Senior Research Scientist, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Executive Director, MIT Engineering Systems Learning Center
In reality, this is a culture change on a massive scale. It is a shift to a culture that can see the value in recognizing ‘disconnects’ with customers. It is a shift to a culture where frontline workers have the skills and motivation to conduct root-cost analysis. It is a shift to a culture in which learning is seen as central to business success, not just an add-on activity.
A number of leading organisations have been placing increased value on the learning from customer service operations. What sets apart the approach pioneered by the authors of this book is the fact that it is embedded in the work itself. This is not just a nice additional thing for people to do: it is at the center of the work. As a result, even some of the most routinized and hierarchical work – answering phones in a call center – has been transformed into a knowledge-driven work system.
This is not the only knowledge-driven work system of note. In manufacturing, the Lean Production systems at auto companies, aerospace companies, and others have produced astounding results through the nurturing and implementing of many thousands of improvement suggestions each year (in the leading facilities).
In other sectors as well we find Lean Enterprise, Six-Sigma, and other transformations that value knowledge as the engine driving continuous improvement. The authors’ work at Fujitsu has been proclaimed ‘the Toyota of service operations’. In the same way that Toyota fundamentally transformed our understanding of the flow and delivery ‘on-demand’ of product, materials, and knowledge in manufacturing operations, this approach has transformed our understanding of the flow and delivery on demand of support, knowledge, and innovation in service operations.
The knowledge economy is much larger than the relative handful of expert jobs that are usually highlighted in the popular press. Virtually all types of jobs face the challenge of change in this new economy. Knowledge, skills and capability are at the core of the challenge. An issue is whether the change can happen in a way that is respectful of and even enthusiastic about the contributions of all workers. Taking such an approach makes good business sense. Indeed, anything less will not consistently deliver what customers want, when they want it, at the price they are willing to pay. Moreover, it is the right thing to do – for the workforce and for society.