Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - January 15, 2014

Context Enhances Performance

In a recent training session, I was pleased when a participant approached me to talk about the value he had received from the training. Naturally, it's always nice to hear that. But I was interested to learn just what it was he found of value in the training.

This particular banker had been on the job for a couple of years. Certainly, the training offered him some new ways of thinking, some new tools to apply to his work. But he already had the basics. He was already performing his job.

What he said to me was, "Finally, I can see where I fit in the process!" His was a classic case of "on-the-job training", meaning that he kind of learned what he was supposed to do as he went along. He got guidance from his manager, tips from his colleagues, informal training in staff meetings and other activities, written policies, and so on.

The focus of all of that learning was on just getting the job done, on what happened at his desk, and his desk alone. And he was doing his job well.

But how much more of a contribution could he make by helping others to do their jobs well, too?

There is a difference between simply doing the immediate tasks of a banker and doing "banking". Providing credit to a borrower, for instance, is not an assembly line task, like putting together a widget in a factory. Every credit is a little different, every borrower is unique, the pieces (information) that go into each "widget" vary.

Like an assembly line, dealing with credit is a process that involves a series of players. But the boundaries between those players are not nearly as sharp as they are in a factory assembly line. At each boundary, there is a handoff of information that is unique to that particular credit.

In a factory assembly line, you can't do your job unless the person before you has assembled all the parts that are needed up to that stage. In the credit process, it is even more important to check that all the right information is available at each step. It is not just a matter of answers, it's a matter of having the right questions.

And having the right information is a product of effective communication among all the players in the process. Yet effective communication is difficult when you don't understand the roles and steps that make up that process. It is hard to ask the right questions if all you understand is your own little piece of a larger collective activity.

Knowledgeable and skilled employees are certainly of value to the bank. But employees who have the context of understanding their roles in a larger process not only offer greater value to the bank themselves, they enhance the value of all the other players engaged in serving the customer and the building the success of the bank.