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The Christmas break gave me the opportunity to watch, in my view, one of the most awe-inspiring documentaries of the year - ‘Britain’s Biggest Warship’. It takes you behind the scenes on HMS Queen Elizabeth - the largest and most advanced warship we Brits have ever built which is due in service this year.

The programme showed The RAF and the Navy working together to figure out just how far they could push the aircraft carrier and two F-35 fighter jets before reaching the limit of the whole system.

In Jerry Kyd, the Commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s view - maximising success of the system relies on three elements:

  1. Great kit

  2. Great training

  3. Great people working together

He described how getting the F-35 airborne relied not just on the 100 personnel working above deck including pilots, technicians and scientists, but also the 1,400 personnel working below deck too - from laundry men to cooks in the galleys. Every job contributes to getting the planes airborne in the most efficient way.

Even through the mince pie haze, Kyd’s example of the crew as a diverse but single, interconnected entity struck me as a great example to share.

When we work with our clients on what it means to be customer-centric, it’s most often the non-customer facing staff that struggle to see how they personally have any influence on the experience the business delivers; they feel totally reliant on customer-facing staff to create the positive experiences that earn the right to customer-led growth. However, good customer experiences rely on a total company functioning efficiently focused on common priorities. As Kyd pointed out in his analysis of the system testing, back office jobs are essential in ensuring operations run smoothly; they clear the path to great front line performance

We sometimes use the concept of six degrees of separation to help people in ‘deep operations’ map their line of influence to the customer. It’s surprising how difficult some find it. However, once mapped, some find it extremely motivating to realise their personal impact; for others it can be a wake-up call to practices that are more of a hindrance than a help.

So, if your business is looking to achieve genuine long-term improvements in 2020 – use HMS Elizabeth and ‘six degrees of separation’ to kickstart a conversation about the part your colleagues play in making the business fly.

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