing accountability within the team from the top down and the bottom up. The first place to look when seeking to build trust, regardless of your position, is to ask whether you are exemplifying or undermining trust in the organization.
In the progression of building a team, by the time you reach the on-boarding phase you have done much of the initial heavy lifting. Where in years past candidates would seek out your organization looking for an opportunity for employment, the tables have now turned and most companies are actively engaging in proactive recruiting measures.
According to Fit Small Business, a 2017 study from Hire Well noted that, “52% of hiring managers claim that passive candidate recruitment has been less effective.” When your corporate and/or local listing are competing not only with a void in the labor market of available candidates but also the likes of professional recruiters on sites such as LinkedIn, your traditional methods of recruitment are going to lose their effectiveness. Employers that are looking to add talent to their organization are going to have to adopt the posture of hunters who understand their target and are adapting to the surroundings which would include a shortage of prey.
One quick tip is to expedite the screen process through simple means such as texting candidates as introduced in our article, Text For Hire.
If you have new employees to on-board into your organization than you have at least been able to chip away and some fragment of the quantity issue. You have increased your headcount, even if that is only one employee, which is something many companies are struggling to do. This deserves at least a golf clap. Now we want to begin the quality aspect of team additions, we want to create an entry experience that excites them to engage in the organization’s mission. In their book, Insuring Tomorrow, Tony Canas and Carly Burnham work to bridge many of the gaps between organizations and millennial employees. Tony and Carly have some practical tips for the first day and orientation throughout their book in addition to reversing a myth about millennials and criticism, “They’re absolutely comfortable with getting constructive feedback, but worry much more if they get no feedback, which is what is truly demotivating for a Millennial (p 58).”
When on-boarding new team members, those in positions of leadership should correct bad habits and details early. As the Hall of Fame UCLA basketball coach John Wooden states, “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment.” If your hiring process has enabled you to attract candidates that connect with your organizational mission and values then this tone of coaching should already have been outlined. The right additions want to know how to do things the right way and how to excel in their roles within the team. Honest feedback is good feedback when progressing towards a goal. If there is push back on the feedback given, leaders will need to determine whether there was a miscommunication, an inability or an unwillingness as outlined in our article Conflict. Each response requires a different approach and will result in a different outcome.
All of our processes should be geared towards creating clarity as a lack of clarity is the prime catalyst for the corrosive effects of confusion and explosive tension of negative conflict. As we establish clarity in our vision, our values and our systems then we can develop consistency in our processes as well as accountability in our organization. Every phase is important and clear communication is essential from recruitment, to on-boarding and on through employee development. Be clear about your values and consistent in your approach and the process will create team members who are engaged and able to assist with building accountability throughout the organization.
// References // 1) Fit Small Business; 2) Insuring Tomorrow
Jon Isaacson. Green belt in the puzzle art of business. Helping people clarify their vision, optimize productivity & follow through w/ creative solutions #MTWSL
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