Red Bull Racing made history at the 2019 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim when its pit crew set a new Formula One speed record by changing four tires in 1.88 seconds. In case you are wondering how long 1.88 seconds is, well, that’s about half the time that it would take to take your phone out of your pocket and to unlock it biometrically.
What makes this feat special is that the Red Bull team had set a World record of 1.91 seconds just two weeks earlier at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
How did the Red Bull team achieve this feat—and can field service teams emulate such superlative performance in terms of first-time fix rate, mean time to repair (MTTR), net promoter score (NPS), and other key service metrics? The answer is yes—though, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that 1.88 seconds is a benchmark for field service management metrics. All it takes is great discipline and great technician engagement.
Great discipline in FSM ensures that there is minimal gap between the design and implementation of standards (process, methods, behavior and knowledge management, among others.). Of course, there are other key elements in addition to discipline, including purpose, collaboration and action, which make a FSM organization great. In my previous article, I discussed how all of these elements come together.
Technicians are probably the most important resource for any field service business. They are the interface at which the strategy of field service gets transformed into action; both at the front end with customer experience and at the back end with operational excellence.
Tech engagement in all aspects of field service processes and standards leads to better adoption of standards in the field, which in turn leads to minimal gap between actual performance and designed performance. Standardization is the beginning of a culture of improvement—a culture that gets the results that the Red Bull team achieved.
Great tech engagement can only be achieved by getting the three “E’s” of engagement correct: empowerment, enablement and encouragement.
This simply means putting decision-making power in the hands of the techs, while also making them partners in the strategy and execution of field service business. If we look at the success of Lean in the industrial manufacturing and auto sectors, employee empowerment was the key element that separated the leaders from the rest. This is true even for the IT industry where this is one of the key principles of the Agile manifesto.
Enablement is the process of supporting the techs as they are empowered. It involves coaching the techs, training them on tools and techniques, establishing systems to capture their inputs, guiding them to reach conclusions, ensuring that these conclusions get baked into the FSM systems, and giving feedback when things work and when things don’t. This in essence means having a great teamwork across the field service business. As an executive I heard at a recent management conference rightly said: The best way to sustain great teamwork is to focus on the work, and the team would normally follow.
To make the tech engagement self-sustaining, there needs to be a system of encouragement, rewards and recognition that addresses the spectrum of motivational levers that drive humans. Those factors range from the tangible and intangible, the monetary and non-monetary, and the aspirational to those further up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Engagement tends to fire up techs and brings that sense of ownership at the grassroot level. It thrives in a culture of transparency, openness, objectivity and respect for individual and service leaders and managers could do well by being the custodians and drivers of such a positive culture, leaving the regular field service activities to the techs.
As Jack Welch said, “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” In field service, no one understands service (and customer) better than the technicians.