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Service? What service. June 21, 2012

Posted by wooddickinson in 1st National Bank of Omaha, Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, Flo, KitchenAid, Life Coach, Progressive, service, Systems Thinking, Thermador, Tom Peters.
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For the most part customer-service has become an oxymoron(1). As of late when I call customer-service the answer is “no way.” For example, we have a KitchenAid trash compactor sort of for the last five years. I say that because we’re on our third one. In five years I remind you. For the last of those five years the compactor has worked about 20% of the time. That’s probably generous. The same part would break and the unit wouldn’t stop trying to work when it was supposed to. It would crush the trash then the Ram would come back up but it would never stop. We’d have to jerk the door open to stop it. Beyond that if we put trash in and close the door it would start up on its own. I would finally switch it off and get our huge trash can from the garage. It looked good in our remodeled kitchen.

We’d call the service man and after the customary wait of 3 days he’d show up between 9 and noon. Say the same part needed repair, call and leave while we all waited for the part to come in. What I thought was a hoot was instead of the serviceperson returning to the shop to get the part it would be mailed to our home! We’d have to call the service company and do all this again. He’d put the part in and with in 2 days it would do the same thing.

Finally after a year they seem to have fixed the stupid compactor. I called “customer-service” and told them I’d paid for a service contract for the last year and had virtually no use of the compactor so now that it is “fixed” I wanted a year service-contract for free. Does that sound like I’m asking too much?

I was. I got told by everyone up the chain of command, “No way.” In those words. Really, that’s what they’d say. I finally got ahold of a person in the corporate office and repeated my request. I asked if Mrs. KitchenAid would mind having this unit in her house? I’d pay the shipping and installation. The response was I’d get my free year service-contract. It took me hours to accomplish this so I wouldn’t recommend KitchAid for anything.

Now I’m going through the same things with Thermador for a gas range and freezer. They haven’t worked properly since day one. Now 5 years down the road I offered the same deal. I’d pay shipping and installation to see if Mrs. CEO of Thermador was happy with these products. Of course she wouldn’t so some repair company is coming out today to “evaluate” the units. In the words of Queen Victoria, “We are not amused.”

This week my online banking with 1st National Bank of Omaha stopped working. Calls to customer-service only told me I had lost several accounts and my wife could not talk to anyone because she didn’t have my social security number. She is on all the accounts by the way.

Again I just asked for the president. I got the ubiquitous “someone” in the president’s office. I find that so funning. When I was president of Dickinson Theatres that someone in the president’s office was me. I didn’t have any “people.” I asked this women where the president was and she said she didn’t know! You think I was really talking to someone in the president’s office? I don’t think so. How insulting. She did fix my online banking though. I’ll give her that.

Okay so that’s KitchenAid, Thermador, and 1st National Bank of Omaha. All with no can do customer-service that required hours on the phone and requests to speak to the presidents but the presidents were all to busy doing something more important. Maybe playing golf.

Now it is Progressive Insurance (thankfully not my insurance company). Anyone know Flo’s number?

The point here is simple. The most important person in all of these companies isn’t the CEO or President. It’s me. The Customer. If I wasn’t around where would they be? Mr. And Mrs. KitchenAid wouldn’t have a job. You get my point! I’m so over this kind of “customer-service” I’m sick. It’s everywhere. No one can answer a phone, no president of any company will talk to a lowly customer. I guess that’s like getting your hand’s dirty. Oh god not another customer!

Help me Tom Peters. You’re my only hope…

 ________________

1 a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements (military intelligence) – Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Union Woes February 23, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, shared vision, Systems Thinking.
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A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford du...

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According to Yahoo! News (HERE) The governor of the state is trying to save $165M.  I’m sorry but we must face facts.  There isn’t enough money and enough taxes to counter this kind of problem.  It runs ram-pet through all states and the Federal Government.  The current answer is Tax more, Spend more, pass the buck to our children.

I’m not speaking a political opinion just recounting facts.  Now the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on 1/21/2011 the union membership information for 2010.

