Aug 27, 2008

Process before results?

To follow up on yesterday's post: I saw an item in today's paper where food inspectors were complaining of the workload and the processes used in monitoring food processing plants.

It seems a new process was put in place to inspect a company's plant, however the system put more work on each inspector's shoulders while giving them less time to actually investigate. According to some inspectors, it gives them a more "hands-off" approach and prevents them from making observations they used to do before the new process was put in place. Some inspectors have even started asking the question: "I don't have time to do both so which is more important: the inspection or the paperwork?"

Processes are important in any well-functioning system but the processes must help reach results better, faster and more cheaply. If those are not the results you are seeing, then the process is flawed.

Process should never have priority over results. Bear in mind that any new process will inevitably bring about a certain slowdown or will change results in the short term. That's a natural phenomenon, until the process becomes second nature.

However, any new process must be closely monitored to see that you get the expected results and that you do not suffer from The aaw of unintended consequences.

Aug 26, 2008

Does your strategy serve the client or the business?

This morning an article in the Montreal Gazette mentioned that an Air Canada Jazz affiliate had chosen to ditch life vests from its aircraft as a cost-cutting measure. The gist of the story can be found on CanWest's news site. A spokesperson for Air Canada Jazz put the blame on high fuel costs.

Airline regulations only require airplanes to provide life vests if the plane flies more than 90 kilometers from land. The regional carrier rerouted some of its planes to make sure they met this criterion. In other words, they are complying with their obligations.

Contrast this with Maple Leaf, the meat packing company. This week, there was an outbreak of listeria, a deadly bacteria that has already killed 12 people in Canada.

In today's paper, there was a signed, full-page letter from Maple Leaf president Michael H. McCain apologizing for the problem and expressing his sympathies to the families of the victims. In the letter, he also outlined how his company had decided to go beyond the call of duty: they have recalled all of the products that came from the plant where the problem was found, even if the evidence showed that only part of the meat was tainted. He also decided to close that plant until appropriate measures are implemented.

To put things in perspective, there have been few water landings by commercial aircraft. So in effect, the life vests are probably a luxury. However the perception will linger that Air Canada Jazz, to "save a few bucks" has put the safety of their passengers in jeopardy.

Information is what you say and communication is what the other person understands. Air Canada Jazz needs to step up their communication strategy to make their clients understand that they in no greater danger now that life vests are no longer standard equipment on some of their aircraft.

Aug 21, 2008

The 'Big Brown' Syndrome in IT

Keeping IT rolling smoothly means paying attention to everyone, not just the best and the brightest. You can read more here:

The 'Big Brown' Syndrome in IT

Aug 19, 2008

Law of unintended consequences

This weekend I met someone who made me wonder about the long lasting impact we have on people, often without our realizing it.

I attended a festival in my hometown of Sherbrooke, Québec. As I was watching a dance show, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey Whodini, how are you?”

I looked at the young man sporting mirrored shades and replied, "I'm doing fine thanks."

"You don't remember me do you?"

"Can't say that I do, sorry."

"Remember back in the 80s you used to work in a video arcade? Whenever you worked, you always played a lot of rap and hip-hop in the arcade. We loved it and you were the only guy we knew who listened to that kind of music and you made us a tape. Today I have a large collection of rap and hip-hop records, and it keeps on growing. For the past 16 years, my friend and I have been hosting a hip-hop radio show every week."

I was a bit taken aback that someone I had no contact with, other than seeing him once in awhile during a part-time job, would remember me almost 20 years later. I was even more surprised that a little gesture that I had forgotten about had had such an impact for so long.

I never would have known about this, had I not bumped into him quite accidentally. Then it got me to thinking: how many other people have I unwittingly affected, for better or for worse?

If I had to make a complete list of all of the people I have met, and had to evaluate all of the results of those interactions, what would the conclusion be? Would it be overwhelmingly positive? Negative? Somewhat positive? Or would I mostly have left them indifferent?

If you've ever read the book “Freakonomics”, you've heard about the law of unintended consequences. It's the law that says that any action will have some sort of unexpected outcome, such as what happened above.

I've been fortunate enough to know of (now) two unintended consequences of my actions. Someone else once told me that I had showed him what software I used to balance my chequebook. From there, he developed an interest in money management and today he has his own business. Who knew?

A more notable example is Facebook. It was originally developed to help a few college buddies keep in touch after school. Today, Facebook is the darling of the Internet and putting one's profile on site has much more impact than it used to.

How have you been impacted by unintended consequences? Or how have you impacted others in ways you did not expect?

Aug 11, 2008

Telemarketing III

I'm not even sure this is telemarketing or not. Maybe it's just a bad case of customer service.

As a member of Alan Weiss's mentor program, I am constantly being reminded that I need to follow up consistently. This lesson came to mind as soon as I received a call from a company that will remain nameless... because I don't remember what it was.

They called me around 10 pm and... well, instead of telling you, how about taking you LIVE to the phone call I received just moments ago. Roll tape!

(Phone rings)

Me: Hello?

Them: Hello Mr. Duperval, my name is So-N-So, how are you tonight?

Me: (Uh oh! Cialdini at work) I'm fine thanks.

Them: I'm calling from On January 4th you sent a query through our Web site and I am following up. I don't have the question in front of me but I'll be glad to answer if you let me know what it was.

Me: ...

Them: Sir?

Me: Are you serious? That was seven months ago! How on Earth do you expect me to remember what I asked you?

Them: I understand sir. I just wanted to let you know that we have received your query and that we are following up. I apologize for the delay in responding. You may be interested to know that we have a new download of the software available and I invite you to get the latest copy. Do you have any more questions sir?

Me: Dude, I didn't have any questions to begin with!

Them: Fine, well thank you for your business and have a great evening! Goodbye!

Me: .....

Well, at least it gave me a good laugh.

Aug 4, 2008

Seven ways Your E-Mail Can Get You Fired

US News and World Report has an article about using email in a way that can be detrimental to your job. I was quoted as part of the article. You can find it here:

7 Ways Your E-mail Can Get You Fired

Interestingly enough, I was working on a larger document discussing the pitfalls of electronic communication. I will let you know when that document is ready.