This blog post is from GenAlpha partner, Sam Klaidman, Founder and Principal Advisor of Middlesex Consulting. Middlesex Consulting helps Industrial equipment OEMs grow their aftermarket and advanced service revenue and profit while increasing customer satisfaction.
Do you feel calm and relaxed when you walk out to your car in the evening? When you get home, are you ready to deal with the typical family and household issues, or do you want to be left alone in a quiet corner? It is usually the latter if you have a bad day in the office.
How different would things be if you had a cross-functional team of problem-solving experts ready and willing to attack the complex issues that arise in any part of the business? Instead of you feeling like a fireman running around putting out fires, the team would come to you with one or two viable alternatives, and you would select one and have it implemented. Welcome to the SWAT team!
The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs defines SWAT as:
"A SWAT team is a group of selected police officers trained to handle certain crisis situations (e.g., snipers, barricaded subjects, hostage situations, 'heavy' arrests) beyond the capacity of regular police units."
In a business, the SWAT concept is:
"A SWAT team is a group of selected subject matter experts trained to handle certain unique and important situations (e.g., manufacturing problems on an important shipment, persistent quality or customer experience situation with a high impact, major software crashes, and breeches, supply chain shutdowns, business conflicts with key dealers) beyond the capacity of the regular employees to solve within the necessary timeframe."
The mission of the SWAT team is to employ their unique knowledge and experience to either solve high-value problems or work with the local business team to identify new possible solutions, methods, or procedures that someone can implement quickly.
The SWAT team is an independent group of three or four dedicated generalists from different organizations reporting to a single executive. The individuals may be from any organization in the company. Some examples are:
The executive may be the Head of Finance, Business Development, Facilities, or Procurement.
The team is self-led, with the leader for each project selected by the team members based on technical skill and availability. The executive's role is to ensure that the team receives full cooperation from the leader of the affected organization and its employees. They clear obstacles and ensure the team gives full credit to whoever helps solve problems.
The core team members must feel that their abilities, experiences, and communication skills are so unique that they survived a strict selection process. And when the team works side by side within a functional area, it is up to the team members to earn the respect of the problem owners. The team must demonstrate their value to the operational units and not expect special treatment from anyone.
Why the SWAT team works
Most internal experts can handle most problems in their area "with their eyes closed." They know the ins and outs of all the equipment, processes, and procedures that make their part of the business run. However, they are not trained to solve problems in other business areas because most people had to make a significant decision about their life when they were young. They had to decide whether to be a generalist or a specialist.
To understand the difference between the generalist and specialist think of the letter "T".
A generalist knows a little about a lot and ultimately knows nothing about everything. Like the crossbar on the T.
A specialist knows a lot about a few things until they eventually know everything about nothing. Like the stem on the T.
The people you want on your SWAT team are T-shaped. They know something about a lot of things and a lot about a few things. This combination prepares them to help solve complex problems in many areas.
Suppose the business uses an eCommerce system to help end users select, purchase, track shipments, and download documentation on replacing a defective part and returning the faulty item for partial credit. And further, suppose that the call center, technical support, or inside sales notices a few situations where angry users could not do what they wanted to do with the eCommerce system. Each of the three customer contact groups individually notifies the Director of Aftermarket Sales about what is happening. The Director collects all the data for three months and decides this is a big problem that will quickly annoy the end users and their dealers. The Director asks the SWAT oversite executive to send SWAT in and help.
The core SWAT team in this company consists of someone from Quality, Manufacturing, and Aftermarket Service. The team quickly agreed the Aftermarket Service rep owned the problem. That person asked the Quality rep to help determine when the problems first started and how often they occurred. It turns out that the problem began six months ago when the eCommerce system was upgraded to accept payments.
The software supplier told the team that the payment system interfaced with the order entry system. IT got involved and discovered that the order entry system started having a problem six months ago. With that information, the order entry system supplier could quickly identify the problem's cause. The fix took all of 20 minutes.
The critical piece of data that helped solve the problem was the start date of the customer complaints. The SWAT team's presence cut a few days off the timeline.
The SWAT cuts the time to solve unusual problems by days to weeks, depending on the issue. In the long run, the who ecosystem of the OEM and partners are much happier now.
About Sam Klaidman and Middlesex Consulting
Sam Klaidman is the founder and principal adviser at Middlesex Consulting. He helps his B2B product manufacturing clients grow their services revenue and profitability by applying the methodologies and techniques associated with Customer Value Creation and Customer Experience professions to assist his clients in designing and commercializing new services and the associated business transformations. Contact Sam here.