Here are 7 easy steps to turnaround complaints into results:
1) Choose a topic area where you want to resolve an issue or improve processes
Some examples I have used in the past: customer billing / invoicing, inventory management, logistics flow, contract agreements, business opportunities. Your topic should be a theme (a complaint or else “we should do this opportunity”) that comes up in conversations regularly by employees. Your goal is to identify areas which need management attention to deal with issues or opportunities.
2) Call a meeting with key stakeholders
Make sure the attendee stakeholders include the vocal employees and some of the “complainers”. Invite employees from a wide range of functional areas, and those who are interested in or accountable for fixing the issue or resolving the problem at hand.
3) State your “theme” issue, then brainstorm a list of related problems or sub-problems
Set ground rules that all ideas will be accepted without judgement; one brainstormed idea may trigger even better ideas, issues or sub-problems. Encourage breaking down the issue into smaller components and describing each.
List your brainstormed items on a whiteboard or flipchart. Group any very strongly related items together into one statement or initiative.
4) Quantify each resulting item as to High, Medium, Low – in terms of frequency of occurence, and High, Medium, Low in terms of cost or dollar impact. When this is done, get the group to agree where each item would be plotted on a grid using one axis for “Dollar Impact” and the other axis for “Ease of Accomplishment” or “Frequency of Occurence”
5) Prioritize the issues into a ranked list. Start from the right hand upper corner of your matrix (this is where highest value opportunities and easiest “quick wins” can give your project momentum). Each quadrant offers different results, from fast and easy “low hanging fruit” to “big wins” which may have a longer term or more difficult implementation. Make sure your group members agree on the relative positions of each item, and then as a group assign a top-to-bottom ranking.
6) Build an Action Log, stating WHAT the Issue is, WHO is accountable, WHEN delivery of a solution is expected, and HOW (the “how” may be blank to start with, until assigned employees have met to discuss solutions)
7) Follow up regularly. Meet with the team to tweak your list and review progress on completing the Action Log. By assigning accountable persons to each sub-project and reviewing status results publicly with the rest of the group, your team will be more motivated to stay on track.