Conference circuit: friend or foe?


Every fall, I am asked to participate in the conference circuit, traveling from hotel ballroom to hotel ballroom hosting workshops, leading sessions, representing my company in an executive leadership circle, acting as a keynote, track B or C speaker, and other common conference terminology, basically all defined by Miriam Webster to mean conference speaker/participant.

Naturally for those that know me, I only choose to speak when the topics happen to align with where my business thought process is at that time, or when the operational strategic goals that are assigned to me or my BU, when I can complement the knowledge that the audience brings or lastly, when their need for knowledge is equal to their willingness to attentively listen & attempt to process the information at the “track-topic-du-jour” level.

These typically fall into two buckets:

  • topics related to how organizational excellence can use the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) Approach to deliver quick, net-positive wins, even if yours is a cost center – Why?

    • By building a scaled down yet pocket team of excellence, in effect, you are serving up a model or ‘proof of concept’ to the rest of the organization with minimal risk exposure. Once optimization is achieved, you can replicate with greater ease than if you tried to launch across vertical & horizontal channels and lines of business.

  •   For example, take my BU: Contact Center Operations; an easy to say but highly generic & confusion-inspiring at best. Now, let’s parachute down 1 level and stratify this BU into departments:

  • 1.     customer support

  • 2.     telesales

Does this help us or not? Well, the answer is YES! Anytime a measurement system offers a better (smaller) resolution, or finer granularity to apply against your dataset, use it! Start at the finest resolution you can AFFORD – wait…

stop – make sure you understand what I have just said.

If you can afford for your expensive black belts or analysts to sit around measuring to the .0000000001 decimal point or degree, I would challenge why you even have a six sigma program (implicitly stated) as it appears your company is willing to waste money trying to determine whether the sample of steel, for example, is .000000010 or .00000011 inches – does this apply to you; probably want to continue reading – But most are not in that boat with you, so you can sail through this section as it doesn’t apply to your situation. If you are like most who find the above insignificant to their process (if you are building air planes, you might need this resolution precision; but most will not), segmenting customer service from telesales is a step in the right direction.

The natural question comes up when you see those two buckets, if one if from the contact center industry —  more than likely, you will ask which areas of customer support are the most relevant or important to that measurement; (anecdotal note: since operations science folks, unlike others in the management ranks, tend to get off on the mathematics and statistics of it all; wanting to stratify beyond the normal limits, to find root cause by finding the red herring that their gut, framed as a professional and scientific hypothesis, always knew existed in the data and merely needed to be mined by one as skilled as they).  The key: measure using a system that offers multiple levels of resolution: measuring feet (entire ruler) isn’t as effective as measuring in inches (1 ruler=12 inches), which isn’t as effective as measuring in cm or mm).

b.    Analysis Paralysis – marked by an inability to mine or mull through large volumes of data, thus rendering the analyst useless for a certain time period; in layman’s, if you define SOPs or measurement systems with too generic a taxonomy or one built inconsistently across divisions or teams, later on down the line, the scalability gaps will become larger and erode over time.

c.     Extensibility/scalability – catch-words to imply your BSC has the ability to scale rapidly as adoption & usage of whatever scorecard platform you utilize, tend to increase exponentially after they pass that initial learning curve that will effectively prove the value in BSC without demanding upfront investments based on a purely projected ROI; by doing this and proving out this value, as we did, you are able to justify procuring the associated BSC software with funding generated off of the momentum of your pilot program or POC.  Down stream, the conference circuit hasn’t really focused on an area in which they are really missing out – the BSC is a perfect companion to a Six Sigma organization to help facilitate or aid in the project selection process; we assign projects by benefits returned according to the performance indicators that matter most to the business; these and only these should end up on the executive view of the BSC whether in an expanded view or at the 60000 ft view; if one wants to peel back the onion, they will inquire further. Keep your KPIs to a minimum (5-9 max). Projects can be further divided into:

                                                             i.      ‘quick wins’ (less than 3 months from concept to results; solution is not known upfront)

                                                          ii.      ‘Just Do It ‘(less than 6 months from concept to post implementation/results tracking; solution is already known at onset)

                                                       iii.      Lean Kaizen events / Workout projects (3-6 months in project duration; non-political; where the end is achievable & only light statistics are necessary to deliver quick but meaningful hits; often suited for more nimble organizations though efficient, process focused large companies can also benefit from this concept.

2.     I call a concept near and dear to the social invisible network that exists in any organization “management-congruence”’ and have found that if & only if it is achieved will true line of sight replace the archaic, ‘silo’ed mentality or line of business focus. Each year, management across a flat org chart is kept to visionary leaders, with strategic focus and a P & L responsibility; each employee comes together to review the goals that are set each year at a company level, bi-annually at a BU level & quarterly at a team level (more short-term) as well as or those set by our shareholders 1-3 years out (long-term) or those that have a greater impact to our Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ);

a.   stratify this further into 4 views or another concept I like to call ‘voice of perspective’ – What is ‘Voice of Perspective’?

                                                             i.      For starters, it is a concept I have had the opportunity to speak at great length about, with consistently positive reviews coming back from the audience / participant comment cards. 

b.    Voice of the customer (VOC)

c.     Voice of the supplier (VOS)

d.   Voice of the process (VOP)

e.     Voice of the business (VOB)

As the strategic use of a balanced, cascading scorecard, in conjunction with an organizational wide six sigma deployment or achievable goals & targets are achieved, driving operational & process excellence into and out of one’s Contact Center, you will have to find new ways to optimize and create efficiencies, across both the internal or in-sourced contact centers as well as your outsourcers, while infusing change management practices to help minimize the impact felt downstream due to:

1.     Crisis management

2.     Corporate restructure

3.    Loss of employment due to layoffs


So, that’s easier said than done, I know…And, pigs will fly when your top leadership lets any dashboard driving their strategy planning? Some people are shy at conference workshops and will not ask a question in front of the group; you know, for fear of sounding stupid all the while daydreaming that you were that person that we all hate; you know the one…that one person who can stand up, in their designer clothes and manicured nails (yes, men included), spout of a load of crap about any given subject before handing you a business card intended for your CFO (as if you ever would!) *special attention should be paid to the e-commerce or BI / OS sales conferences; the once nerd herd now socially & financially secure, having been graced by the ‘web 1.0’ *get the pun?* start and fall of corruption in the workplace, frequently attend these events;



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