Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Your oxygen first: Breathe in, breathe out

If you have traveled on an airplane, you will be familiar with the safety briefing and the directive to "put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others." I keep this thought in my head when I consider how I interact with team members and when I think about how best we can deliver for our customers.

If I am not focused or able to follow through on a request, or if I am facing competing priorities, it is up to me to speak up and take care of myself -- and ultimately the customer. For example, six months ago a critical situation was discovered with software and a vendor. A Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff member immediately contacted the customer to inform them of the issue. Unbeknownst to this team member, management and other team members were already working to address the issue and everything was resolved by the time the customer escalated based upon the earlier notification. This gave OIT a “black eye” in a moment when we actually shined. If our own team had only worked internally to resolve and build a common customer message, we could have taken care of ourselves first while ultimately serving the customer.

In another recent situation when I was asked to address a process gap on a project that had caused a customer outage, I realized quickly this was not my problem to solve alone. I needed to pull together the relevant team members and analyze the situation and expectations. In the end, the outcome was to hold the customer more accountable for signoff and testing. Decisions about risk and change need to be made by the business. OIT needed to work internally as a team before presenting a unified approach to process and communication.

I want all our OIT employees to consider OIT first, and to protect our image and reputation above all else. This means we should challenge each other to be more accountable for our ultimate delivery of customer commitments. However, the final customer delivery cannot occur without alignment, accountability, and agreement from within (personally and organizationally). When faced with any challenge, I look inward (where I focus on my own capabilities and perceptions and how I can shift reality); to my broader team (where I focus on leveraging strengths, talents, and perspectives different from my own); and to OIT (where I focus on broader team services and our statewide view). I have seen many instances where team members share issues too readily -- and too early -- with the customer. Often, one internal conversation could have resolved the issue, and the customer need never be concerned with annoying turbulence and could just enjoy the journey.

If we take care of ourselves first, and then OIT, we ultimately take better care of the customers while we create a more cohesive and consistent customer experience. Put your oxygen mask on first, then breathe in and breathe out.

William Chumley: Chief Customer Officer. Weekend color guard judge, computer science study, traveler, bookworm. He knows how to get it done and is always listening to the customer. Find me on Twitter at @WilliamMChumley.

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