In a recent project I have been asked to help re-design the commercial processes of an OEM, whose Customer Service Levels where no more in line with market requirements.
More than my years of practice as Six Sigma Black Belt, in this occasion I have leveraged my secondary school philosophy professor’s teaching, and his hard work in let me understand Kant’s ideas.
In fact after a first glance at my Customer’s operations I immediately discovered that his way to collect commercial information was around the wrong “Category”.
He was collecting the information around the “Customer”, and not around the real subject of its business process: “the Product”.
When I realized it, I was tempted to figure out why it was so. One of the possible explanations I found was that my Client’s business model missed one of the key Kant’s concepts: The “potential” or “to be” status.
For what I can image as “historical reasons”, the way my Client’s Commercial Process was built, was a progressive layering of operations, tasks and information systems, all designed to solve/simplify/automate a particular phase of the process itself.
The result was a sequence of data gathering, elaboration and transferring, from the field: the market area, to the Client’s Operations.
The only way to keep this sequence consistent without knowing ( or investigating ) what was happening upstream or downstream that particular phase under “design” was to keep as an anchor point the “Customer”.
So each phase, while aimed to discover sales opportunities for a “Product”, was in reality concerned to collect information about the “Customer”...mainly because “Customer” was the only information consistently available across each phase.
This not only has built a process with several reworks and return streams, in order to assure that all the information where available at the right timing, but has multiplied the occasions of mistakes whenever a set of information was filled into the phase and matched with what was at that phase available.
The result were a long list of process breakdowns, and missed activities that were affecting the Customer Satisfaction.
A bit of Kant would have helped avoid this situation.
First, a philosopher would have taken the time to design a process from “cradle to grave” : from “Market Field” to “Product Delivery”, instead adjusting each step when the time was un-avoidable.
Second he would have easily spotted that the “categorical imperative” of the Commercial Process was to “deliver a product” and not to “satisfy a Client”.
With this in mind Kant would have collected the necessary commercial and operative information around the “Product” and not the “Customer”.
And would have easily overcome the resistance of “short-sighted” phase owners, complaining that the relative “Product”’s information were not available at their phase.
In fact Kant would have argued that even if the “Product”’s information were not available, the “Potential Product” was already there: and therefore nothing would have prevented to start collecting since the very beginning all the related information, and transfer them along each phase from “market field” to “delivery”.
An example would probably help here:
When on field, nothing prevents the Sales Manager to start collecting information about Product Delivery date, Quantities to be delivered, Shipping Address. even if approximately, along the information about Client Name, Client Payments...etc.
Therefore characterizing the “Product” since the earliest stage of its inception.
This means characterizing the “status” of the “subject” of your process, along each phase.
Kant would have known better.
Are there other options you can see?
Please let me know.
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