What does it mean to be empowered? Isn’t this an overused term these days? Isn’t it just about getting the job done?
“If the system is really the best thing since sliced bread then surely a trained “monkey” can use it?”
All great questions…
So what is empowerment?
To me the best way of describing empowerment, is to use a metaphor of an old show I used to watch on TV as a kid. The “Six Million Dollar Man”. It was a story of a fighter pilot Steve Austin, who was in a plane crash, and as a result was “barely alive”. The opening narrative of the show was “We can rebuild him, we can make him, better than he was before, stronger, faster…” The essence of the show was that they integrated his human capabilities with technology (in this case a Bionic eye, arms and legs) in such a way as to amplify and improve on his core strengths and capacity and enable him to do things faster, quicker and with superhuman strength.
Traditionally technology, in our view, is an amplifier. It amplifies the cultural, the business processes, the capabilities and the overall offering of the organisation. If not well crafted, or not well used, or not embraced by the user, then a lot of time, effort and money can be invested with little return. If weaknesses, or gaps in processes, or capability gaps are not addressed then even with the best technology full benefits will not be realised.
Over the past several decades I have worked in a range of business roles, in sales, operations, marketing, tendering etc, and wherever I went I found gaps in our ability to deliver against the objectives set by management or demanded by clients. Given my background in IT, I was often asked to craft a tool that would help fill the gap. What I realised is that the project work was not over when the “tool” was crafted and put in the hands of the user, it had only just begun!
Equipping staff to build capacity and efficiency
I’ve seen lots of IT deployments over the years, where management would work with the IT provider “behind closed doors”, then months later deliver the “solution” to the end “user”. On some occasions I was that user. We would have some basic training for an hour or two, or worst still on some occasions, be put in front of the computer and be told by a colleague how to “use” the system for a few minutes. This is how I was taught how to use Microsoft Office. “Here is your laptop, now can you write that tender document for me?” Even though I had completed a Computer Science degree, my education was before Office was invented – back in the days of Word Perfect! I have always been the sort of person who looks for a faster or more efficient way of doing things. The notion of working late into the night held no attraction to me, especially if there was a smarter way of doing things. I could not understand the logic of spending what was Millions of dollars on new systems, to then spend <1% of that budget on the actual practical use of the tool.
To me it is like giving a person who is used to using a hammer to hit the nails in, a nail gun, and then without any instruction, they hit the nail with the nail gun rather than pulling the trigger!
If our system is the equivalent of the “nail gun” in this analogy, to empower the user is:
- to work alongside them,
- show them how the new tool works,
- what to avoid in terms of risks,
- how not to “shoot themselves in the foot”,
- but more importantly to help them to get value out of the tool.
To show them how they can get the job done faster, easier, creatively in a way that leverages their strengths, builds capacity and capability, mitigates risk and improves quality.
Using the Streamline Edge Toolbox
Think of Streamline Edge as a “toolbox” full of smart tools, like the nail gun or the bionic legs, you can achieve more, faster and more efficiently than without.
The routine tasks can be automated, but more importantly, allow the staff member or user to deliver greater value to the organisation and its customers.
For example, our Smart Forms can capture contact information from your web site in a user friendly way, automatically put the information in our Streamline Edge database, send a personalised email to the client, thanking them for their enquiry, and then send a task to a team or specific staff member to call the client. This is just one simple example, showing the time saved in doing things that a smart tool can do faster and more efficiently, but in a way that serves the goal of improved customer responsiveness. Because the data in captured in the system, we can then deliver reports to staff and management on things like – how long does it take from initial enquiry to call to sale etc.
We had thought of using the term training program, as perhaps this word is more familiar to most. But what we do, is far more than “training” in the traditional sense.
It is the real, practical application of the technology, the system, the “solution” to the organisational need and the users day-to-day tasks.
We start with a “training session” of sorts where we explore the “theory”, what the “system” functionally does. Using the last simple example it might be on – how to create a task, how to assign a task, how to track what has been delegated, and how to complete a task. But we don’t stop there, when then get “hands on” with those involved in the session to apply the task learnings to their specific work context.
For example a staff member in Marketing may receive the automatically generated task, so we would walk through how the task was delivered, and then how various enquiries would then be managed using the “tool” in her context. She may receive a phone call instead from a prospective customer. How would the task then be managed in that context? We would come alongside her and others in the department to truly apply the tool in her context and to help her to know what tool to use when, in lieu of her old “hammer” from my earlier analogy. We would supply quick reference guides that highlight the functional components in the context of the “typical” work practice or process for that specific department.
After the “training” sessions are complete, we then accredit staff at various skill levels in their use of the system as applied to their departmental context. This accreditation involves an online test, that requires them to have understood the reference guide, and practically used the Streamline Edge System in order to “pass”. We then publish results to management, along with regular usage “dashboards” to track and monitor the practical day-to-day adoption of the new system. If you like we track the usage of the “nail gun”, who is using it, how many nails etc.
Harnessing and leveraging team skills and know-how
Our holistic approach goes beyond just the individual but encourages team collaboration, co-operation and knowledge sharing. Our collaboration tools shift internal conversations and emails to filtered, interactive, best practice sharing and problem solving dialogues. This builds a valuable knowledge base within the company, serves to refine and further enhance work practices that encourage growth whilst strengthening core skills. The value of this cannot be overstated.
I have been in various companies before founding Smart Seamless Systems, which were bought and sold, some several times during my employment. What stood out for me, was a common question: To what extent would the value of the business be diminished, if the key employees left? Without uniform, documented, repeatable, efficient processes and systems to drive these, all the knowledge was “in the head” of the key staff. Of course, if they left, the value of the business was much less than hoped for!
So for us empowerment means, building and leveraging capacity, integrating knowledge with smart, seamless, systems, that encourage information sharing, and build a knowledge and process asset of considerable value to the business.
Delivering results that really add value
Our first client in the manufacturing sector, had some 30 years of experience in the industry, but were struggling to make a profit. Now, with our systems make more profit in a month than they used to make in a year, have moved to new facilities, have less staff and more clients than they started with. The Founder has moved to just holding an equity stake, and sipping wine at his vineyard in the country!
Talk with us today, about how we can help you to leverage capacity and empower your team to take the business to another level of performance and impact.