I first started spending time supporting improvement in the water industry FIVE years ago and over that time I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time in almost every function of a water company and I have found the whole system fascinating.

One thing that I have always found interesting is the role of the regulator, with the targets that are set and how these then manifest into strategy and ultimately the execution within water companies. I understand the need to drive improvement for customers, but this has left me feeling there could be better ways than league table comparisons coupled with fines. With league tables there has to be winners and losers even if those deemed to be losing have actually made significant improvement from where they were.

One of the measures that I’ve had the benefit of being around is the customer focussed ones, namely CMEX/DMEx but previously the SIM measure. These measures are there to help understand how a water company is performing for its customers, through using a customer satisfaction approach. I’m sure all water companies will have developed their own customer strategy for how they intend to achieve improvements in their CMEx/DMEx scores but unfortunately not all strategies are created equal and the consequence for either a poor thought out strategy or maybe even worse, poor execution, is low league table positions and ultimately penalties.

I really feel for leaders in this environment, it’s really challenging as often priorities in these targets can clash and difficult decisions can form a staple part of a normal day. Having to navigate operational challenges and keeping the customer forefront whilst relating back to these core measures requires purposeful leadership and high levels of resilience amongst other things. What I have seen from water companies in dealing with the current pandemic is nothing short of amazing but it has made the role of leadership even harder to navigate as things have started to come back online, but how people are expected to work has very much changed.

All of this makes for a difficult environment for leaders to achieve (not everyone can win) and so it’s important that sound strategy and execution are front of mind. To help with some thinking around this we’ve pulled out 5 things you should consider as a fundamental part to your strategy to help ensure an improvement in your CMEx/DMEx performance.

 

1. Create different thinking in middle managers – have you ever heard the Einstein quote “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”? Well that applies here. Middle managers are critical to your CMEx/DMEx efforts. They are able to create environments for people to either flourish or flounder. You need this group of people to take up the challenge and one way to do that is to invite them into a collaborative learning journey. The benefits of taking such an approach with this group of people is far and wide and should definitely be considered by all teams.

 

2. Connect people in from the ground up – no doubt you will have a vision for the water company as a whole but an often underestimated element is that of a team level Vision. This isn’t something that replaces the company vision, more so a way of inviting everyone into being a part of something bigger and creating complete alignment. Imagine if everyone was pushing in the same direction with the same amount of energy. This has a huge impact on your ability to move the dial on the regulator targets.

 

3. Align metrics for everyone – when was the last time you looked at what you were measuring, how it links to achieving your big goal, the decisions taken as a result and fundamentality the behaviours that are driven. Having confidence that the measures are the right ones is so important. Imagine if everyone was driving performance but it was taking you further away from the big goal. Pulling people together to agree these and how they align is an ongoing activity that’s a must.

 

4. Champion improvement thinking for everyone – most water companies have in excess of a few hundred people. That’s hundreds of brains all focussed on the company at any one time. What if you could have all of that brain power focussed on the right things at the right time using the right thinking. Empowering people to solve worthwhile problems which connects to the bigger goal can be a game changer against any big goal. If problem solving for everyone isn’t part of your strategy then maybe consider introducing this.

 

5. Have coaching as a staple habit in the environment – if I asked any water company I am sure most would see this as being something that is already in full flow within their business or at least parts of it. But is this really coaching or is it more feedback and advice? There is a huge difference here. Coaching as a habit doesn’t just happen, it needs to be nurtured and ultimately role modelled. The emergence of coaching as part of the environment is transformative for any business, function, department or team. It requires different thinking from managers. This therefore brings us back to number one on our list.

In summary, a great customer strategy will not only cover the What but will also articulate the How. Without a How you do not have a viable strategy. Your people should be at the centre of your strategy, they are your single biggest asset in achieving your CMEx/DMEx goals. Therefore, a big focus of your how’s should be around your people.

I hope you found this useful. Please, review your customer strategies, check back to the 5 learns and look for your how’s.

If you would like to discuss your customer strategy further and our HOW’s around these 5 opportunities, please get in touch at Jason@getknowledge.co.uk