I’ll quote:

“In 2010, 7.6 million public sector employees belonged to a union, compared with 7.1 million union workers in the private sector. The union membership rate for public sector workers (36.2 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for private sector workers (6.9 percent). Within the public sector, local government workers had the highest union membership rate, 42.3 percent. This group includes workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Private sector industries with high unionization rates included transportation and utilities (21.8 percent), telecommunications (15.8 percent), and construction (13.1 percent). In 2010, low unionization rates occurred in agriculture and related industries (1.6 percent) and in financial activities (2.0 percent). (See table 3.)” Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

What is obvious is more of us are not in a union than those who are.  No one cares much about private sector unions even though they do effect the cost of goods, it is the public sector (government workers) that the voting public should be worried about.

Public policy has been to bend over for public sector labor unions thus driving the cost of government into the stratosphere. Now unions are not the only reason we have out of control spending on the local, state and federal level but it is a significant part.  Here again we have a minority holding a majority hostage for political gain.

I understand we are talking about peoples lives but consider the fact that all the non-union workers, employers and corporate risk takers that drive business growth have no such protection.  They are villains and takers.  Especially management even though these people create the jobs the union folks fill.  When the unions should be supporting management so the company is successful they act as a drain possibly driving the company out of business. All that happens to the union employee is lay off or getting fired.  The business owner’s life is ruined by a business failure.

I’m not going into the corporate greed argument always pulled out of the hat because almost all businesses run honestly.

Now, what does all this mean?  Looking at current trends in societal anger about tax and spend I can for see a revolt against the public sector employees and the politicians who support them.  This could get bloody because unlike taxes where workers say, “Let the rich pay,” this will be their own jobs on the line. The workers will have to pay.

It’s obvious to all of us that state and federal governments are bloated.  Departments are too large, spending is out of control and staffing to expansive.  When a politician tries to get a grip on this just look at Wisconsin to see the reaction.  All unions rally behind government employees even though we as a nation can’t afford them.

This country is on a collision course and many people are living in a fantasy world when it comes to this issue.

Systems Questions February 18, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, consulting, Systems Thinking.
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Systems Thinking does take work!

COMMENT FROM BLOG POST: System is often sensitive to events around itself and people handling it. To build a system, the future needs to be presumed or projected with all sorts of possible trajectories, I would like to ask you some questions regarding the same:

a) Is it possible to anticipate such trajectories?
b) Since we break the systems into various sub-systems, how are some properties obsolete to the other connected systems while effective to systems aligned much further in the same system as sub-systems? Is feedback the part we are considering or the carry-forward mechanism the reason behind it?

Some time back I received this comment and I’d like to explore it a bit.  To be clear systems are part of the natural order of things.  The solar system, the life cycle of organisms, atomic structure and so on.  All these things and really everything is comprised of some sort of systemic force.

There are times we are fully aware of this.  Say the gravitational system as described by Sir Isaac  Newton.  This system was used to get us to and from the moon.  Now man made organizations are structures that we put together and the truth is, we may not do a very good job.  If we don’t acknowledge systems then we are working blind and can’t even begin to guess the outcome. But we try.

Even simple things like a teenager starting a lawn mowing venture to make money for college contains systems.  One of the primary drivers behind systems is the feedback loop.  If the boy cuts the grass well but never trims around the trees, he may look at the grass and think, “Job well done.” The client on the other hand looks at the whole yard and notices right away the grass around the trees hans’t been trimmed.  He thinks, “Sloppy and lazy. I need a new boy to cut the grass.” What we now have is a closed system.

