Category Archives: Service Excellence

Agile for sales, Super7 for sales: the change towards lean sales teams

Agile for sales or Super7 for sales – implementing lean teamwork has great potential for sales effectiveness. In a lean team, individuals can spend a larger share of their time on what they excel in. And it is this excellence that delivers results.

A sales team that truly works together will sell more than the same number of efficient sales agents working independently. Great successes have been achieved in financial services with lean-based ways of working. Agile and Super7 Operations are perhaps the most well-known examples of this. And now, within financial services, experiments are starting with lean-based teamwork in sales.

The required change seems quite big, as sales agents were rewarded for their individual success up to now. This resulted in what I like to call a “lone hero culture”, where successful individuals were valued over team players. In a lean team, team members are willing and able to help each other. The culture will become that of a learning organization. And the team continuously improves on their cooperation and effectiveness, striving towards outsourcing everything but excellence.

Recently, I was invited to a brain storm session on how this Dutch bank can transform its sales organization towards lean sales teams. Together with an expert consultant in sales effectiveness, an Agile Coach, Super7 practitioners and sales managers, we designed the outline for lean sales teams on the basis of our Agile and Super7 Operations experiences. I expect that experiments will start soon and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
Menno R. van Dijk

Call center and operations department integrated – how can Super7 Operations make this happen?

For complex customer requests, Call center activities will be more and more integrated with operations activities – and Super7 Operations will enable this.

The classical Financial Services Back-Office work is being replaced with Straight Through Processing for the simple customer request. Super7’s, small autonomous multi-skilled teams with flexible capacity, are taking care of the rest: complex service requests, where human judgment is needed, or requests that are too infrequent to be automated at this time.

At the same time, the classical Call Center is being transformed into a customer service organization, because customers prefer the new Straight Trough Processes offered through internet and mobile apps. What’s left are the more complex requests. There are apparently a lot of similarities with what happened to the classical Back-Office. Does this mean Super7 Operations can make an equally impressive impact in the Call Center?

In my opinion, Super7 Operations will have direct use in those areas where the call center and operations can be integrated. For low volume, high complexity service requests, a call directly to the operations specialist – or a chat session, for that matter – will be more effective than a call to an agent, who fills in a channel form, and forwards this to the same specialist.

In other areas, Super7 Operations is not the answer. A large group of customers still prefers the call channel over internet or mobile applications. Bulk calls, high volume: an efficient call center organization will be able to process these with far less costs per call and with probably a higher chance of cross sales. Super7 Operations wasn’t designed for this type of work, and others have set the benchmarks for these departments.

So, how would that work, Super7 Operations combined with answering a large number inbound calls? The basic principles stay the same, but we need to find solutions to a new set of problems. For instance:

  • How can a Super7 keep the overview of the total workload when calls are routed to individuals?
  • How can Super7 members help or ask for help when everybody is constantly on the phone?
  • How can the manager still offer help when inbound calls make up a large part of the work?

I will address these questions in one or more of my next blog posts. So make sure you check regularly on

Menno R. van Dijk.

Super7 Operations - The Next Step for Lean in Financial Services

Parallels between Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations

There are several parallels between Yves Morieux’s Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations – the new way of applying Lean in financial services.

Last year, I had the privilege to attend a seminar on Smart Simplicity by BCG Fellow Yves Morieux.  He explained that complexity and lack of cooperation is the common root cause to low productivity and low employee morale. He passionately explained how this works and how Smart Simplicity is the answer.  Now, you can hear his theories for yourself, in his – highly recommended – TED talk, available on youtube (link – be warned, you may be buying a second TV after watching it).  After hearing his story, I realized that there are parallels between Smart Simplicity fit in with Super7 Operations.

Below, I give you my interpretation of Smart Simplicity. Please refer to the works of Yves Morieux for the original (Harvard Business Review, BCG, TED):

Traditional organizational design, with its focus on the hard (structure, systems, etc.) and the soft (human relations, positive emotions, etc.) is obsolete. Instead, you should use the Six Smart Rules of Smart Simplicity. First rule is that you should understand what people really do, where they spend their time on. The second rule is that you should reinforce integrator or in other words make managers true integrators by removing as much layers of management as possible.  The third rule states that you should empower as many people in your organization, thus increasing the total amount of power within your organization. The fourth rule tells us to create feedback loops that show people the effect of their behavior. The fifth rule is that we should increase reciprocity by removing buffers of self-sufficiency. Get rid of all the second TV’s in your organization. The last rule tells us to reward those who cooperate and blame those who don’t.

As said, there are several parallels between Smart Simplicity and Super7 Operations:

  1. The first parallel is cooperation. In Smart Simplicity and in Super7 Operations, cooperation is the key to increasing productivity and employee morale. Where Super7 Operations focuses on cooperation between operational employees, Smart Simplicity advocates cooperation between functions and departments.
  2. Second parallel is reduction of management layers. Super7 teams are highly autonomous, which means that less management is needed. In recent implementations of Super7 Operations, significant reduction of management was realized. And the second rule of Smart Simplicity is to reinforce integrators – Give managers (these are the integrators) discretionary power and interest to make others cooperate. And, according to Morieux in his TED-talk, this often means reducing management layers.
  3. The third parallel is delegation and empowerment. Super7 teams get as much power as needed to help their customers. Handovers are eliminated, because the Super7 team can do everything within the team.
  4. The fourth parallel is rewarding cooperation. Super7 teams are steered on output, but individuals are rewarded for cooperation.

In summary, Super7 Operations and Smart Simplicity share several principles. Where Super7 Operations applies these bottom-up, starting on the shop floor of Operations Departments in Financial Services, Smart Simplicity is gives us a more holistic, strategic redesign approach. But the two don’t bite each other. Sometimes, it’s better to start small, to start bottom up and then gradually extend the same principles to the whole organization. In these cases, Super7 Operations may be easier to start with. And in other cases, Smart Simplicity is needed to redesign change entire value chains and to improve cooperation on interdepartmental level.   

Menno R. van Dijk.