Showing posts with label Consistency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Consistency. Show all posts

November 7, 2017

Sometimes We Get Surprised

Sometimes we get surprised in life. 

Now of course, the surprise can be good or not so good. 

One person told me this funny story about how they were in the bathroom and they reached for the toothpaste.

They put it on their toothbrush and proceeded to brush their teeth.

All of a sudden though, they realized that something didn't taste quite right.

Lo and behold, they see that they had accidentally put Desitin (diaper rash ointment) on their toothbrush.

Yikes, that was nasty indeed (at least no mouth sores after that)!

But surprises, even when not so good, can be a wake up call. 

In this case, you better be more careful what the heck in put in your mouth.

And more generally-speaking, we need to pay attention to what we're doing--be deliberate, plan, and adjust accordingly. 

I remember early in my career, one supervisor telling me, "I don't like surprises!"

Yeah, unless it's winning the Powerball lottery jackpot or something like that, what surprises are usually all that great anyway? 

Sure, I like a my share of adventure, novelty, fun, and challenge in life, but also I'll take a mouthful of tranquility mixed with some incremental progressive learning and growth over Desitin on my toothbrush any day of the week. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 6, 2017

Begone With Daylight Savings Time

Daylight saving time is one of those ideas that should be relegated to the dustbin of history. 

It serves no functional purpose and is actually a negative for society overall. 

Originally devised to have longer daylight in the Summer months by moving the clock forward an hour, it was also thought to save electricity by having more daylight.

However, research on the energy savings have had at best mixed results and the extra hour of sunlight in the evening in Summer with sunset extending to after 9 pm is necessary why???

Let's face it...it is stupid to move the clocks twice a year "springing forward" in the Spring and "falling back" in the Fall. 

Aside from the nonsense of actually having to move the clocks, it is disruptive and unhealthy to our sleep and other bodily patterns--was anyone else up too early for work this morning and hanging around until it was actually time to go in?

And it's not only people's bodily cycle that gets messed up, but animals too. One of my colleagues complained this morning about their dog needing to go out for their walk early this morning--apparently, the dog didn't get the message about daylight savings time. 

Time is not something to mess with--it should be stable like the other natural cycles of good 'ol Mother Nature--that we depend on as the "Laws of Nature!"

We don't change the number of days in December from 31 to 32 (taking it from perhaps October, which we can easily cut back on to 30 or 29 days) to extend the joyous holiday and  the shopping season which is good for economy.

We also don't mess with the number of days of the week--perhaps, for example, we should shorten the week from 7 to 6 days, so that we can have a more frequent rest cycle and rejuvenate our bodies and minds more frequently. Who wouldn't vote to get rid of Mondays and just start the week with Tuesday instead. 

Change is a good thing when it actually has a net benefit to society and it is more than negligible, but continuing to move around the dials on the clock, just because someone woke up one day with another cockeyed idea is not something to keep repeating.

It's time to recognize the bad idea for daylight savings time for what it is and restore stable time like a tick-tock that we can all set our watches consistently to. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

October 7, 2017

Where Does Organized Religion Go Wrong

So I am definitely someone who is spiritual and tries to be faithful to G-d.

I believe, He is my creator and sustainer and that we are here to learn and grow our soul before it goes back to Hashem. 

Yet often, like so many others now-a-days, I find organized religion to be a turn-off. 

Why?

1) There is a consistency and sincerity problem.

To some people, I believe it's partially the rote and robotic nature of some of the practices--where we just do it, because we are told to do it, and we do it over and over and time after time, again--even when we don't feel it in the moment, and even if we do other things that are not so right in other areas of our lives.  

In contrast perhaps, there can be more spontaneous and genuine feelings and actions, in the moment and every moment--that come from the heart and the soul of the person and directly to G-d--and they are consistent whether we are in a religious setting to how we treat others and how we act in business. 

In other words, we just don't follow the rules, but we live them fully and integrated with ourselves and all situations we find ourselves in. 

2)  There is a money and power problem.

In some religious environments, all people are not created equal or treated equal. Instead, the say, the attention, and the honor goes to the powerful and the rich, who are courted for their donations and their votes to the institution and the spiritual leader. Who gets talked up? Who is given the honors at the religious rituals, at the events and the dinners, and with their communal "peers"? 

In other cases, it's not just money and power that talks, but who is outwardly the "most religious" and presumably walks the walk.  If you but "seem" more religious than the next guy, then you are elevated and exalted in the religious community.  

