The First Line Manager: The Corporate Answer to Your Problem Cannot Be “No”

My area manager sends a message to a corporate customer service system expert. He asks the question about how to prevent a recurring field service problem. When his field service crew removes a customer meter for operation purposes the meter sends us a field check order. The next day a field service person goes to a customer premise in error. My area manager asks,” Is there some process we can do to prevent this problem?” The answer from the system expert is simple, “No” without further explanation. First line managers must not accept answers that do not meet their needs.

When I see the answer I know there is a process to prevent this problem. The answer”no” is not acceptable. The answer confuses me. The expert knows the problem is correctable. If anyone removes the meter for any reason it sends us a check meter order. We get this order from our customer service system. We send a local field service person to the premise to check the meter. This costs us time and money. When there is a routine order on the customer’s account, or if an order is in our service order system, these orders over ride the automatic check order. This expert knows this.

I do not accept this answer from a corporate expert. I phone a service foreman of our field forces. I explained the problem to him. He and I decided to run a test. It is simple we will enter and complete a dummy order on an inactive meter in our service order system. We send the field service person to pull the meter. He pulls the meter. We wait until the next day. We view the customer service account; we do not see the check meter order. When we check the meter’s data we see that a check meter order existed. This means that our order prevented the check meter order from coming live to the field. The answer is simple when our crew pulls a meter for any purposes they will call a dispatcher. The dispatcher will enter a dummy service order in our service order system. We solve the problem. We no longer send a service person to check the meter in error.

Dispatchers always read any new procedure I create. Any new procedure must be simple enough to be remembered, be usable, and be effective. Several dispatchers reviewed this new procedure. One dispatcher reminds me the crews in our division do not remove meters. She was right I said. I reminded her that the crews from other divisions help us from time to time and these crews do remove meters. If we follow this procedure it will keep us from having unnecessary orders when they leave our division. She agrees.

We send the process to the meter system expert in the corporate headquarters. He will run a test like ours. If this process works, he will send this process to other service organizations to prevent this problem. Also, he thanks us for our effort to solve this system wide problem.

Here is the point. First line managers must not accept answers to field problems from system experts and managers who do not know. First line managers must find a solution to the problem. They must create a process and prove that process. Then, they must pass this process to other departments. First line managers add value to their department and company when they develop processes to solve problems.

Here is the problem. Do not accept, “No”, when you know. Now, prove it.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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