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Friction always causes frustration

I’m sitting there on the highway towards Stockholm. Things are going well. The cars glide along in the three lanes, seemingly at no great speed at all, as they all have very little difference in speed compared to each other.

There are nearly 100 on the meter and 80 on the signs. A police car glides by, at about the same speed as everyone else. As I said, things are going well.

It makes me think that we don’t always do what someone else wants us to do. Someone has sat at the Swedish Transport Administration and calculated, looked at statistics, checked established guidelines, calculated some more and concluded that the road should have a speed limit of 80 kilometers per hour. Signs have been put up. Many signs. There is no mistaking what the speed is.

However, road users do not think this is the right speed. It is too slow. So, as a group, they have created a higher speed that makes it flow. Even if it is now perhaps 92 kilometers per hour or so.

Should you choose to be law-abiding and drive 80 km per hour, you would be an effective brake in an otherwise well-oiled flow and an effective cause of irritation for other road users. Maybe even a breeding ground for a future accident. The same if you were driving at 110 km per hour. It is the deviation itself that is the source of irritation and disruption.

The same is true in your business, I imagine. Your customers, whatever you call them, are not doing what you intended. You may have sat down and developed rules, guidelines, tools and other things for customers to interact with. It’s just that they don’t do what you intend. They do something else. Strange.

Perhaps it is because you have taken a top-down approach. Or inside-out, which I also talk about. In other words, you’ve been sitting by yourself thinking about what customers should do and how they think. You think you understand them, but you don’t.

Then they will do what they want and what they think. If you are not sensitive to that, then there will be friction in what you deliver. Friction always leads to frustration.

This means bringing the customer’s real opinion and thinking into the process of designing your value-creating flows, where you interact with your customers. They must be involved in the work.

Otherwise, you can always stubbornly stick to your view of what reality is, as you think it should be.

It makes me think of another experience, many years ago. I stayed in a hotel and went down for breakfast. It struck me that there were very dirty white tablecloths on the tables. Quite obvious splashes from the previous guests. It didn’t feel fresh at all.

I am not one to shy away from speaking up, so I brought this to the attention of the staff.

The answer I got was that not all guests do what the restaurant has written in its notices: always have a tray. So that’s why there have been dirty tablecloths…

Hepp! So it was the guests’ fault that it looked dirty. Not the restaurant’s inability to change tablecloths, or not having tablecloths at all, but instead wiping the tables after the guests.

To get the right understanding of what your customers really want, you need the right culture in your organization. What does it look like, do you have a good, true, customer-focused culture? Not just one that exists on paper.

Do you want to learn more about how to create an improvement leadership and a good improvement culture? In that case, I think you should read more and register your interest, without committing to anything. You will receive more information in late summer on how to improve your skills and enhance your business.

Click here to read more.