The Lesson Judy Taught Us: The Importance of the "Human Equation"
A high-profile banking client engaged us to assist in solving issues it was having in managing very large customer information files. The client customers wanted daily updates, but their IT department had designed the reporting function as a monthly process. When customer demands were conflicting with internal processes, something had to give.
After several weeks of intense activity the Response Team was able to provide an excellent solution for the bank, but there seemed to be lingering issues for a few users. The Support Team received multiple calls from the bank regarding unspecified problems with the system -three days in a row. The bank senior vice-president in charge of that (Chicago) regional office wanted to know why.
Several days of investigation made it clear that the problem was not technical. We were, however, able to identify where the core issues converged: Judy, the executive assistant to the senior vice-president.
We scheduled a meeting with Judy first, to ask about the problems she was having - and to learn about her concerns. We also spoke with the support team before going into that meeting, so we knew what was happening from a technical standpoint. We knew that technology aside, the success of any solution depends on how well the staff embraces that solution and welcomes it as a useful part of their work flow.
We learned that Judy had completed much of the early potential vendor research, and she had been outspoken in throwing her support behind another company - one with a higher profile than our organization. Because Judy was in a regional office, we did not know about this going into the project - most of our dealings had been with headquarters staff. Apparently, they had over-ruled Judy without much communication. There was a key member of the client's team that remained actively unconvinced that our solution was the right one. We needed to do something about that - and fast.
We learned that Judy had been orchestrating nearly all of the issues the client was reporting. Apparently, she was doing this to prove her position that our solution was not the right one for her regional office: she still wanted the high-profile vendor.
Once we had the opportunity to discuss with Judy her reasoning, it became clear that she had very strong feelings about the status of her role in the organization: executive assistant to the senior vice-president and de facto office manager for the largest region in the bank's most profitable division. She felt that her role justified (and demanded) a well-known industry leader as the vendor for her department.
When we saw that one of her underlying concerns was related to perceptions of vendor status, we took a different approach. We asked Judy if she was familiar with a particular Chicago business publication. When she said yes, we asked her if she would be willing to go along with the solution that they recommended. Judy said of course she would, so we showed her an article from that publication touting our solution as one of the best. At that point, she voiced annoyance with the bank's internal project team for not showing this to her sooner, but it was clear that she was just saving face. From that point on, Judy became one of our most enthusiastic supporters - and needless to say, the ongoing issues and challenges effectively disappeared.
Judy taught us to never underestimate the critical importance of the "human equation" in the work we take on for our clients. Thanks to Judy, we make it a point to hear every point of view as we put solutions to work for our clients.