Monday 6 February 2012

McKinsey still don't get it

Here I was blaming most of the corrosion of public services on management consultants McKinsey, and their fatal assembly line – and impoverished data-driven approach to human systems – what what should I find but this.

Well, actually, of course, I didn’t find it. Simon Titley sent it to me (thank you, Simon). “Many companies lose sight of what makes human beings tick,” says the article – ‘The human factor in service design’ – by three McKinsey apparachiks.

It is all a strange reflection of my book The Human Element which says that they do indeed lose sight of the human aspects, and so do public services, which is why they are so expensive to run.

The article is by John DeVine, Shyam Lal and Michael Zea and they encourage managers to ask exactly the right question: How human is our service?

But read further on and you discover the battle is not yet won.

For one thing, the authors are not really interested in understanding people. They seem far more interested in using behavioural science to avoid human traits, for example “by surprising customers with a coupon for a free product”.

Yes, big surprise. How many times has that happened to me, even today. Not enough, I can tell you. It leaves the basic power balances in place. It still leaves the managers chained to data for how customers ‘rate’ them – which, as we all know, means not very much.

Second, they fall prey to the most vacuous management jargon. “Some companies are investing in advanced analytics to understand customer interactions and channel preferences at a much more granular level”. Quite so. But does this mean they have human conversations with customers? I don’t think so.

Third, the solutions are still horribly twentieth century – analysing data and standardising the way agents ‘handle’ situations.

Precisely the opposite of what they should be doing, which is providing authentic human interactions with well-trained staff, capable of dealing with complicated requirements.

Read more in The Human Element. It’s all there!  But this is perhaps part of a bigger problem, which is the unworldly nature of so many management consultants and think-tanks, partly because they employ extremely young ideologues to carry out their work.

This is a vital new debate: see the New Think Tank blog.

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