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To change an organisation’s culture you must first change its processes

Dr James Bayley

I am not the first to point this out, Aristotle said

 “these virtues [excellence] are formed in man by his doing the actions”

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

However, I think mine version is slightly more palatable to the modern reader and I hope it might be my minor contribution to the management canon.

I coined this phrase while preparing to pitch the Net Promoter System to the client; the NPS system is built on asking stakeholders the question,

“On a scale of 0-10 how likely are you to recommend <business name> to a friend or colleague?”

with the follow-up question, “Give the primary reason for your score.

In the book “The Ultimate Question 2.0” Reichheld and Markey explain how these questions captures both the stakeholder’s emotional and rational responses to the their experience of the organisation.

The capturing of the emotional response is particularly important for service businesses. Service organisations which compete in the free-market must respond appropriately or be blown away in a gale of creative destruction and replaced by better vendors.

However, in the UK there are large numbers of regulated and protected sectors such as Health and Education where organisations can safely ignore the views of their customers providing they satisfy their regulator.

This can lead to a top-down approach to management where

  • the Government instructs the Regulator,
  • the Regulator instructs the Headmaster/Hospital Administrator,
  • the Headmaster/Hospital Administrator instructs the workers what to do.
  • the Workers do what they are told, or don’t because they don’t feel ownership

This is contrary to modern management practice where we recognise that it is the workers who actually deliver services who are best placed to contribute to their improvement.

Teaching and healthcare are ancient professions with well-developed codes of conduct and cultures and processes which protect their customer (the cynic might add “and the supplier”). I am not arguing that decades of wisdom should be thrown away in favour of a market-led approach. I simply suggest that by failing to engage with customers more fully schools and hospitals may be missing valuable opportunities to improve the services their offer.

The Net Promoter System is an excellent match for this challenge because the verbatim feedback of users can be immediately understood by the teams of front-line workers who deliver the service. People become teachers and medical professionals because they want to help people. NPS can empower them to do this.

The brings me back to my quote above, over the long-term the introduction of the NPS system will result in institutional culture changing to become slightly less top-down and slightly more bottom-up. This will benefit customers, front-line workers and the taxpayer.