Schrödinger’s Manager

From the desk of Mr. John Benfield

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In the early 20th century, physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment involving an unlucky cat in a box, a vial of poison and a device which would watch for a random particle decay. When the decay is detected, the poison is released and the cat dies. Rather than being a simple way to piss off PETA and other cat lovers, it was meant to illustrate what he saw as a logical flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The particle exists only as a probability, simultaneously in states of “decayed/not decayed” (superposition) until observed. Similarly, the entire contents of the box, the detector, poison vial and cat are tied to that observation and exist in superposition. The cat is simultaneously both dead and alive. As soon as the contents of the box are subject to observation (able to interact with the system outside of the box), the wave function collapses into one of the possible states and animal rights activists are immediately notified.

 

While the Copenhagen interpretation has been supplanted by newer interpretations, these “cat states” are very real and have been demonstrated at macroscopic levels, though at very small scales and without the assistance of willing or unwilling felines.

However, I believe that I’ve uncovered a practical macroscopic example that’s occurring every day in Corporate America.

Let me provide you with one of many real life dialogs that started me down this path:

SM (Schrödinger’s Manager): “Maybe we should look at moving everything into the cloud”

Me: “We’d love to see that as an option. It would reduce our infrastructure costs and help simplify the environment”

SM: “We’re not moving to the cloud.”

Me: “But you just suggested…”

SM: “We’re not doing that. Why are we talking about this?”

What I would have attributed to simple cognitive dissonance, I’m now starting to see as a brilliant management strategy. Like our Cat-in-the-box, Schrödinger’s Manager exists in a continual state of superposition until observed by someone outside of the system (their boss). This allows them to exist in all possible states and, by extension, keeps all downstream decisions and activities both “aligned”/”not aligned”. Everything contained within the organizational “box” can be temporarily protected from observation and, therefore, from accidental collapse of the wave function into a decision.

When an observer (generally someone above the level of SM) comes along, the interaction causes the collapse of all of the possibilities into a consistent system of aligned or not-aligned decisions and fired, not-fired, punished and not-punished conditions. SM, however, appears to the outside observer to have always been in the state that’s observed when “opening the box”. They’re perceived as brilliantly insightful for having perfectly anticipated the observer.

While this is great for SM, the individuals sharing the box with him are left trying to function within a system of continual uncertainty. While it leaves possibilities open, that also means that both failure and success exist in superposition and there is no outside observation or interaction to help guide behaviors. If anything, feedback is specifically designed to maintain that delicate entanglement and ensure that there are no accidental decisions that will collapse those possibilities.

So how do we mitigate this phenomenon?

It’s really quite simple; Trust.

When an Observer (senior leader) trusts an underling like Schrödinger’s Manager with a decision and implicitly agrees to support those decisions, they shift the role of Observer to that person.

By trusting people “in the box” to make decisions and communicate openly with others outside of the box, the trusted take on the observer role and they become empowered to collapse probabilities into realities.

Trusting people does mean that you have to relinquish some control and power. But a good manager will have prepared their people to handle that responsibility and accountability…. and doesn’t that beat being a dead cat in a box?

 

 

Why Every Leader Should Build a RetroPi

IMG_1991Strategy

It is estimated that the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark by 2019.   The level of interaction with technology creates an illusion of understanding.   Expert users are not expert technologists.

Many senior leaders don’t claim to be expert technologists but when it comes to technology decisions it has become much easier to have an informed opinion on technology whether for design or desired outcome.   This has put a great strain on IT because technology while magical is not magic.   It takes hard work,  a great deal of thought and planning.   Even if agile methodologies are applied,  requirements matter.

In this world of 140 characters or less,  it is safe to say that some folks reading this blog if uninterested would have disengaged about eight sentences ago.    The expectation today is that everything will happen quickly and it will be exactly what was expected or we disengage and find something else.   This is one of many reasons that IT is suffering in large companies today.  CIO’s are fighting subscription or licensed services for solution delivery.   It is true that cloud services and licensed subscription models have great benefit but acquisition of these services still require strategic thinking.

A simple exercise in building a small and usable gaming system will demonstrate end to end implementation of easy to acquire technology and show how important strategic planning and understanding of technology is relative to projects small, medium or large.