Instead, what happened to welcoming and caring for everyone--to everyone being children of G-d--to each person having a soul and their personal life challenges. Why can't we treat everyone as religiously worthwhile and give everyone a chance to learn and grow in their own way from their starting point and to their destination?  

Religion should be the one place that isn't a competition with others. 

Religion is ultimately between man and G-d!

And only G-d knows what is inside man's heart and in his soul--and what his actions really are all the time and what they truly mean in context and in essence

I welcome G-d in my life, because I:

- Have faith in Him and that ultimately He has a master plan and that everything is for the good 
- Love Him for giving me the chance to learn and grow my soul to be better
- Fear Him for when I do something wrong in my life and need a course correction 

I wish for a time and transformation when religion would not just be based on outward manifestations but on being sincere and consistent in people's lives, and where people would no longer be superficially judged and (mis)treated because they are themselves and on their G-d given paths. 

If only we could religiously love, rather than endlessly judge, each other, oh what a heartfelt and inspiring religion that would be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

June 16, 2017

It Takes A Village

I wanted to share some good tidbits about effective management, collaboration, and engagement that I heard this week at a Partnership for Public Service event.

It Takes A Village - No I don't mean the book by Hillary Clinton, but rather the idea that no one person is an island and no one can do everything themselves. Rather, we need the strengths and insights that others have to offer; we need teamwork; we need each other!

2-Way Communication - Traditionally, organizations communicate from the top-down or center to the periphery (depending how you look at it).  But that doesn't build buy-in and ownership. To do that, we need to have 2-way communication, people's active participation in the process, and genuine employee engagement.

Get Out Of The Way -  We (generally) don't need to tell people how to do their jobs, but rather develop the vision for what success looks like and then get out of the way of your managers and people. "Make managers manage and let managers manage" and similarly, I would say, hold people accountable but let people work and breath!

Things Change - While it's important to have consistency, momentum, and stay the course, you also need to be agile as the facts on the ground change.  "Disregard what's not working, and embrace what is." But you must stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

This is our world of work--our village--and either everyone helps and gets onboard the train or they risk getting run over by it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

September 29, 2014

Talk To The Hand

So you know the saying "Talk to the hand, because the face ain't home..."?

Well IPSoft has an artificial intelligence agent called Amelia that handles service requests. 

Instead of talking to a human customer service rep, you get to talk to a computer. 

The question is whether Amelia is like talking to a hand or is someone really home when using IA to adroitly address your service issues?

Now apparently, according to the Wall Street Journal, this computer is pretty smart and can ingest every single manual and prior service request and learn how to answer a myriad of questions from people. 

On one hand, maybe you'll get better technical knowledge and more consistent responses by talking to a computerized service representative.

But on the other hand, if the interactive voice response systems with the dead end menus of call options, endless maze of "If you want to reach X, press Y now" along with all the disconnects after being on for 10 minutes already are any indication of what this, I am leery to say the least. 

The Telegraph does says that Amelia can service customers in 20 languages and after 2 months, can resolve 64% of "the most common queries" independently, so this is hopeful and maybe even inspiring of what is to come. 

These days, based on how much time we spend online in the virtual world, I think most people would actually prefer to talk to a knowledgeable computer than a smart alec human who doesn't want to be handling annoying customer calls all day, anyway. 

The key to whether Amelia and her computerized brothers and sisters of the future will be successful is not only how quickly they can find the correct answer to a problem, but also how well they can understand and address new issues that haven't necessarily come up the same way before, and how they handle the emotions of the customer on the line who wishes they didn't have the problem needing this call to begin with. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Vernon Chen)
Share/Save/Bookmark

September 10, 2014

G-d, Thinking Of You

I saw this on the side of a car and liked it--simple and to the point:

"Praise G-d"

My father used to tell me that "There are no atheists in a foxhole"--basically every one shits their pants when that tank rolls overhead.

There is a tendency to turn to G-d when we feel we need him--when times are bad--but then sort of forget about him when things are okay again, and we feel like we have it all under control.

Even when things are bleak, it can be easy to lose faith in anger and despair. 

So challenge #1 is to remember him in good times and bad--we are in his hands, always. 

In terms of how we praise G-d?

Some do it in prayer, others in deed.

That leads to challenge #2--to speak and act with consistency and sincerity. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 27, 2013

Needy And You Know It

Some people are so needy--they are almost like children in adult's clothing, while others are so distant they may as well be living on another planet--they are in there own world. 

The Wall Street Journal (15 July 2013) asks why some people seem to demand so much? 

