Dissent

Allow dissenting voice in meetings, especially around strategic discussions and direction. If  dissent doesn’t define this idea clearly, call it “allowing opposing viewpoints.” Some will say “I’m playing the devil’s advocate for a moment.” Phrasing aside, I find it good to appoint someone to state the “cons”, to point out the roadblocks, to take the opposite view, to articulate the worst case scenario. I’m not always excited about the opposing view. In fact for many years I didn’t think it necessary to hear, nor did I advocate for it. It made me uncomfortable. It still does at times. This is good. It allows freedom for all to vent their perspective and be heard. Collaboration in decision making wins. I’ve made many mistakes alone or in isolated decisions. Again, collaboration wins. Dissent and opposing viewpoints are one key part of that process. All stakeholders must voice input. In the end, the leader makes the decision, but  it’s harder to make the wrong one when all the facts are on the table and we are fully informed.

Customer Experience

It was the jeans that triggered it.

You see, they were the exact same jeans that I had on as I walked into the store. The same jeans I bought there 6 months ago. And I love these jeans.

So the pair I grabbed off the shelf, the exact same color, size, make, model, when I pulled them on, they didn’t fit over my thighs in the dressing room. What? I double checked the size and shape. No difference.

“Perhaps they aren’t marked correctly, I said to myself.”

So I asked the sales attendant if he can help. I ask if I’ve made a mistake.

“Nope, he says. This happens all the time. You see we recommend you grab 3 or 4 pair at a time when you’re trying them on. They’re made in like, 50 or 60 different countries so you never know what you are going to get.”

Great response. Glad you don’t sell for me.

He’s doing a poor job at customer experience management and selling. Plus, he’s saying that they aren’t making jeans with consistent size patterns based on the country where they are assembled. Either way, both the salesperson and the manufacturer are doing a terrible job of designing experience. No thank you. I don’t expect to have to grab 3 or 4 pair of jeans to see if one or more of them, the exact same size, actually fit. I don’t care what country they are made in or what their supply chain logistics look like. Once I find a pair of jeans that works, I expect they will all be close to the same size EVERY TIME. I don’t want to play “roll-the-jeans-dice.”

This company is providing a negative and inconsistent experience when it comes to sales, and product QA/QC.

I quickly placed the jeans back on the shelf and slipped quietly out of the store. I wasn’t in the mood to manage my shopping experience through trial and error.

So what about your company? What about my company? I know different clients can have different experiences even though they all are “shopping” at our place, in different offices, and different ends of the building. How consistent of an experience am I creating? How am I making it easy on the client? How are my colleagues and people representing our services to buyers, prospective clients, and observers? Do our people know what to say and how to say it? Have they been trained in the “why of our business?” Is our product the same EVERY SINGLE TIME?

Even in professional services it’s not uncommon for clients who’ve had a negative experience to quietly slip away; to place the jeans on the shelf and never return. Do everything possible to prevent this from happening.

 

 

The Triangle

I bought a TRIANGLE for the office. You know, the musical kind. The type you play (ding) in an orchestra. It’s a percussion instrument. This one’s more like a “dinner call Triangle,” but I think you get the picture. Its got that bright sound.

In the office we “ring it” every time we win a new project, or a new phase is added to an existing project. Tami does it at the front desk. Everyone can hear it.

Sure people can check the joblist if they want, and it gives a live report of everything that’s active. But it’s boring. There’s something tangible about the triangle. It’s audible evidence that something good just happened. It reminds people who don’t always get to see the big picture, that cool things are happening; that new business is coming in. Now I’m looking for a GONG to ring. It’ll be for really big projects over a certain dollar value, or for new work with new clients. That’ll get people talking.
The reaction is fun and it creates a festive atmosphere. It gets people talking. It reminds me of being called for dinner when I was a kid.

 Isn’t that what new work is like anyway? Like dinner time for the business?

Technology, Remoteness and Connection

Technological tools allow us to work remotely while still remaining in sync and in touch with our organizations. It can be terrific. Technology  also allows us to generate work rapidly and productively. Working remotely is a gift of the modern age which is facilitated by multiple platforms. It’s a blessing, but it also can disconnect us from our tribe, our people, our work comnunity, the people that we need to connect with the most.

Remote work adds flexibility and permits us to have an outside perspective that we couldn’t have had in the past. It spawns perspective, freedom and creativity for those who need changes of pace and environment.

But we also need to connect in person with the people in our physical offices or locations. Remote work and Technology should enable and facilitate more of that not less. I find myself often spending less time with people and more time serving technology platforms. This is not the correct application and use of tech.

By all means, we should work remotely to gain perspective and be flexible. We should use technology and it’s platforms to work as rapidly and productively as possible. Generate as much value as possible in those spaces.

But then connect with people on a deep level to tie things together and to build a culture that is solid. Technology should serve us, not the opposite.

This is a daily struggle of maintaining balance in our highly digital world.

MY OFFICE

…..is about the smallest one in the joint. When we built our current office about nine years ago, my partner and I wanted our people to have the highest ceilings and the most square footage that we could afford in order to facilitate creativity; facilitate “room to breathe.”

We push hard. We work in a high-stress field; its deadline-driven; time-sensitive. Margins can be tight and decisions are critical. As owners we have a lot of responsibility, but we also have opportunity and options that others can not experience. As an owner, why take the biggest office? What kind of culture does that facilitate? Do we really believe in valuing our people? Do we really care? Are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? Are we willing to build a space and an environment that represents and manifests that we care?

Not to mention that the bigger my office, the more paper I accumulate. I wanted to be forced to delegate; to get stuff off of my desk! I wanted to be able to keep as little in my physical office space as possible. The smaller my space, the less time I need to spend in it.

That means more time being mobile and less paper on my desk. It means more work being put in the hands of others for them to take ownership, and to build a name for themselves within the organization. It means more electronic work and digital files. It forces disciplines in the right areas for me.

I don’t have a parking space with my name on it either. I’ve never been a fan of that scenario. I think its pompous. If anyone should have a parking spot with a name attached, it should be for the “servant of the month,” or maybe the person that has to put up with me the most. I’ve also got a hand-me-down chair for visitors. I have an Ikea wrap-around desk that works just fine. I’ve got a backpack rather than a briefcase, and it’s my mobile office. I do have a triple monitor system and a docking station that I use in order to make things super efficient. It allows me to work as productively at my desk as possible. I prefer to invest in tools and people, not needless perks. Ownership, when done right, has enough built-in perks. Ownership has other privileges. I’ll pass on the bigger offices and parking spaces. How about you?

Culture, Profit, & Balance

On Companies, culture, profit, and balance:

Emphasis only on Culture without caring about profit is called a party

Emphasis only on profit without caring about culture is called drudgery.

Neither model has long-term value to those inside or outside.

A good culture with a sustainable profit is a thing of beauty.

And good (or great) cultures should generate value and produce a profit.  Profit is not a dirty word. Without a profit, companies can not invest in their people, their community, and in “looking around the corner” to continue to innovate, grow, create opportunity, & produce value. Between the extremes, there is a balance. A sustainable space. Creating and sustaining a positive culture / community and sustaining profitability are not mutually exclusive. Both should be sought. There should be balance.

Where does your organization lie on the continuum? What influence can you have to shift to “better”?