Many leaders in industry are walking away from IT and looking to make IT decisions on their own.   They can use their own budget and solve their own problem without IT.  In some instances where risk is low, they can do this with very little impact.  In most cases, they find a need to bring IT in at either the end of the purchase or when they need to actually implement.  This creates contention and can impact their ability to get the software or services they wanted in the first place.   The underlying question is “Why can’t I do here what I do at home”?   Anyone feel free to comment on this .. but the various reasons should be addressed in another blog at some point.   

If industry  / business leaders want to make decisions in technology, they should become familiar with what it takes to compose and implement solutions.  I am not saying they should become IT experts but my contention is leaders should know their desired outcome relative to the environment they are in.    An info-graphic on AI can drive me to put Alexa in my home but this is very different from me deploying Alexa in my company.   As a leader, I need to understand the differences to make an informed and economically sound and viable decision.

Making it Real

The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that you can purchase for as low as $10.00.

The Raspberry Pi has free open source operating systems that you can download for many uses.   One of the operating systems available has software called RetroPi.  With RetroPi you can build a system that plays thousands of games from many of the older popular gaming systems.

You can get as fancy as you like depending on your desired result.

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or you can keep it simple

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Either way,  it is learning experience that incorporates some very basic skills using technology to accomplish a relatively simple goal.

Leadership that seeks to use technologies to enable and grow their business should have a tacit understanding of this kind of project.

Some factors to consider here are

  1. Instructions are readily available both written and video (Build a Pi)
  2. The operating system is no cost and easy to install
  3. The software is pre-configured and highly intuitive
  4. The estimated time to completion is 10 minutes (That’s fast)

Results May Vary

Here we have a simple project that should take 10 minutes to employ.  It will result in countless hours of fun and entertainment for the family and for those who enjoy retro games, it will save hundreds of dollars in purchasing a retro console.  It meets most of the criteria asked from technology companies and IT today.  It has the makings of a perfect simple technology implementation.

Side note, below is my machine that I built..

cogames

The Truth of Human Resources and KM #PracticalHR

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Visually Compelling Organizational Development

The work by Kevin Desmond was thoughtful and emotionally charged.      It is tough to be a leader in general, but the world today makes it even more difficult.

Leadership is something I care deeply about.   I strive to be a better leader in the same way that Jascha Heifetz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”

It takes practice and clear commitment, but the results aren’t always as beautiful as a heartwarming tune.   It may result in tough decisions and failure, but you have to strive on and keep trying.

I have a team and they are geographically dispersed.  I care about them as a group and certainly care for them each as individuals.   I am lucky and honored to have this amazing team and I have a responsibility to honor them and give them time to learn more about each other, including building their own relationships.    Finding time is not always easy, but this was something that I chose to do with the support of my leadership.

The compounding factors in team dynamics and collaboration are always moving.  It feels as if we have to hurry to get something going in order to get this snapshot of a moment in time.    This is where Kevin was able to come in and get us started.

The answers aren’t always.. 

Right and wrong aren’t clear concepts as they used to be.  Some would argue that they are clear, but what I would say is that perspective and context are key to a shared determination of what is right and wrong.   In order to share common perspective or context, we must be able to communicate and share our ideas.    Our ideas are born from our knowledge or our perceived knowledge about something.    Regardless, we must level set and to do that “level setting” we must compromise.     In order to compromise we have to have a willingness to compromise.    We have to build trust.   Trust is a critical enabler.   It is THE critical enabler.

Kevin came down and sat in my office a while back, he looked right at me and told me that I may have to do some things that would make me uncomfortable but I would have to trust the process.    We went through some of the ideas and concepts he would use with a clear objective of helping the team baseline or “level set.”    He said, “Howie, you realize this is only the beginning, right?”

We set the objectives and goals,  built in some time for flexibility and discussion and included some primers for thinking.   There was clarity in the thinking and of course what we sought to achieve, but the results were emotionally compelling right from the start.   For the sake of privacy and respect for my amazing team,  I will only share my personal experience and my personal thoughts as part of a similar thought exercise not directly aligned or reflective of anyone other than my experience.

It is the reason for the Cohen tombstone at the top of this post.   If I am to choose a picture of what I want to represent who I am and I am given a controlled group of images, which would I choose?

