March 25, 2010

Slow Down

Posted in Business, Technology, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:07 pm by lindaslongview

After acquiring a handful of consulting clients over the past many months, I have finally embarked on building a real business.  I am in the process of creating a manifesto of services and infrastructure to support it.

I recently hired Greg (Cloud Marketing Labs) to build me a website and “market Linda.”  He pushed me to define what I represent, how I work, what clients should expect, and more.  One of the things Greg recommended was to solicit feedback from my current clients, find out what they liked and what they might value in a future offering.  Thinking that I had really over-delivered with clients thus far, I compiled a list of questions and asked for feedback.

It all seemed easy until I received the following feedback relative to Rapport (Beside Manner):

Question: Do you find our interaction to be positive?  Did you feel like you better off because you called me?

Answer: I feel that I was better off because of you, but not sure if all shared that sentiment.  You have a very strong personality, which is not completely embraced by all.

That was unexpected and I needed to understand how to improve.  I immediately committed to understand “strong personality” – it could mean so many things…

I had a follow-up meeting with my client yesterday.  (I am grateful that he agreed to discuss this further.)  I learned that the negative reaction was associated with a strong recommendation that I had made about how to run a specific experiment and what data should be gathered.  In retrospect, I had not taken adequate time to parse, describe the why, and encourage understanding about the data needs.  As such, my strong recommendation felt disrespectful and intransigent to some team members.  Although there is always tension between Go Fast and Move Slow, ultimately, my desire to execute the experiment quickly got in my way.  I must remind myself constantly that a hike is not over until everyone reaches the campsite.  It is not possible to go faster (without casualty) than the slowest team member.

My long view advice:

  • Slow down – take time to teach and encourage understanding with the entire team.  It is not good enough to understand alone, achievement occurs only when everyone has arrived at understanding.
  • Stay committed to improvement, know that everyone needs to be reminded to do better – no one is perfect.
  • Ask for the last 10%, which is the feedback that is difficult to give, harder to hear, but most important for improvement (described in the book Integrity, pg.120).
  • Listen, internalize, and adjust accordingly.

I am extremely grateful for the candid honesty of my client.  To that end, I am re-committed to slowing down to ensure that understanding is achieved before asking for execution.

Are you ensuring understanding before asking for execution?

March 16, 2010

Workarounds Don’t

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:01 am by lindaslongview

I was reminded recently of one of my long view axioms – workarounds don’t work (for long).

Workarounds have a finite duration for which they will enable correction/detection of an existing problem.  This is because they require extra effort for what is usually an infrequent problem.  Thus, as humans, we tend to forget, begin to believe it is unnecessary (it doesn’t really matter), or it was simply too much effort (not worth it to me), so it just does not happen.

I was reminded about this axiom last week when my 16-year-old daughter passed her driver’s license exam.  Although she passed, she couldn’t get her license because the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) computer system had a known counting error that indicated that she was two days short of her required permit duration, yet the workaround had been forgotten.

The time-based requirement for teenagers to receive a full license is that they must have held their permit a minimum of six months.  My daughter received her permit on 09/09/2009.  She scheduled and passed for her driving exam on 03/09/2010 – exactly six months later.  So, how could she be two days short?

It turns out if you assume that SIX MONTHS = HALF-YEAR = 365/2 DAYS = 182.5 DAYS and then assume that a minimum of 183 DAYS is the appropriate standard to apply to ensure completion, then the criteria FAILS six-months of the year:  March, April, May, June, July, and August, (see graphic) for the condition when a teenager schedules their six-month driving appointment exactly six-months out (date to date).  This happens because there are only 181-182 cumulative days in the six-month periods, falling immediately after February, which has only 28 days.

Can you imagine how frustrated and aggravated the two of us were?!  She was quite disappointed at not receiving her license and thus not being able to drive her planned excursion the following day, not to mention it was rather anti-climactic to return two days later to get her license.  I was aggravated on her behalf and because of the hassle of having to go to the DMV twice in two days.