One good explanation of this idea is:

“A system, then, is a set of things that affect one another within an environment and form a larger pattern that is different from any of the parts. The fundamental systems-interactive paradigm of organizational analysis features the continual stages of input, throughput (processing), and output, which demonstrate the concept of openness/closedness. A closed system does not interact with its environment. It does not take in information and therefore is likely to atrophy, that is to vanish. An open system receives information, which it uses to interact dynamically with its environment. Openness increases its likelihood to survive and prosper. Several system characteristics are: wholeness and interdependence (the whole is more than the sum of all parts), correlations, perceiving causes, chain of influence, hierarchy, supra-systems and subsystems, self-regulation and control, goal-oriented, interchange with the environment, inputs/outputs, the need for balance/homeostasis, change and adaptability (morphogenesis) and equifinality: there are various ways to achieve goals. Different types of networks are: line, commune, hierarchy and dictator networks. Communication in this perspective can be seen as an integrated process – not as an isolated event.” – cited from UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE (http://www.utwente.nl/en)

Simply if the boy doesn’t open up his lawn mowing system to include a feedback loop that he can access entropy will claim his business and he will be looking for another way to make money.  This would be a rather simple system, something like this:

This is a closed system that doesn’t allow any feedback so after time the homeowner will get tiered of the bad job and fire the boy. The boy’s business collapses.

Now to ignore that this system exists is fatal so one element needs to be added to save it

With the feedback element added the boy asks for feedback from the client before he goes home. The owner says the trimming needs to be done and the boy makes adjustments to the system and the systems grows and stays alive.

Now this is a simple example but it is a starting point. This theory is useful in business to family relationships. Map the system and you can see where problems are then add the proper feedback loops to allow correction to the system.

So to answer the first question about predictability, yes you can gauge the result of certain process by mapping the system BEFORE you start and check it constantly for errors and keep correcting so the feedback remains useful. Harley Davidson has a very specific process for chroming it’s parts. This process must be mapped out so feedback can come at the critical time to avoid putting faulty parks on a bike. It can also indicate changes that need to be made to the process so it expands and becomes more effective and cost efficient.

As to the second question, yes complex systems may have many various subsystems.  Each part must add back to the whole so if a certain subsystem seems to be failing one possibility is to end that part of the process or redesign the system to incorporate that subsystem somewhere else. You can’t just let a subsystem fail and ignore it. One of the primary reason to use systems thinking is so you have feedback loops in place to help guide the people working the system and allow a natural change process to take place.

Top 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Writing a Business Plan November 23, 2010

Posted by wooddickinson in consulting.
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Writing a business plan is often a crucial first step to getting your start-up off the ground. A good plan can help you raise money, recruit members of your management team, set your marketing strategy and, perhaps best of all, refine your thinking. A plan riddled with errors? That can sink you. Here are 10 mistakes that entrepreneurs frequently make when crafting their business plans, according to Akira Hirai, a consultant in California who advises start-up companies on elements of business-plan writing, including competitive analysis and financial forecasting.

Being All Things to All People

You cannot expect a business plan to appeal to every possible audience. With this in mind, try to pick one business model, and to focus on one industry or one problem. Otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin, and potentially creating a sprawling plan that makes a bad first impression.

Being Boring

If a potential client gets two pages into your plan and is bored, that’s a terrible sign. It is important to have the reader interested right from the executive summary on the very first page. And don’t neglect your cover page: a well-designed logo never hurts.

Measuring the Size of the Market Too Optimistically

Although it may seem impressive if you project vast markets and the potential for huge sums of revenue, outsize financial estimates often appear gimmicky to investors. Worse, big numbers often make you sound as if you don’t know what you’re doing or how hard it will be to penetrate your target market. Don’t make big promises unless you’re absolutely sure you can keep them.

Lacking the Confidence to Sell Your Product

In an effort to portray confidence, too many business plans ignore the competition that a new business will face. Doing so betrays a lack of sophistication. Few if any ideas face zero competition. Even if your concept is completely original, you should take into account forces that compete with your product or service, including different solutions to a problem, different ways that customers might choose to spend their money, and inertia in the marketplace.

Repeating Yourself Too Much

Avoid repeating a few catchphrases and a few simple ideas in ten different formulations. Nobody wants to hear the same thing over and over again. Be sure to keep your plan’s fundamental message consistent throughout, but employ creative language and appealing imagery to flesh out your ideas.

Using Too Much Jargon

Remember that not everyone in business is familiar with cross-industry lingo. If you have a background in a specific industry – this is especially true in science and engineering – try to use simple, specific, and concrete phrases to describe your business. Rely on general terms that most everybody will understand.

