Déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past. The French word means literally, already seen.
So why is déjà vu so bad for business?
How often have you witnessed “Haven’t we been here before?” situations in your organisation? Common problems that just keep happening again and again, perhaps with clients or problems with personnel? I hate to hear “Didn’t this same issue happen last month?” scenarios because they are just so unnecessary! They are also very costly in terms of time, resources and reputation.
In general I witness that when issues happen (and the shit hits the fan), businesses do try to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. They placate the client with a replacement and/or compensation of some form but then they move on, back to work as normal.
This is the equivalent of a Doctor sending you home from the GP surgery without any examination but with a bottle of ‘syrup’ when you went in with a nasty cough. They have treated the symptom without understanding the cause. Depending on the cause the cough may not go away and could get much, much worse.
So why are businesses so poor at stopping recurring problems? It obviously depends on the organisation but here are a few that I have noted:
- Don’t have time to fix – too busy doing
- No one is prepared to take responsibility to fix – it’s not my job
- Senior management are not told – fear of reprisal
- It’s another department’s problem to solve – we don’t have authority
- We’ve tried to fix it before and can’t – so we just live with it
There is an old saying that goes “When pointing the finger of blame, remember that three of your own fingers will be pointing back at you!” I love this saying and have a poster of it on the wall of my office.
The message of this saying is very clear in that you must examine your own part in what has happened before starting to accuse others. For example, in my experience 90% of business errors are caused by a simple miscommunication! As such, what could we have done better to improve OUR communication with the other party and avoided the error in the first place.
So here’s the answer; we must treat every error/miscommunication in our businesses as a learning opportunity, rather than just a chance to criticise other people (regardless of whether they are internal or external to our organisation). We must then use what we have learned to SOLVE the issue and prevent a repeat wherever possible.
Here are some top tips to achieve this:
- In a world dominated by email encourage people to use the telephone where there is less chance of misunderstandings and/or clarification can be sought
- If a system or business process has played a part in the error then task someone to be responsible to fix it AND make sure it happens
- Use team meetings and coaching sessions to work on effective communication.
- Have posters on your office walls to constantly remind people of the importance THEY have in ensuring mutual understanding with colleagues & clients
- Share ALL issues across your entire team and make sure everyone learns from ‘every experience’
My final tip is about the word ‘sorry’, sorry when said genuinely indicates that we understand that WE could have done more ourselves to prevent the error or miscommunication. If this is the case we will learn from the experience. If we are adamant that we were right and it was “all YOUR fault” then guess what? No learning will have taken place and the error will be repeated. Déjà vu!
Thank you for reading.
Stuart Allen ~ MD of The Sales Performance Company Ltd
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