We want to be a company that is constantly renewing itself, shedding the past, adapting to change.
When the environment is variable with many unknowns, it is impossible to know in advance what kind of performance will be needed or what kind of learning will occur. If people are to learn, they must be free to experiment and try new things.
Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS Airlines (Skandinavian Airlines), pointed out in his book Moments of Truth (HarperBusiness) that a service company’s performance is contingent on its ability to deliver in critical time periods when they have an opportunity to deliver a customer impression. That impression can be positive, if the company can respond quickly and decisively, or it can be negative, if the company fails to deliver. Either way, in these kinds of moments, emotions run high and will leave a lasting impression.
The thing is, moments of truth come in so many varieties that it’s impossible to predict every situation and plan for it in advance. Even if you could, the manual of procedures would be so thick that front-stage workers could never look up the procedures in time.
For people to be effective in such situations, they need to understand the company’s purpose, its stance. A moment of truth at Nordstrom and a moment of truth at Southwest Airlines will require different kinds of responses, because the companies do different jobs.
But even if employees understand their company’s ...