For the sake of this posting and in practical consideration,  I chose a grave stone with my name on it.   I would preferred it to have said Howard Cohen, Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Time Traveler, Stunt Car Racer, Lover, Fighter,  Good Guy, Bad Guy, Hardworking Guy,  and on the bottom “Crack is Wack” because I think I am funny sometimes.     I mean to say that I consider my mortality.  I consider my life in that I am thankful for it and I am thankful for each day.  I think of death as I understand that it is an end or beginning and I don’t know which, but I know that it can come at any time and that I should be true to who I am and love hard, play hard, work hard, but mostly be the best person I can be.   Not so easy to pick a picture, but is something that we have to do.   Every moment in our lives is like the iPhone video application,  you can take movies, but every once in a while you have to push the button and get that single frame snapshot.

The exercise of taking this image and sharing it with you and potentially the whole world is a little embarrassing I suppose and a bit revealing of some of my weakness and maybe strength, butall  in all, it is important because it is part of building trust through sharing and revealing who I am.    One of my team said “there is the face you show and the face you hold close” the you that you are is a multitude.   Of the many, you are a person and what you choose to show or hide consumes energy.

With one act and one question,  Kevin started an activity that set a course for myself and my team to share and consider the multitudes in each of us.   In my willingness and/or the willingness of the team, we could begin to share start a process of “level setting.”

Measuring the Distance of Knowledge

How do you measure knowledge?   How do you measure trust?   What was the best team you ever had?   Who was the best leader you have ever known?    How do you measure success?  How do you define success?   What if success for you is failure for someone else?  Is that always the case?   Are you running a race?  Is this race with yourself or others?  Why do you jump out of airplanes?    What would make you better and how would you measure that?  How would you be sure that you were better?

** I just started working for Booz Allen and was working on the floor of US Joint Forces Command Integration Directorate.    An old Marine was running part of the military architecture shop, he was a contractor himself but commanded the equivalent of a cell.   In other words, he had his team on lock down and he was no joke.    He called me over to speak with him, looked at me in the eyes (sorta scary) and said “son, what’s your CV?”   I really didn’t know what the heck he was asking me so I just stood there looking at him.  He said, “ok, were you in the service?”   I said “yes sir, I was a Damage Controlman.”    He looked around for a moment and literally stood himself taller almost as if I were to shrink down and he asked “How the hell does a DCMan get here?”    My answer..

“Well sir,  I went(s) to college”    In fact, by that time I had a Masters but it isn’t like you carry it around like a patch on your arm or anything.

We are judged by what we do or what we have done and that is in the realm of someones idea about us in which they (think) they know and/or make assumptions about us.   Even if there is a measure that exists or criteria, these are still open for discussion.    I went to school but maybe the school I went to wasn’t the top school in the nation.   What if I had the best teacher in the nation in one of the lower tiered schools?   Would there be a measure or some condition or factoid that would illuminate that as a fact?    The answer is of course “no.”    The point is that we have to measure what we can, and define success as we can but in order to do this we have to be clear about it in the scope of our activities and relative to a moment in time.

Throwing the fastest pitch consistently over time matters only if these measured factors produce the result that you threw that same pitch during a game and as a result won!

Kevin helped illuminate these points through a series of activities and discussions.   He talked about measures and what they mean’t and the importance of using them.   He also spoke of the context in which they apply.

The Human Resource to Knowledge Connection

I enjoy the thinking that Knowledge Management and Human Resources is tied at the hip and they are their own combination of many things that add up to one.   The idea that we have to be able to have a person in a mode to listen or receive,  and a person in a mode to transmit.   The active listener actually listening and not thinking to rebuke or over take the conversation.    It is the primary condition in communication.    The condition to be ready to listen, learn, read, pay attention and think about what someone else has said or is saying.     If you are reading this right now, you are allowing me the honor of sharing with you and I thank you for that.    It is the precondition for knowledge sharing and knowledge management.   It is also a condition provide though an act of respect.   It may very well be that after you read what I have written that you lose or gain respect for me but under this condition at this very moment, you are providing me a channel in which I can communicate with you.   This is where the organizational development begins but the preconditions and factors must allow for it.   Just as if you are growing something in a garden,  you need the environment, conditions, and factors to all come into play.   Human factors, human engagement and understanding of cognitive, physical and social conditions, are the preconditions for our knowledge connection.

