(A story of cold sausages, a string quartet and climate change protestors)
I was in London last week with some friends. On Friday morning we were sitting in a restaurant having breakfast. Then my blackberry went ballistic; message after message telling me that the link to the free guide on presenting data wasn’t working. And to make matters worse the team in the office didn’t have the PDF of the guide, so they couldn’t help.
Big problem, you see we use a web hosting company in the US and their system was down. So the first thing I did was to drop my fork and knife and ping a note back to everyone to let them know we were trying to resolve the situation.
Eventually I tracked down one of the team (who was on holiday) who had a copy of the guide (for who didn’t manage to pick it up click here) and we got it sent again as an attachment. And I as I chewed my way through my, now freezing cold, bacon and eggs I pondered the messages.
- Trust is fleeting. It doesn’t really matter how much good you think you’ve done it can all go pear shaped in a moment.
- Reliability is king. I continually hear people moaning that things are tough in the current climate. So you have to make the most of every opportunity. This is the same in the public sector, if you don’t keep your promises you get hit with failure demand, the cost to me was a cold breakfast, what would it be for you? So make sure every process delivers.
- Knowledge will save the day. Stuff happens, things go wrong, I get that. But the key is to know the predictable nature of the failure. Is it a one off or is it predictable? The problem is that most managers don’t know, as a result they react to special causes as if they are every day occurrences and make a storm in a team into a hurricane. So you need measures that help you understand and improve performance, do you have that?
I was now firmly in the bad books with everyone. Denise, for spending two hours on my phone (I hope you appreciate what I do for you), Sean for bugging him on his holiday and you for a missing link. But there was light at the end of the tunnel and another message.
We left Covent Garden to the sound of music, not the Julie Andrews musical, but a string quartet. We stood and watched for a while, they were brilliant. Then they upped the ante, they started dancing with their violins! The crowd went wild and started throwing money at them.
And yes there’s a message here, if you want to do well, even during tough times, you need more than just reliability…
- Be unique. This can come in the form of a product, a service, or how about a guarantee. Most people can’t offer a guarantee because they are too scared that they will mess up. Though that problem soon disappears when you have knowledge about how the work works.
And if you’re in the public sector and you’re reading this and wondering how it applies? My thoughts are that what would make you unique would be the delivery of consistently high service at low cost, do you agree?
Having seen the quartet I now had a warm feeling, everything was all right with the world. Or was the warm feeling something else. Was it climate change? The protestors in London that day certainly believe it’s the latter. And don’t get me wrong I’m all for a good rant and saving the planet, but…
We wanted to cross the road and the protestors were shouting at everyone as they crossed the line; time for another lesson. In some sectors your message might not be to everyone’s taste, so don’t make it worse by being difficult to deal with (one pedestrian got so infuriated he even burst a protestor’s balloon; that could have gone nasty). Here’s the lesson:
- When you want people to comply with your message or process, don’t infuriate them by being difficult.
We ended our weekend by a visit to a Japanese restaurant chain in terminal 5 called Wagamama, it was brilliant. And it had a number of amazing characteristics:
- They told us when what was going to happen and when we would get our food. Then they delivered on their promises.
- They had a simple method to keep track of who was getting what and who still had to get their meals. They wrote the number of the dish on the menu. That way if a customer didn’t get the right food, the waiter knew before the customer.
- They were unique. The food was unusual but very tasty.
- It was easy and flawless.
Isn’t it funny how things go full circle?
P.S. This week I have an e-book of some questions I’ve answered over the past few months. The questions range from how to improve support for drug users, how systems thinking works in businesses that need to grow and get new clients, whether Kanban is appropriate to service organisations, and a few more. You can get the short book by clicking here (and yes I’m praying that it works).
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