Jan Carlzon (1987), former president of SAS Airlines, referred to every interaction with a customer as a “moment of truth”. He said SAS Airlines has “50.000 moments of truth day”. The power of those statements resonates with me today, reinforcing the importance of meeting or exceeding customer requirements and expectations, everyday. Those of us who work for organizations that provide products or services to others have one thing in common: customers/clients/students experience our efforts, either directly or through others. Therefore we are a part of every moment of truth, even if the customer is out of our sight. The primary direction of the organization is customer satisfaction, growth and/or success – the Organizational Positive Direction. Our primary role is to unify our efforts in that direction. Our customers require accurate and successful performance.

The success of an entire organization can be impacted by how well relationships, performance and morale work together. In the early 1990’s, in a conversation with a colleague, I remember saying that performance is most important in an organization, even in life. My friend said to me, “In the everyday workplace, performance is only part of it. People need to be recognized. They also need to have opportunities”. That conversation expanded my thinking to understand that, those who work in the same place have working relationships that may impact performance. Then I thought that when I like my job or I like my working conditions, my morale can also affect my performance. After categorizing relationships, performance and morale, I learned that everything we do at work is in one of those three categories. I call them the RPM’s of the workplace. Relationships, Performance and Morale work together best when they are the bi-product of the workplace. Rather than doing them, we experience them. They are the result of what happens. What needs to happen in the workplace for the RPM’s to receive consistently high marks from everyone?

Imagine that you have cups in your organization that are filled with servings of relationships, performance and morale. The CUPS in RPM is an acronym for Concentrate, Unify, Position and Sustain, the formula that keeps Relationships, Performance and Morale working together. The effectiveness of your organization depends on how well the RPM’s are stirred together and how full the cups are kept. To fill the CUPS, below are the actions that everyone in your organization can take to cause relationships, performance and morale to work together in the direction of the successes, the results, and the outcomes that are required or desired:

• Concentrate RPM’s on customer-focused delivery
• Unify RPM’s toward a shared vision
• Position RPM’s in a Consistent Positive Direction
• Sustain an RPM Climate of Interaction for customer-focused success.

This formula will accelerate your progress and the progress of your organization for the success required by your customers/clients/students. From this point on, I will generally use the word customer when referring to anyone (customer, client or student) who uses the services or products of an organization. The RPM frameworks are designed to work in any organization.

This is a 4-part series that gives a brief explanation of each of the actions and what will make it most effective.

Part 1: Everyone Concentrates on customer-focused delivery

This means that everyone in the entire organization concentrates on supporting the performance and delivery of the frontline folks. Who are considered as frontline? Frontline folks are those who have the direct task of delivery of products and services to the customer. For example, in a restaurant it would be the waitress or waiter; in a manufacturing organization it would be a finished product machine operator and/or the sales representative; in public transportation it would be the cab, bus or train driver; in human services it might be the case manager; in education it would be the classroom teacher. Imagine every person in the organization knowing that one of the most important parts of his/her job is to concentrate everything he does on supporting frontline performance and delivery, in a way that the frontline person will have the very best performance, so that customers can have the very best success and experiences.

The organization is divided into two main categories: 1) frontline and 2) everyone else. Everyone else is called the organization’s Smooth Operating System, abbreviated Smooth OpS. The Smooth OpS includes leadership, maintenance, food service, quality, medical, internal transportation, human resources, finance and other support services. The biggest part of their job is to make frontline people great. Once, an employee of one of my clients said to me just after attending an RPM session, “If it weren’t for us, the frontline wouldn’t be able to do their jobs…” She understood that the support employees were just as important as the frontline. It is what the Smooth Operating System does, that makes the frontline employees most effective by increasing their capacities for high performance delivery.

Therefore, it is important to know what helps to make a Smooth Operating System most effective. For example, how should organizational changes be handled?

When key decisions or changes need to be made or when someone has a great idea, two core questions should always be asked and one optional question can be asked:

• How does this impact our frontline performance and delivery?
• What support does the frontline need to make it successful?
• Optional question: What support does our Smooth OpS need to successfully support frontline performance and delivery?

Most important! After these questions are asked, get the answer. Then act on it!

In counseling, directing and personal or professional development situations, the core question is, “What support do you need to…?”
• “What support do you need to be on time from now on?”
• “What support do you need to continue your outstanding performance?”
• “What support does the team need to finish on time?”

Remember, after you ask the question, get the answer. Then act on it!

Many times, frontline folks are the last to find out about organizational changes. Yet, the working day of the frontline employee is most critical to delivery and customer satisfaction and success. Therefore, learning the impact on frontline performance before a change is made, can help to make adjustments that can save thousands, even millions of dollars. Asking the core questions first and getting the answers is one of the most cost effective, RPM enhancing habits that an organization can develop. This should at least be a part of every leader’s standard, from the frontline supervisor to the board chair or president, self-directed and empowered teams and individuals. Best of all, it will help the organization’s customer-focused delivery to be as good, or better than it has ever been.

The phrase ‘customer-focused’ simply means that the reason for relationships, performance and morale to work together is the customer. The customer as the ‘reason why’ should be at the core of workplace interaction – customer satisfaction, meeting customer requirements and expectations, client or student success and growth. Therefore, everyone focuses relationships, performance and morale on the customer while they concentrate on frontline performance and delivery.

Part 2 focuses on unifying the organization. You will learn what is most essential. It also explains how the Unity of Effort framework includes concentrating and unifying RPM’s.

Copyright J. Bert Freeman 2007. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

J. Bert Freeman is the Founder of T.A.L.K. Associates. As a Positive Direction Speaker, facilitator and coach, he has provided expert assistance to organizations and individuals in different areas of organizational unity of effort, leadership consistency and diversity since 1982. “Bert” is the originator of the RPM frameworks and the author of Taking Charge of Your Positive Direction (2006).

Uniquely, T.A.L.K. Associates is the only organization development and professional development company whose facilitators use the language, skills and approaches of Consistent Positive Direction in everything that they do. They are practitioners as they teach. As a Positive Direction Speaker, J. Bert Freeman has a reputation for practicing the Consistent Positive Direction that he teaches, both “on and off the stage”.

He has a B.S. in Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.S. in Human Relations from Golden Gate University. He is also a 1972 U.S. National Fencing Champion and member of the 1972 Olympic Fencing Team at Munich.