It explains that there are three types of people:

1) Secure--these people were raised in a consistently caring and responsive manner and they become warm and loving people themselves able to form healthy balanced relationships--where they can be apart from and together with others and function well in both situations.

2) Avoidant/Dismissive--those who are raised in an environment where neediness was not tolerated and was seen as suffocating, and so they learn to minimize closeness to others--they are distant and detached. 

3) Anxious/Needy--People raised in an inconsistent environment, where they got mixed messages about nurturing, and they end up constantly feeling insecure and needy, like they will get drawn in and then rejected again, so they smother other people with their neediness and don't recognize and respect appropriate boundaries. 

This third personality type, who is always needy and ends up pushing away other people, who feel suffocated, reminds me of a funny scene in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" where a couple visit the therapist, who asks each of them how often they have sex? The man says, "Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week." But then the woman when asked the same question says, "Constantly. I'd say three times a week." 

Just like people can't really change their basic sexual needs (men apparently wanting physical intimacy more often then women), so too people can't change the home life they were raised in--good, bad or indifferent. 

Whether people are needy and clingy, aloof and dismissive, or plays between hot and cold, we need to figure out how to care about and love them for whoever they are. 

Boundaries are key. Taking some personal space is healthy. Together time and intimacy is critical. 

It's all about finding a balance--where each person has the time and space to be who they are, and then come back to a warm and caring relationship to share, rejuvenate, and laugh and cry together. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

October 1, 2012

Prefabricated Skyscrapers

Eleven years after the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centers, we are still waiting for the new Freedom Tower to go up.


Yes, there were political disputes on what type of building and memorial would be erected, what security features would be included, what the insurance would pay, and so on.

But then there is also just the shear length of time it still takes us to build a building—a skyscraper, but also other smaller and simpler structures too.

Wired Magazine (October 2012) is reporting on a new method for building construction coming out of China.

Unfortunately, China has been known for some time for unsafe building practices—perhaps doing things on the cheap and then paying for it in terms of consequences later.

Yet, this new technique promises to increase safety, as well as speed, while lowering costs.

If you are willing to give up some building pizzazz, then Broad Sustainable Building is perfecting the prefabricated skyscraper—and these have tested “earthquake-proof” for a 9.0 quake, cost only $1,000 per square foot (versus $1,400 normally)—a 40% savings, and a 30 story building can be built in just 15 days!

Now, Broad says that they even want to erect a 220 story mega skyscraper in 6 months—by March 2013.

Here’s how they do it:

  • Identical modules—each section is prebuilt in identical modules in the factor.
  • Preinstalled fixtures—Pipes and ducts are threaded through each module in the factory for AC, hot and cold water, and waste.
  • Standardized truckloads —with two stacked pallets, each pallet has everything needed to erect a section including wall panels, columns, ducts, bolts, and tools.
  • Lego-style assembly—sections are lifted by crane and installed quickly in snap-like fashion, including pipes and wires.
  • Slotted exterior—heavily insulated walls and windows are hoisted by crane and slotted into the exterior of the building.

Aside from a standardized, consistent, high quality building—it is energy efficient, generates less than 1% the construction waste, and is safer to construct.

As with the rest of the industrial age, this is just the first step in mass producing—in this case buildings—and like the Ford Model T, which came in only one color black and evolved to meet consumer tastes and needs, these building will soon come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but at a fraction of the cost and the time to build.

This is enterprise architecture applied to building architecture making use of modular design and construction, standardization, and consolidated engineering, manufacturing, and assembly to develop next generation products. 

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

May 13, 2011

Reading is Love


What an inspiring story this week about Jim Brozina and his daughter Alice Ozma.

Jim's wife left him when Alice was ten years old.

And when Alice started 4th grade, Jim (a retired librarian) made a challenge to his daughter to see how many nights they could read together in row--it was a way for them to spend time together and bond.

Well their "Streak" went on and on--for over 3000 nights--almost 9 years--until Alice's first night at Rutger's University.

Alice majored--of course--in English Literature.

And she wrote a book called "The Reading Promise" about her dad's selfless devotion and love to her, reading every night.

I remember as a kid, the commercials encouraging reading--"Reading is Fundamental".

Now I know that reading is not just fundamental (to learning and growth), but is also a way to love someone.

In the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, how many of us spend the time with our kids--consistently and with the utter devotion that this father did--one chapter a night, every night?

Aside from the lesson of selflessness in this story, I also see in this the message of incremental change and growth--by starting off with just 15 minutes a day and building on this incrementally, Jim and Alice were able to accomplish so much together over the years--in terms of learning and their relationship.

