Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.” – William James
Even though William James may have been talking about the interaction between two people, I believe the same can be said of organisations. For when businesses put themselves in the marketplace the same three personas exist – who WE are, how we see OURSELVES and how other people see US.
So often business start out with the best intentions, there is a clear objective to provide a specific product or service to a suitable target customer. All business activities are to be aligned to supporting this objective. Very quickly though everyday business activities deviate for one reason or another and the split personality develops.
The SERVQUAL service delivery model is one of the clearest ways to demonstrate this misalignment and addresses five gaps in the perception and operation of organisations. (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SERVQUAL). These ‘gaps’ highlight instances where there is a difference in understanding about the way something is, in effect, the root of the split personality.
Adapting this model to suit typical planning processes, the SERVQUAL model looks like this:
From this model it is clear that even within organisations there are plenty of instances where poor communication can undo any hard work that has been done at corporate level to create a sustainable strategy, before any interaction with the customer even takes place. From this, the two areas that organisations can influence the most are as follows:
Gap 2: Corporate Strategy v. Department Strategies
Often the problem here is not a lack of communication of corporate strategy, it is lack of corporate strategy in the first place. Without clear defined goals that are accompanied by a set of holistic guidelines for “the way things should be done”, creating corresponding departmental strategies can be impossible. Furthermore, those responsible for creating departmental strategies must have some level of input when creating corporate strategy, for it is their knowledge and understanding that can advise what can and cannot be done on a practical level.
Gap 3: Department Strategies v. Department Processes
The third gap addresses the disconnect between desired actions and actions carried out. This is often created by lack of understanding of resources, poor employee motivation, and as always, miscommunication. Overcoming these aspects must be included in the strategy itself to ensure those executing the strategy through their every day activities not only understand what’s expected of them but understand and buy into the reasons behind it.
Before we can begin to change how our organisations are perceived, we must first ensure that we see ourselves as we really are. By gaining a true understanding of every aspect and clearly defining complementary strategies throughout the business, each employee can understand and practically apply to their role. Only then do we stand a chance of communicating to our customers with a unified voice, and see our own organisations as they really are.