Not Being Consistent

Eliminate contradictions. Make sure that the information in your plan is consistent — that, for example, a financial chart deep within the plan does not undermine a fact used in an earlier section. Make absolutely certain that every fact about your industry, the market, and key competitors is accurate and readily verifiable.

Failing to Incorporate Feedback

Presenting a business plan about which you have not received feedback is an easy amateur mistake to make. Remember: Presenting to a top investor a draft business plan that contains silly errors or gaps in logic is worse than presenting no plan at all. Try reaching out to a few friendly contacts who have vetted business plans in the past before you begin to share it with qualified potential investors. However….

Taking Too Many Perspectives Into Account

…Do not go so overboard in anticipating lines of questioning or identifying possible flaws in your thinking that a reader will have a hard time following the narrative thread. Make sure you address some likely investor objections, but balance the desire to be clear-eyed with the overall objective, which is to make a persuasive pitch.

Failing to Acknowledge the Competition

Successful plans come in all shapes and sizes and formats, so don’t worry about crafting one that looks and reads exactly like every other plan that’s out there. Your goal isn’t to fit in; you want your business plan to stand out. Remember: If you create a proposal that expresses your idea and your personality, you will be more comfortable and confident when you are called on to present it.

Inc.

What is Professionalism November 16, 2010

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, Life Coach.
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Much is spoken about behaving professionally. Most people can actively recognise professionalism or the lack of it in others, but find it extremely difficult to define it, or model it when considering their own behaviour.

So lets unpick exactly what we mean by professionalism.

Think about the people you respect most because they are the consummate professional. Can you identify the elements that made them so good?

I’ve asked this question of so many groups of people and the replies have included the following:

* A good role model for others including, their behaviour, attitude and relationships
* Good Time Keepers – always in before time, uses time well
* Dresses appropriately for the role
* Speaks in a way which is appropriate to each different audience without being patronising or putting people down.
* Knowledgeable about the job, organization, etc.
*Good with people
*Communicate effectively, whatever the circumstances – actively listens
*Manages their time well
*Works well under pressure
*Fulfils deadlines
*prioritizes effectively – Is prepared to put in the time and effort to get things done, but also manages to have a reasonable work life balance
*Is accountable and takes responsibility for what they do and say, and for what they leave undone

Look more deeply into the issue of professionalism and you begin to realise that professionalism includes all of those strands above but also so much more.

Those who are thoroughly professional, demonstrate a rounded personality. They are able to act as a good role model for their colleagues. They have the ability to take the rough with the smooth, and are always consistent with others whatever their personal circumstance or problems may be. They never take their frustrations out on others.

The experienced professional behaves appropriately in all situations:
They know when it is appropriate to have a laugh over a coffee and when to behave formally. They are able to run effective meetings. They are well versed in when to speak out and when to bite their tongue. They do not feel the need to be seen to be always right or stand on their dignity. They are prepared to play the long game and wait for time and experience to prove their point. They do not dodge the issues but tackle them without aggression or anger. They can always say hand on heart “I expect high standards from my team and I demonstrate the same high standards at all times”.
The consummate professional demonstrates a generosity of spirit, there is no need for their own ego to take centre stage, they allow the credit to be taken where it is deserved.

The professional person is open to the views of others and the possibility that there might be a better way. They make decisions based on the best interest of the organisation. They are fair and even handed to all people even those they do not particularly like. The professional evaluates their own performance, has high expectations of themselves and others and constantly strives to improve.

Professionals see them selves as part of the solution rather than the problem.

If you are keen to succeed in any business you need to demonstrate the appropriate levels of professionalism. If you want promotion in the future start to demonstrate that you have the potential to fulfil that role. Just wanting the job, the title, status and financial reward is simply not enough.

Show your commitment, your ability to come up with the goods, others will begin to notice and it will hold you in good stead whether you go for an internal promotion or need a reference for an external promotion.

You will also gain a huge amount of personal satisfaction in knowing you have what it takes to be a great professional.

This article is free for republishing
Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_463613_24.html

 

 

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