“Whilst it is often the selling point of specialist field service technology, improving productivity can also be achieved through good management. So as part of a new series from Steve Brand, Senior Consultant with field service training specialists SGSA, we look at eight key management concepts that can help you improve the productivity of your mobile workforce.”
The topics included in this series are based around the content of Service Strategies’ industry standard training course for field service managers. Back in the 1970’s, management best practices were revolutionised by Peter Drucker’s work; it has endured, withstanding the test of time. New books on management best practices are published almost weekly but despite new terminology, they are based on the same fundamental principles. Drucker’s golden rules remain unchanged:
- Define the mission
- Set the vision
- State the goals
- Use metrics carefully
- Treat employees as a valued resource
So what else, can Field Service Managers do to ensure their team members are highly motivated and committed to delivering high performance?
In this series we will present eight concepts that have the potential to improve the way Field Service Managers lead and organise their teams. Correctly applied, these concepts will result in improved productivity and employee motivation/satisfaction. We begin with two less common but very powerful management tips to help Field Service Managers improve their relationships with their engineer and increase productivity.
Concept #1: Close the ‘Knowing-Doing’ Gap
Many organisations suffer from the ‘Knowing-Doing’ gap. Some managers seem to be forever attending meetings and conference calls; the output from which is often talk rather than action.
As managers talk more and more, less and less actually gets done! We see some leaders discussing the metrics incessantly, telling others what is wrong with the business, spouting the latest business-speak or techno-gabble, drawing up plans for projects that never get off the ground and even criticising their peers. These are all forms of Smart Talk. It occurs at all levels of the organisation and can be seen wherever employees attempt to sound knowledgeable or confident by being critical or negative, or by using overly complex language for simple concepts.
“Smart talk occurs at all levels of the organisation and can be seen wherever employees attempt to sound knowledgeable or confident by being critical or negative, or by using overly complex language for simple concepts”
Smart talk abounds in the work place and leads nowhere. It occurs at all levels of the organisation and can be seen wherever employees attempt to sound knowledgeable or confident by being critical or negative, or by using overly complex language for simple concepts. The “that won’t work because…” statements, ridicule of others’ suggestions or using phrases such as the ‘Transformation to a Virtual Organisation Project’ when all we want to do is give mobile devices to staff, are all examples of smart talk. The impact of smart talk is that it adds confusion, hinders problem solving and prevents knowledge sharing.
There are a number of ways to eliminate Smart Talk. Firstly, take time to explain the thinking behind initiatives and changes. Secondly, ensure all company messages, directives and objectives are short and simple; never use a written paragraph when a spoken sentence will do. And finally, create an environment of trust and respect amongst the staff.
Field service engineers must feel that they can promote their ideas without fear of criticism or ridicule. Focusing on what went wrong, who is to blame or why something won’t work is self-defeating. The key to success is to put aside what went wrong and focus on what we want or what needs to happen next.
Concept #2. Putting the Team’s Whole Brain to Work
Efficient problem solving requires a group of individuals who see the world differently from each other, to work together in a constructive manner. The key is to identify these differences and to help individuals with opposing perspectives and styles, to work together.
“Two field service engineers with different cognitive preferences, when faced with the same problem, may reach an identical solution at the same time, but use very different thought processes.”
For example, so called ‘left-brained’ thinkers tend to approach a problem in a logical, analytical way. ‘Right-brained’ thinkers rely on more non-linear, intuitive approaches. Some people prefer to work together to solve a problem; while others like to gather and process information by themselves. Abstract thinkers need to learn about something before they experience it; for experiential people the opposite is true. It is important to remember that these different approaches are preferences rather than skills.
Two field service engineers with different cognitive preferences, when faced with the same problem, may reach an identical solution at the same time, but use very different thought processes. Neither approach should be considered superior. The challenge for Field Service Managers is to understand these subtle cognitive differences and that engineers with differing approaches may clash or struggle to work together effectively, without intervention. There are many diagnostic tools available to identify these preferences and report back with various levels of detail.
Field Service Managers who do not understand this concept or know their engineers’ default style, may fail to create an environment where innovative solutions are produced quickly. In order to take full advantage of these differences, the manager must carefully select which engineers work together on problems. In most situations, a mixed group will considers more options and the final solution will be better of better quality, than any, one engineer would have produced on their own.
The downside of this approach however, is its potential to create friction. To ensure success in whole-brain problem solving, the manager must take time to define the goal and the rules of engagement; the conflict should not be personal. It is a common mistake to think that a group of people will work together as an effective team when left to their own devices. In fact, teamwork only happens when leaders create the opportunities for teamwork and effectively manage the process.
Could you or your colleagues benefit from attending the next Field Service Manager Course? The Field Service Manager program is dynamic and interactive, with students frequently working in small groups, presenting findings and working on the course case study. The program is four and a half days of course content and university-level instruction and learning that is focused on managing a field service operation.