A software support manager had two teams which performed quite differently (he had established that their performance was consistently different, not due to common cause variation).

One team was outperforming the other by a factor of two on response time, number of issues handled and the backlog of issues unresolved. The manager decided to find out why (he knew that the major source of variation was likely to be method – he was already beyond the idea that differences in performance can be tied to individual differences).

The high performing team had organised the work differently. They had two people on the ‘phone, handling incoming calls; one person managing all unresolved issues. The ‘queue sweeper’ as the latter was known would call all the customers and find out what, if anything, needed to be done and/or simply update them on progress. The customers remarked on the quality of service (their problems were getting resolved faster, and they always knew where they stood).

The high performing team had seen their purpose as managing customers. The implicit purpose of the other team was to manage calls.

When the purpose is to manage calls, the emphasis is on being available and doing the follow-up work when you have time. The primary reason for customer dissatisfaction was not knowing what was happening with their problems.

The high performing team also had a sense of collective ownership. The engineers in the team owned all the calls and saw their method of working as one which maximised team work.