I was sufficiently aggravated about the situation to contact Gary, the Drive columnist in my local paper, to help me get the problem fixed.  Gary successfully got to the right folks at the DMV.  The DMV confirmed that the problem was a known counting issue (the computer had been programmed with a 183 DAY threshold rather than programmed for six MONTH threshold). The DMV agent also informed me that a fix was in the queue to convert the counting from DAYS to MONTHS (but there wasn’t any priority for it) AND that there was a workaround in place to allow the field offices to allow a DMV manager override the system but that my local office had forgotten the procedure.  (My daughter should have been able to get her license on the day she passed her driving exam.)

Although the DMV representative was very apologetic and promised to write a memo to all the field offices reminding them of the workaround, I was disheartened by the futility.  How much work was created because because they did not expeditiously fix this known problem and allowed a persistent workaround?  For example they could simply change threshold from 183 days to 181 days – one line of computer code!  What’s the risk – a teenager sneaking in to get his/her license a few days early in November?  How many managers at the hundreds of field offices will have to read another memo about the workaround and remind their staff to override when needed?  Of course, all will be forgotten come September and experienced again come March!

My long view advice:

  • Expeditiously fix problems – workarounds don’t work.
  • Do not allow workarounds to persist for any more time than it takes to solve the problem permanently.  (It costs more than you are probably aware.)

Are you avoiding workarounds in favor of solutions?

March 5, 2010

Karma

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 pm by lindaslongview

In early Feburary, I requested a cab for a 4:00 a.m. pickup from my home to get to the airport.  The fare is usually between $36 – $40 (I take the route frequently).  I admit that on that morning, I did not notice whether the meter was zeroed before we departed that early morning.

At arrival at the airport, the meter read $52.  I unsuccessfully disputed the fare with the cab driver (Chris).  When I told him that I wasn’t prepared with appropriate change (I usually paid $40), and that I would need $8 in return (from $60), he told me he only had $3 to provide change.  At this point, the driver held my bag (hostage) while I needed to catch a plane, so I accepted the $3 for a total fare of $57 just to be on my way.  I explained to Chris that I would be complaining when I returned and I requested that he prepare a detailed receipt including cab #, driver name, and total fare.

I called the cab company several days later (when I had returned), explained what happened and requested a refund.  The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me back that day.  Days passed, and I called again and explained that I wanted a refund.   The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me that day.  More and more days passed.

I called my local cab licensing/enforcement agency (an arm of the local police) and explained what happened and how I had tried to resolve the problem.  The first thing I was told is that the cab company did not have a driver named Chris, because he was not on their approved (background-checked, finger-printed, allowed to pick up fares) list.  I assured her that indeed his name was Chris and that I had paid him $57 for my local trip to the airport.

When the police called the cab company, they successfully achieved a $22 refund and an apology on my behalf.  However, it came at a cost — the police opened an investigation because the cab company had allowed an unapproved driver to pick up fares!  So even though the cab company had already fired Chris, all of a sudden they are now in the center of a certification investigation.  They could have made so many different choices along the way….Karma!

What I don’t understand is why anyone (or any business) freely chooses to be dishonest, deceitful, or exploitative, because it creates only a short-term gain — it is not sustainable over the long-term.  Even though it might be “easy” to get away with deceit occasionally in a culture of complacency, it’s a game of Russian roulette.  Eventually a strong emotional response to dishonesty (coupled with the energy to pursue remediation) will emerge.

For me, it was initially about my loyalty to a long-term taxi service to let them know about their problem and offer them a chance to remedy my experience.  Later, it was about warning others.

People have long memories for both exploitation and generosity.  In our crowdsourced world, with services like Yelp! amplifying both, misdeeds/deeds are more durable.  Why risk enduring unflattering amplification?  My Long View Advice:

  • Be honorable; do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
  • Skip the shortcut, especially if safety or credibility is involved.
  • Make your choices as if they will be your destiny, they will.
  • Eschew complacency and participate in feedback, create opportunity to correct honest mistakes, amplify generosity when deserved, and warn others if necessary.

I have been a long believer that everyone makes his or her own karma.   If you live honestly, with integrity, and are generous, you will be reap value and amplify positivity over the long view.  Conversely, if you live dishonestly, deceitfully, are exploitative, it will catch up with you.

What kind of karma are you creating and amplifying?

P.S.  The destiny poster (at right) is courtesy of my son’s middle school, it hangs on the wall.

P.P.S.  I received my $22 check today.