Recently while working with a team to create a Value Stream Map (VSM) of their IT Service Desk Area it was pointed out by one of the ”Users” that IT will request the User to issue a new ticket so they can close out the current one. Why would the Help Desk ask you to close out a service request even if the support was not done completely or to your satisfaction?

A quick and easy answer is because they have to meet their “numbers”. Many IT Help Desks measure their performance in relation to Service Level Agreements (SLA). Sometimes manager’s bonuses are directly tied into meeting or exceeding the SLAs. So there’s the rub. The managers push the technicians to close out service requests as quickly as possible so that they met the SLA for time to respond and time to resolve. In order to do this, the ticket needs to be closed out before the SLA time. So if the support is not complete, just close the ticket, receive your reward for getting it done on-time and open a new ticket later. Problem solved.

Just to prove that I am not just picking on IT, we see this all over the place where ‘hitting the numbers’ is more important that doing the right thing. Here are some real-world examples I have run across:

  • The car dealer that prompts you to give all 10’s on the survey after your car repair. They are gaming the system. If they always get 10s they must be perfect with no room for improvement?
  • A hospital that had their staff wear pins that said “Ask me about 10”. This was so that they would prompt the patient to give them a 10 on their satisfaction surveys. Of course, management would say that it was to make sure that the staff had every opportunity to interact with the patient so that they could give attention to any area that was less than a 10. But, we know better.
  • The Call Center that measures how long a customer service rep (CSR) stays on a call. In order to process as many calls as possible, management forces the CSR to quickly get off the call even if the customer has not been fully taken care of.
  • I’ve seen manufacturer’s that measure Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) manipulate the numbers just so they look good. They don’t want to see reality of what’s happening in their plant. They even do things like overproduce just to increase their OEE.

What are these organizations thinking? Let’s get back to the basics of providing value to the customer. We want to have measures of success, but let’s not drive wrong behaviors. If it doesn’t seem right for the customer, then it probably isn’t right.

Let’s start to measure what’s important and what will help us improve.



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As an invited guest and speaker at a company’s annual 5S Benchmarking Summit I was impressed with a fun game they played with some of their Continuous Improvement (CI) Team members – “Good, No Good or Mixed.” The way the game they played the game was contestants were shown a picture taken from their own workplaces and asked “Is this visual good, no good, or mixed?” They could apply their own criteria, but basically – could they tell what was going on or what the message was supposed to be in a very short period of time (whoever raised their hand first got to answer first)? The scoring was 1 point if they got the “good, no good, mixed” answer correct and a bonus point for getting the reason “why” correct. Now since this was a contest, the competition was fierce (I love Americans and our competitive nature).

What I liked about this game was that it taught me to look at workplace visual controls in a very critical manner. How effective are your visuals? Does it make sense to others? One of my favorite parts was when a visual popped-up that was created by one of the CI Team Leaders; he very vigorously defended his visual as he had to listen to the other CI people say how it was lacking and what could be improved. Remember, no matter how good you think a visual is you have to test it to make sure that it is getting the right message across.

Try answering these questions with your visuals:

  • Does you visual make sense to the people that need to see it? Ask them.
  • Is it labeled?
  • Can people recognize the message is a short period of time? Versus having to have to have training to understand what the visual is supposed to convey.
  • Can we make this better?

Try this game at your company and “see” what happens!

This just started out as one of those silly jokes about Lean Champions (see last bullet) and it kept growing from there.

Ask people in your organization about this picture and here might be some responses:

  • Pessimist – the glass is half empty
  • Optimist – the glass is half full
  • Economist – this may be a good economic indicator or bad economic indicator
  • Accountant – go out and count it each month
  • Marketing Manager – it should have scotch in it
  • Sales Manager – this is the best hydrating water available, filtered by nature in an easy pour, see through container and its diet too
  • Customer Service Rep – we can ship half now and the other half is on back-order
  • Scheduler using ERP – you have to wait until we run the report to tell you what to do
  • Production Manager – fill it all the way up and add 10% more and go fill five more glasses while we can
  • Production Supervisor – can I drink it? It’s hot in here
  • Water-filler Operator – I’ll fill it to whatever level you want
  • Purchasing Manager – fill it all the way up with the cheapest water we can find
  • Inventory Control – when the new water comes in, make sure we maintain First-in, First-out (FIFO) integrity
  • Logistics Manager – I can’t ship a half full glass of water; that will cost too much. Wait until it is full
  • Quality Control – it is a clear, odorless liquid that we will run three hours of tests on
  • Safety Manager – where’s the MSDS?
  • Consultant – it is a glass that is half-filled with water
  • Scientist – it is a full glass with half water and half filled with air
  • Research & Development – we have H2O molecules that have thousands of uses
  • Lean Champion – the glass is twice as big as it needs to be

See, Lean can be fun (kind of). If you have others you like to add, feel free. – Tony

P.S. Don’t forget to stop by 5Ssupply to see what’s new!