If you happened to stumble upon my last column, you will recall I began a treatise on a most interesting editorial published in a recent ever-so-smart Harvard Business Review publication. The title was “Why Strategy Execution Unravels,” and after a massive survey of more than 400 chief executive officers and a measly 8,000 of their minions, the authors (D. Sull, Homkes, C. Sull) uncovered some interesting “myths” regarding the execution of strategy. Every automotive manager, even the intelligentsia’s, has wrestled with getting something done well, and even more importantly, keeping it done dang it.
Myth 1: Execution Equals Alignment
I pondered/deliberated Myth 1 last month. This proclamation dealt with a codependence issue for individuals and company / corporate divisions necessary to ensure success. While surveyed managers generally agreed that their company’s strategies were “sound”, the fact that they had to continually rely on the execution of other entities, greatly affected their ultimate success. “Sure honey, I will stop and pick up some milk for the baby” sort of turning into “but I did pick up the beer.”
Just because one entity wants something done, doesn’t mean a support mechanism will follow-thru or even do it correctly, which often leads to marginal success or failure. A service and parts operation can conduct a transaction perfectly, but when a “backorder message” pops up because of a poorly managed parts depot, the entire system blows up – how many times have we all been there?
Myth 2: Execution Means Sticking To The Plan
The authors aptly point out that head honchos creating detailed execution maps and related budgets are the “backbone of execution”, and that execs too often get the red butt when others deviate from their perfectly mapped out strategy.
“I said an MPI on every vehicle and I meant it Biff, you deviated from my plan and now I’m ticked. I said 100%. That little mistake cost you a $20 fine buster.”
“But boss, the customer was just in here two days ago, and we didn’t fix her car right. I didn’t think another inspection was appropriate.” This service chief deserves a great big “Duh” for shooting off at the mouth before investigating the facts – you get the idea. Sometimes deviation is necessary, and the lack of deviation can spell failure.
Overreactions to creative solutions for unforeseen problems or situations should be discouraged, not encouraged, say the authors. Some situations require reactive agility, that is accessing the immediate circumstance and then applying the appropriate strategy, whether it fits the exact original plan or not. We have all learned that any action has consequences that we cannot predict. Dealing effectively with those consequences keeps the ultimate solution on track. Rocket science!
How about this for some sense? Real-time adjustments should be sewn into the fabric of execution, so that players know up front that they have leeway to adjust to unique circumstances. The authors’ point here is that shallow considerations make up much of the strategic planning, and directives which lack in-depth thinking create a suppression of necessary creative thinking.
One of the few things I remember from six years of college was a management class where the instructor emphasized that change was “two steps forward, and one step back.” The leader who is capable of thinking ahead to put as much emphasis and detail into the one step back, rather than the easy “two steps forward”, is the one who is ultimately the better leader. We’ve all been there Jack.
I was fortunate enough to enter the automotive service industry in a dealership with the European technician team system. As an apprentice I was tutored by real masters of the art of auto reconstruction, not just the now common diagnose then replace training. That instruction included understanding the many consequences in how mechanical repair service was provided, as well as how to approach customers with all the facts related to the intimate repair requirements. They taught me to treat the communication and actual fix as one package, in which everyone involved (including the customer) was equally responsible for the final results.
So What Ed
Here’s the “So what Ed.”The more our service drive personnel recognize the vehicle’s intricacies, parts quantities and options, repair procedures, flat rate times, and necessary skill levels, the better they will perform. Consider how much better the documentation and resulting communication with each other and the customer is, when both the tech and writer have the exact same clue – what a concept!
Frankly, the dealer industry is getting its big toe handed to it by unhappy patrons. As I view the condition, too many ill-trained – ill-selected individuals are attempting to advise/teach vehicles owners, who may be more savvy than them (thanks for nothing smartphone). The automotive service industry has emphasized / demanded selling, selling, selling, without providing the intimate ground-floor knowledge of the many products being sold.
The core of fixed operations success is product-based knowledge, and the icing is the customer transaction knowledge and ability. The industry has it ass backwards…
Is The Doctor In?
So the application of this myth to us is that personnel, who do not possess the capability to be flexible and thorough by providing effective information within their broad-based knowledge, aren’t going to maximize sales. The dealer service industry has lowered itself to memorizing a few pithy sales word tracks and heavy discounting as the only way to talk / beg / threaten a consumer into a purchase. Frankly, sticking to “the plan” is only an answer in some selling situations. Is what service provides even selling in the true sense? Or should we provide concise and thorough information which creates an obvious purchase decision – more like a medical doctor does. That is what I learned from the Europeans Antonio.
Consider a medical doctor appointment where your visit ends with, “Wanna shot in the butt?” Would you hurry back for that advice? “Hell I don’t know, that’s why I came to you Dr. Dudley.”
Think of knowledge as a horizon. A narrow one leaves little to choose from. The broad-based horizon is where the flexibility to adapt to any circumstance lies. When it comes to service writers, parts counter personnel, business development personnel, and even technicians the current training is too shallow regarding the technical aspects of the jobs.
The core of fixed operations success is product-based knowledge, and the icing is customer transaction knowledge and ability. The industry has it ass backward and are paying for it with poor customer retention and satisfaction. Ah, I feel so much better now – to my shop. See you next month with part three.