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  • Writer's pictureBill Fischer

Organizing Expertise and Experience to Create Customer Outcomes

There is a saying in Silicon Valley, credited to Jim Rohn, that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The way that I think about this is that ideas are formed via conversations and the people that you normally associate with play a big role as architects of your ideas, simply by proximity and frequency of how they interact with you.

The reason that I mention this is that these same conversations are responsible for organizational performance around expertise and experience, with the working assumption being that the balance between the two can lead to vastly different outcomes, and the organizations that best deliver them will likely have vastly different conversational architectures..

Let me illustrate by the recent case of a close friend of mine who was treated in a delightful clinic where post-surgical rehabilitation was the first, and only priority. The experience was all that could be hoped for, and more, and the “conversational groups” that were observed were small, applied and diverse. Depending upon the rehabilitation requirements, the teams in action were made-up of physiotherapists, nurses, and an occasional masseuse. While there was clearly a central scheduling approach somewhere off-stage, interactions within these conversational groups were informal, often-client initiated, with a high-degree of insight-sharing and improvisation, all in the service of achieving a better customer experience in the moment.

The following-week, by chance, the same friend spent four days in a local university-teaching hospital. While the Urgency Admissions department worked somewhat similarly to that of the spa, at least in terms of teamwork, informality and improvisation, what came after, once the patient was admitted into a classical treatment ward, was completely different. Here, expertise reigned supreme; rank was recognizable everywhere and conversational groups were almost always homogenous: doctors toured the ward with other doctors, nurses with nurses and the physiotherapists always in pairs. The differences between the two organizations couldn’t have been starker.

What we were seeing in the rehabilitation clinic was a pure customer-focused organization, where everything centered around the patient and where teams, and their conversations, were designed to be able to respond quickly, with the benefit of wide, diverse experience. After all, whatever it was, they had seen it before; the same was true of Urgency Admissions. In the classical hospital wards, on the other hand, there were two customers; the patients hoping for solutions and medical students hungry for discipline-deep knowledge. Always, there was a compromise regarding what sort of conversations were most useful, and for which client.

We are all embedded in similar conversational architectures; some are functional, where deep expertise is needed; and others are cross-functional, where fast workable remedies are sought for particular client issues. Some of us are in matrices, which are usually compromises trying to finesse multiple objectives or a lack of clear purpose. Large, successful, mature organizations can attribute their sclerosis to a lack of conversational vitality, while start-ups generate abundant energy from small teams reveling in informality, first-hand involvement and perhaps even a lack of expertise. Everywhere you look conversations are taking place. It is important that you reflect on how and why.

This first appeared on the website, in Portuguese.

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