So while, the big blowout moments in life are significant memories for us and very often get a lot of emphasis (i.e. as in "let's make a memory"), the day-to-day consistent building of relationships and learning, can have a truly larger than life impact over the long-term.

On a more personal note, I remember when I was debating going back to school for my MBA (while working full-time during the day), and my dad encouraged me and told me that the years would come and go regardless, but that if I made the commitment, at the end, I would have something valuable to show for it.

I listened to his advice and went to school at night for what seemed like ages for an MBA and then numerous certifications and other learning opportunities, and I am always glad that I did. Dad was right...the years pass regardless, but your hard work pays off. I will always be grateful to him for that advice and support--love comes in many shapes and sizes.

Share/Save/Bookmark

October 13, 2010

Customer Service Design

I really liked the article in MIT Sloan Management Review (Fall 2010) called “Designing the Soft Side of Customer Service” by Dasu and Chase.

The authors write: “Even in the most mundane [customer] encounters, emotions are lurking under the surface. Your job is to make those feelings positive.”

Wow! That is a pretty powerful statement.

Think about it. How often do you genuinely deliver on that positive experience for your customers versus how often do they come away feeling slighted, taken advantage of, maybe even cheated of the service they know they deserve.

Sometimes of course, there are justifiable reasons why we can’t make a customer happy—maybe the customer is simply being unreasonable or is a knucklehead or maybe even some sort of nutcase. We have to use good judgment when it comes to this.

But often there are other problems that are getting in the way of us delivering on that positive customer experience:

Problem #1: We get caught up in the policies, processes, personalities, and politics of a situation, rather than focusing on the customer and their satisfaction. We forget who our real customers are.

Problem #2: We don’t think like the customer. We don’t genuinely listen to the customer or try to understand where they are coming from or what they even want. We are too busy talking the “company line,” playing defense, or taking an adversarial role. We don’t put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, not even for a minute.

Problem #3: We often don’t put the customer first; we put ourselves first. We are more concerned with not making a mistake, getting into trouble, or maybe don’t want to even work “that hard.” In general, we should, but don’t go the extra mile for the customer, let along deliver on first mile.

The MIT article tells us that we can improve customer experiences by designing-in how we manage the customer’s emotions, trust, and need for control (ETCs), as follows:

  • Emotions—have empathy for customers and generate thoughtful interactions that limit negative customer emotions and accentuate positive ones, so that the customer comes away feeling joy, thrill, happiness rather than anger, anxiety and stress.
  • Trust—provide consistent performance, a high-level of engagement and follow-up, and clear and open communication. These contribute to building an enduring relationship.
  • Control—provide customers with ample information, so they feel “cognitive control” over what is happening to them, and provide customers with the ability to make significant service delivery decisions, so they experience “behavioral control.”

Designing for positive customer ETCs experiences will go a long way to resolving the problems of poor customer service, where we know and stay focused on who our customers are, can think as they do, and seriously deliver on their needs the way you would want your customer needs addressed.

I suppose if I have to sum it up in a couple of words, it’s about being professionally selfless and not selfish in all our customer interactions.

It takes some maturity to get there, but I think it’s why we are here to serve.


Share/Save/Bookmark

April 9, 2010

Apple’s Self-Sufficiency Model

Apple has an amazing self-sufficiency model, where they have only 6 desktop support analysts for 34,000 worldwide employees, 36 helpline agents for 52,000 computers, only 38% of their IT budget is for baseline operations and 62% for innovation, and their IT spend is just .6 of 1%. These are numbers that most CIOs dream of. And of course, that’s only the beginning of the Apple story…

There is no doubt about it Apple is firing on all cylinders. Apple has become a $50 billion a year company building and selling technology products that consumers are salivating for—whether it’s a MacBook, iPhone, or the new iPad—everyone wants one, and I mean one of each!

Apple’s slogan of “Think Different” is certainly true to form. It’s reflected in their incredibly designed products, innovation in everything they do, and the keen ability to view the world from their user’s perspective.

Here are some amazing stats on Apple (heard at the Apple Federal CIO Summit, 8 April 2010):

  • Apple as the highest gross revenue per square foot in retail at $6250.
  • Apple’s online store is the most visited PC store and is a top 10 retail website
  • iTunes has over 125 million user accounts and does 20,000 downloads a minute
  • The iPhone 3GS is ranked the #1 smartphone in customer satisfaction by JD Power Associates and has over 150,000 apps
  • Apple processes over 1.9 million credit card transactions per day
  • Apple’s MobileMe has over a million subscribers
  • Apple is ranked #1 in customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports, 10 years in a row.
  • Apple is ranked the most innovative company by both Fortune Magazine and Business Week.

