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What could you learn if you sat down with your toughest critics, your mind open and your mouth shut?
After getting over my bias that old content is less valuable content – tell me you didn’t think the same thing when you saw the 2007 date – some of Mulally’s actions really hit home. Case in point, sitting with his engineers as the Consumer Reports team criticized the (then) new Ford Edge. It got me thinking about customer service, corporate culture, and entrenched bureaucracies.
The term innovation is thrown around fairly liberally with questionable efficacy. True innovation comes when we set aside habits and preconceptions. So:
- What if we were proactive and asked the tough questions? Of ourselves AND our customers?
- What if we engaged and actually listened to and embraced the implications of the answers?
- What if we broke down the barriers within our organization to create transparency – internally and externally?
If Mulally can walk into a staid corporate culture like Ford and shake things up, what can you do in your business?
I remember as a kid working with my father on a home improvement project. As I was about to attempt to hit a nail in with the back of a screwdriver my Dad said “Stop! You don’t use a screwdriver for that. Use the hammer.”
It certainly looked to me like the screwdriver would have done a perfectly adequate job of hitting in that nail. My father explained that each tool had a purpose, something for which it was designed and for which it was best.
So what was wrong with using the screwdriver? Simple. It may have worked that one time. Maybe even a few more. But in the long run it was not a good bet to effectively hit in nails and, what’s more, would likely cause damage to the screwdriver.
What we had here was a case of scope creep. I was extending the definition and function of the screwdriver beyond it’s original intent, beyond what it was “contracted to do.”
Can You Just Do…
Let’s say you hire me to mow your lawn. “Oh, while you’re here can you just change the light bulb in the shed?” Sure, why not. It’s a little thing. “Oh, I forgot. Can you also tighten the doorknob on the garage?”
What’s happening here is classic scope creep. The original scope was mowing lawns. Changing the light bulb in the shed? Not the same skillset, but still a small thing. What about tightening the doorknob? Hmmm, I need a screwdriver for that, don’t I?
Do It Once And You Own It
I have two problems here. The first is I am doing more work than you originally contracted. How far can I let that go before I need to charge you for it? “Can you also change the light bulb in the garage?” you may ask. Sure. What about the whole house?
Second, and less obvious, is you are making me expand the type of work you will now come to expect from me. The next time I mow your lawn you may expect that I can also change light bulbs and fix door knobs. Even if you agree to pay me for the additional work, is that really what I do well? Can I do it cost effectively? Is all my staff prepared to deliver those additional services?
The Law of Unintended Consequences
Scope creep, unchecked, can lead to many unintended consequences, not the least of which include:
- cost overruns and angry customers;
- overworked and/or misused employees;
- failure to achieve contracted goals;
- jeopardizing the organization as a whole.
In professional services, scope creep is a fact of life. It is something we need to manage and, if at all possible, avoid. Please join Kelly Craft, Fred McClimans and me on Twitter for the #ProfServ chat tonight (and every other Thursday) at 10pm ET to discuss “Managing/Avoiding Scope Creep.”
Also, continue the conversation on LinkedIn in the Professional Services Roundtable.
(Need a little help keeping up? Try TweetChat)
A doctor and a lawyer were talking at a party. Their conversation was constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asked the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you’re out of the office?”
“I give it to them,” replied the lawyer, “and then I send them a bill.”
The doctor was shocked, but agreed to give it a try. The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepared the bills. When he went to place them in his mailbox, he found a bill from the lawyer.
It’s an old joke (thanks to Jokes Place for this version) but, as with most good jokes, at it’s core is some truth.
As service professionals, whether it’s IT, accounting, management, or other, we provide advice to clients and they pay us for it. Sometimes, we feel compelled to give away free samples to prove our level of expertise. How many free samples do you need to give away to make a sale?