 

Bring It

I am writing about this because I believe that OD doesn’t get enough recognition.   The words say “Organizational Development” but what it really means is “Factors, conditions and practices, to make people better.”  As a result of helping people, the organization will naturally become better and that results in a domino effect that spreads in multiple directions.   Why?  Because kind acts matter.

If you want the details of how to make all this stuff work,  you could reach out to my friends Kevin Desmond  or Tom Tiberia as they are actually the experts.  I am just sharing the results.   What were the results anyways? 

I walked away with a to-do list of things that I need to work on.   I also have a list of team goals aligned to my organization and organizational goals tied to myself as an individual.  I have a lot of questions that went unanswered but that is good because I never thought to ask some of these questions and I didn’t know how important they were.    I have ideas on measures that matter and I have homework for myself and my team.

Adam Grant Author of Give and Take recently said in a post “We love asking successful people for their secrets. But often, they’re not even aware of what they do differently from others.

Next time you want to learn from someone, instead of asking directly, go to that person’s collaborators. They have the clearest window into unique habits.”

What I had a chance to do here and what Kevin and Tom gave me was a window into my actions through the lens of others.   I can see a glimpse and take action on keeping my strengths strong and working on my legs..   <– that was a joke, you ever see those guys that just lift with their upper bodies?  They look top heavy.. I think you can look that way intellectually or emotionally as well if you don’t round out your work out.

gymguy

As usual.. questions comments, complaints..

 

 

 

Collaboration Tool Crazy

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Dazed and Confused -Hammer Blaming

Don’t blame tools for your confusion.   Companies are buying too many tools and trying to implement them thinking that tools will solve their problems.   This is nothing new.  The problem is exacerbated by software as a service driven applications available to everyone.  I heard this termed “Credit Card IT”  where individuals decide that they don’t like the tools their companies provide and they go buy their own.

The buzz today is “Digital” that is all I hear right now.    It is absolutely ridiculous for companies to continue down the path of buying new solutions without rationalizing what they currently have.   The IT spend is out of control in many companies and while they are trying to flatten their budget, they are only spending more.   The only way to offset this is to either lay off employees or “green” the landscape, meaning trade old folks for new younger ones that are cheaper.

With a total focus on tools vs people or actual business needs,  the tools keep getting bought, every one gets “all digital” and they wind up or will wind up with a digital spaghetti mess in the corner.

If you look at this “Elements of Modern Enterprise Collaboration”, it makes sense but most organizations only focus on the technologies portion.

 

Harsh Words for Dummies

Does this look cheap? Digi_Mktg_Map_Final_April_2015.gif

Came from https://www.gartner.com/marketing/.

Do you understand what the heck these things are?

Do you have any idea of how they relate to each other?

Do you have any idea of how much they really cost?

Do you have staff on site that isn’t trying to sell you something that honestly understands this?

Do you know how all of these are relevant for your business?

Do you have knowledge management practice of any kind?

Do you have enterprise architectures? (not solution but enterprise)

If you can’t answer these questions, you probably should stop buying tools.  Well.. stop buying tools anyway but…  They will wind up in the corner gathering electron dust right near your CRM system that no one cares about.

Stop Spending Money .. Now

Stop spending money… <– yes.. stop spending money.    The first thing that needs to happen is “stop the madness” in spending.

There is no perfect enterprise and their won’t be perfected enterprise collaboration but what is for sure, is that we can do better.    The world is really truly moving towards an application based enterprise.   This means that their will be an ecosystem of tools and capabilities in the enterprise.    There are patterns of collaboration and communication that have people working together through different applications under different contexts.   Just think of it as your smart phone.   The standard is the phone, the applications are put into the app store and you use what you need when you need it based on the needs of the moment.

This is really the way things are going.    When you see Microsoft SharePoint 2016, apps will be a big part of it.   Look at any of the tools coming out, all application focused.

Still, I am talking about the tools.  The real focus should be on the business.   The first three things to do are…  (if you are with a medium or large company)

Grab your best Enterprise Architect, if you don’t have one.. go get one immediately.

  1. Start with Vendor Management and IT security – Between these two groups, you can get a good start on what you have in the enterprise.
  2. Create an EA framework to understand the enterprise portfolio of tools.
  3. Start a formal Knowledge Management initiative.