Here are some of Apple’s self-proclaimed keys to success:

  • Steve Jobs—A leader who makes it all happen
  • Innovation—Rethink things; “If nothing existed, what would it make sense to do?”
  • Consumerism—Focus on the entire customer experience and make it excellent
  • Avoiding complexity—Simplify everything so that it completely intuitive to the users and be good at deciding what you are not going to do.
  • Attention to detail—This involves creating an immersive experience for the consumer that permeates the design process.
  • “The concept of 1”—Build consistency across products; standardize, simplify, and architect around commonalities.
  • Learnability—Users should be able to quickly learn their technology by watching others or by exploring
  • People—Smart, motivated employees and a special emphasis on their intern program

While the key factors to Apple’s success are not a recipe that can simply copied, they do offer great insight into their incredible accomplishments.

Next stop for Apple seems to be taking their success in the consumer market and making it work in the enterprise. This will go a long way to addressing users concerns about their technology at home being better than what they use at work.


Share/Save/Bookmark

January 4, 2009

The Need for Control and Enterprise Architecture

Human beings have many needs and these have been well documented by prominent psychologists like Abraham Maslow.

At the most basic level, people have physiological needs for food, water, shelter, and so on. Then “higher-level” needs come into play including those for safety, socializing, self-esteem, and finally self-actualization.

The second order need for safety incorporates the human desire for feeling a certain degree of control over one’s life and that there is, from the macro perspective, elements of predictability, order, and consistency in the world.

Those of us who believe in G-d generally attribute “real” control over our lives and world events to being in the hands of our creator and sustainer. Nevertheless, we see ourselves having an important role to play in doing our part—it is here that we strive for control over our lives in choosing a path and working hard at it. A lack of any semblance of control over our lives makes us feel like sheer puppets without the ability to affect things positively or negatively. We are lost in inaction and frustration that whatever we do is for naught. So the feeling of being able to influence or impact the course of our lives is critical for us as human beings to feel productive and a meaningful part of the universe that we live in.

How does this impact technology?

Mike Elgan has an interesting article in Computerworld, 2 January 2009, called “Why Products Fail,” in which he postulates that technology “makers don’t understand what users want most: control.”

Of course, technical performance is always important, but users also have a fundamental need to feel in control of the technology they are using. The technology is a tool for humans and should be an extension of our capabilities, rather than something like in the movie Terminator that runs rogue and out of the control of the human beings who made them.

When do users feel that the technology is out of their control?

Well aside from getting the blue screen of death, when they are left waiting for the computer to do something (especially the case when they don’t know how long it will be) and when the user interface is complicated, not intuitive, and they cannot find or easily understand how to do what they want to do.

Elgan says that there are a number of elements that need to be built into technology to help user feel in control.

Consistetency—“predictability…users know what will happen when they do something…it’s a feeling of mastery of control.”

Usability—“give the user control, let them make their own mistakes, then undo the damage if they mess something up” as opposed to the “Microsoft route—burying and hiding controls and features, which protects newbies from their own mistakes, but frustrates the hell out of experienced users.”

Simplicity—“insist on top-to-bottom, inside-and-outside simplicity,” rather than “the company that hides features, buries controls, and groups features into categories to create the appearance of few options, with actually reducing options.”

Performance/Stability—“everyone hates slows PCs. It’s not the waiting. It’s the fact that the PC has wrenched control from the user during the time that the hourglass is displayed.”

Elgan goes on to say that vendors’ product tests “tend to focus on enabling user to ‘accomplish goals…but how the user feels during the process is more important than anything else.”

As a huge proponent of user-centricity, I agree that people have an inherent need to feel they are in some sort of control in their lives, with the technology they use, and over the direction that things are going in (i.e. enterprise architecture).

However, I would disagree that how the user feels is more important than how well we accomplish goals; mission needs and the ability of the user to execute on these must come first and foremost!

In performing our mission, users must be able to do their jobs, using technology, effectively and efficiently. So really, it’s a balance between meeting mission requirements and considering how users feel in the process.

Technology is amazing. It helps us do things better, faster, and cheaper that we could ever do by ourselves. But we must never forget that technology is an extension of ourselves and as such must always be under our control and direction in the service of a larger goal.


Share/Save/Bookmark