THE CLEANER AT THE SUBWAY was doing her job – mopping the floor.
The security at the subway were doing their job – x-raying passengers’ bags.
The bank teller was doing her job – requesting a passport for identification.
All three employees were doing their job perfectly. Had a training supervisor been watching they would have received all ‘ticks’. A job well done. The only problem was that they were not doing their ‘purpose’.
The cleaner’s bucket was dark grey with dirt.
The security at the subway were ignoring couriers passing packages over the barriers between the ‘secure’ and ‘non-secure’ areas of the station.
The bank teller was making the customer angry, who threatened to move his money out of the bank.
This is the reality of business today. Job descriptions have become so specific, roles so defined, that employees have forgotten their ‘purpose’. Or perhaps they were never made aware of them.
The cleaner’s ‘purpose’ was to clean the floor. If she realised this, then she would have changed the water in her bucket. But as a result of her focus on her ‘job’ (ie. to mop the floor) she was simply moving dirt and grit from one side of the platform to the other.
The security’s ‘purpose’ was to ensure the safety of passengers by restricting dangerous materials into the subway. But as a result of their focus on their ‘job’ (ie. x-raying passengers’ bags) they were ignoring the security threat of couriers passing packages over the barriers, away from their x-ray zone.
The bank teller’s ‘purpose’ was to ensure that customers were served quickly and politely, while protecting the security of their money. If she realised this, she would have allowed the customer to enter their PIN to initiate the order of a new card, rather than demanding a passport. Instead, the customer had to return to his home, further delaying the replacement of his damaged card. While a PIN would allow the entire contents of the account to be ‘cleaned out’, it was not valid to simply order (not pick up) a new card. In the teller’s defense, she had to follow policy. Flawed, but still a policy created by someone high up the chain of command. And yes, that angry customer was me.
The moral of the story is to ensure that your team focus on their purpose, not their job. By doing this, you empower your employees, encourage proactive behaviour, and ultimately provide a better service – whether that’s internal or external.
So what’s your purpose?