Operational Compliance Drift is a phenomenon we’ve been witnessing more and more, especially in companies in the 2nd maturity growth stage. (see https://sealevelops.wpengine.com/the-evolution-of-the-operational-journey/). The coaches at Sea-Level are fanatical about using Sea-Level’s 5 Phases of Operational Excellence when making operational changes.
As companies move into maturity growth stage 2, they realize they can’t measure themselves against MSP best practices because they don’t have clean data. This leads them to discover their data is bad because they don’t have defined processes. When they do have processes, they are not consistently followed. We often work on one operational focus through all 5 phases. Then, once it seems to be working as designed, we shift focus to the next operational challenge.
Often, after several months, we decide to do a little Phase 5 (Inspect What You Expect) and, lo and behold, the team has started to drift slowly away from compliance with the established company processes. Here are 3 methods you can use to minimize operational compliance drift.
Method 1: Dashboarding
Once a new process is defined, taught and implemented, the 5th phase is “Inspect What You Expect.” The primary cause of compliance drift is the lack of consistent inspection. Installing a big-screen TV in a common area and creating a dashboard will go a long way toward helping with inspection. Here are 4 common mistakes we see with dashboards:
1. Too many metrics
If everything gets measured, nothing gets managed. If you can’t read it in 5 seconds from 20 feet away, it won’t get used. Here are a few examples of boards that have great information, but likely won’t get used by the team.
2. Monitoring the wrong metrics
If you are a managed services provider, is percent utilized a great metric? What would happen if they are 100% utilized today (all 8 hours) billed against a flat fee contract that the client pays $200/month for. You would have great metrics, but you would be going out of business.
3. Not using Manage by Exception
Who cares if there are 100 tickets on your helpdesk board if they are all being properly managed? What you should care about is the number of tickets that are outside of SLA or don’t have a resource assigned. Your dashboard should call out the number of tickets that need attention in some way. If the number isn’t zero, someone needs to act.
4. Screens turned off
Occasionally we get a chance to visit our clients’ offices. We love walking into their NOC and seeing their dashboards with clear manage-by-exception metrics proudly displayed. We instantly know they are a more mature company. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to walk into a growth stage 1 or 2 company and find the TVs turned off or positioned in a way that the staff can’t see them.
Method 2: Better Inspection and Group Discussion
When you find that a process is not being followed, ask your personnel to find the process document and show you they know where to find information. Help them find the part of the process that is not being followed.
Use dashboards to avoid drift in established processes
Once you have worked on 20 or 30 processes, it’s very easy to get complacent and stop inspecting for compliance on processes you worked on over half a year ago. It’s really hard to create new habits and really easy to fall back into old ones. Leverage your dashboards and, when they show something is falling out of compliance, add a few minutes to the agenda for your weekly staff meeting to publicly remind everyone.
The third method is corporal punishment … err, uh, no, that won’t work. How about …
Method 3: Incentive Plans
Generally, the carrot is mightier than the stick. There is nothing wrong with putting together a small, short-term incentive plan that rewards compliance with company policy. If you are finding you do really well getting new processes implemented, but compliance seems to drift off, you may need to invest more in the Sea-Level Phase 5 – Inspect What You Expect.
If your compliance is drifting, engage with us before it runs aground. Contact us online.