Based on a comment by David on a preceding article on the same subject, I was challenged to think of the psychological flow of suppliers and customers of an organization’s processes.
When dealing with customers, their needs have to be taken into account first and foremost. This means that the organization’s processes must not prevent the customers to experience flow (or even support it).
On the Skill axis, the processes must be designed in such a way as to make the customer feel like they are skilled in changing them. That doesn’t mean you wait for customers to offer advice, but that you actively seek it, in non intrusive way of course (with prevailing ISO 9001 certification, customers are inundated with customer satisfaction surveys). In Lean terms, this is where genchi genbutsu rules on the gemba of the customer: go and see him use your product in their environment and stay long enough to learn. That’s longer than you just thought.
The Challenge axis is a bit more tricky to me. Of course, we don’t want a customer to feel un-skilled and the process to be challenging to change (Anxiety zone). I feel the challenging part need to be understood as the way the organization challenge the requests of the customer.
In coaching, there’s a well-known difference between a customer request (what s/he is asking of you) and his real need. One need to work out the request to get to the need.
In systems thinking, this is also known as moving from the problem to be solved to the purpose sought. Often the problem masks the purpose. When the purpose is highlighted again, then a new path is often found which dissolves the problem. But this need the organization to be ready to ask challenging questions to the customer.
The customer part was probably the hardest. The psychological flow of the suppliers looks easier to me. To be in a flow, work with your organization should be easy (they need to feel like they are skilled to work with you) and, they need to be challenged and feel empowered to serve you at their best.
If your require the lowest of them, chances are you’ll get it, which will require few skill and will be less than challenging to them: a clear recipe for an apathetic supplier. But broad requests with a strong dialog between you and them where you share your customers’ vision and make them part of your extended enterprise will surely allow them to seek their most powerful skills to serve you and accept the corresponding challenges.
I sense a form of respect for people in both of these approaches: that in which you don’t accept fatality in your relations (you on one side and customer on the other – or you and “them” (suppliers)) and reach out to build that extended enterprise everybody’s talking about in the Lean literature.
My recipe for an extended psychological flow from suppliers to customers:
- Co-create visions with suppliers and customers
- Establish an extended Dialog between suppliers, your organizations and your customers
- Praise and share results by focusing on what works to do more of it
Incidentally, this is also my recipe for successful changes…