Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Embrace Your Problems

thumb cubesmallThose of you in the EDI (or Data Transformation, Partner Integration, or whatever you want to call it) arena know what I mean when I say you’re in the middle of things. You have ‘customers’ both upstream and downstream, and those people are very demanding. When something goes wrong, you hear about it. Nothing good can result from that, right? Wrong!

Feedback should be the lifeblood of your team! That old ‘no news is good news’ saying is something you should ignore. As a manager, supervisor, or anyone else with a vested interest in performance excellence, you should mine every opportunity to identify improvable situations. I'm not saying it's great to have problems, but those you have need to be embraced. 

Admittedly, it’s uncomfortable for a front-line customer-facing employee to pass bad news up the chain. Likewise, for a supervisor or manager there’s nothing like getting an earful from a partner who needs to vent about your service. As painful as these situations may be, they provide valuable information that can drive improvements not only in your operation, but also those of partners. For example, a seemingly minor issue like a price discrepancy or tax change can be the result of master data, applications, mapping, or partner data problems that will continue until someone puts two and two together and fixes them.

For a manager to be able to effectively use feedback for continuous improvement purposes, here are some critical requirements:


  • A team atmosphere that encourages the collection and reporting of feedback data.
  • Getting buy-in from the team that whoever catches the call, owns the problem.
  • Capturing the information when it’s provided in a format that’s visible to management and other problem solvers.
  • Analyzing and acting upon feedback. The feedback loop must be closed.
  • Proactively ‘meeting’ with your partners, whether via survey, individual meetings with managers, or in some other manner. You can’t depend upon individual problems situations to tell the whole story.

Of these, the first is most important. If management has a ‘kill the messenger’ mentality, the amount of information flowing upward will be suppressed. However, if the team is inculcated with a continuous improvement mindset and recognizes the value of the information, providing it will become the norm. The obvious question, then, is how to create such an environment. A few tips:


  • Thank, don't punish, the messenger.
  • Publicize the results of corrections and problems.
  • Ensure training is available for individuals who seem to need it based on your data.
  • Publish tracking data and results.
  • Make sure HR policies are known and applied fairly.
  • Focus on problem resolution, not blame.

You need to get past the ‘let’s just fix it and go’ mentality that may work well short term, but which longer term hinders the development of real solutions. Once the team is sold on the benefits of capturing problem-related data, you’ll have the opportunity to use it to build a better tomorrow.

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