The results of these activities will start to highlight the “best things you never knew you had.”

  1. The EA activities will highlight tools and spending, it will also help immediately lower your IT and business risk.
  2. The EA framework will provide a starting place to process enterprise capabilities, tools and find reuse.   Companies bleed out money because of a “lack of awareness.”
  3. A KM practice will get your organization focused on the business of knowledge.  Knowledge is your business.  It is that simple.

Of course there are successful companies that don’t have a formal knowledge management practice but chances are they have an informal knowledge management practice and it is part of their culture.

Contractors, Consultants and Experts OH MY!

If you are going to hire brilliant, expensive and knowledgeable consultants, ask to see their enterprise collaboration practices.    When I say ask, what I really mean is get a tour with real people not just partners and senior executives.   Senior leaders will talk a good talk but the truth is most of these companies including the big four don’t use their own collaboration tools well. They don’t generally speaking understand KM either.  The reason why is generally more associated with the business model and practices vs tools.  What I mean by that is large consulting firms don’t get partners in silo cost centers rich by sharing.

Bottom line here is we have to be honest about this whole thing.    Don’t spend the money on all the enterprise tools if you don’t care about the people aspect.  If leadership looks at staff as just a number and doesn’t truly believe in employee engagement, it will be a waste.

Too Much?

This isn’t personal.  Companies have made that clear with the sheer amount of transformation, cost cutting, layoffs, restructuring etc.   They still find dollars to re-tool or add tools to the organization.   This makes little sense.   They let experts in their business walk out the door in exchange for tools they don’t understand.   The stock prices go up with the stories of how they are embracing technology and transforming but the fact remains that most people spend over 6+ hours a day in Email.

Go figure..  rolling all those heads and still email is the most used and most common tool set in the enterprise.    Try shutting that down..

So, lets not blame the tools for our problems or for that matter, the amount of tools that you have in the enterprise that you are allowing to accumulate.

Focus on the business, work with people and engage with them using best practices of Knowledge Management and Enterprise Architecture.   Let the story be told so that you know what actions to take.  Then once you “get it” you can “get all digital” but for now..

Stay analog my friends..

Thanks @Wendy Woodson for helping us “keep it real”

 

 

 

 

How Can I Help? #Advocate

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Three+1 Things You CAN Do


Wake up in the morning, get my cup of coffee,  head to the office to start my day.  Open my email, it is full to the brim, I switch over to the calendar and see my schedule is full.   How did my day become consumed by meetings?   I go through my day,  I eat while I am working, it gets late,  I go home.  I tend to my family and then back to the email, maybe a little book reading and off late to bed to restart the whole thread.

Somewhere in the mix I have to hold on to my humanity.  All the work that I do is electronic and amounts to a pile of nothing, but electrons and virtual transactions.  How the heck can I help anyone?

Take Time to Listen

When someone writes, calls or knocks on the door, make the time to listen.   Sometimes you are standing between two connections and you are the bridge, you just didn’t know it.  Active listening is a great skill to have and it certainly takes practice. https://cohenovate.com/2015/02/22/understanding-conflict-and-knowledge-management/  Listening is good for them and good for you!

Share Ideas, but Don’t Share Answers

Sometimes the answers come easy, but the real solutions are difficult.   In other words,  having an answer on how to fix a problem may create more of a problem.  Sometimes we need to just talk through ideas and come to solutions on our own.  Offer up ideas or thoughts but, offer them as concepts and not answers.

Be a Shoulder, not a Boulder

Being there for a person and helping means you have your attention focused on their needs.  I have found that listening to people and helping them sort through their problems can help me with challenges that I face.   The best thing to do is to stay focused and help them and be strong for them as they need.  Adding your problems to the discussion is a weight added, not a burden lifted.

Recognize and Advocate for Others

They say that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile.  Some suggest that this is not true, but that smiling may cost us less overall energy. http://zidbits.com/2011/09/does-it-really-take-more-muscles-to-frown-than-to-smile/

It may seem that it takes more energy to advocate and recognize others than it does for yourself, but if you practice recognizing others and advocating for others, it will take overall less energy and be helpful to you.  Realistically, we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, but our entire world is built on the foundation of relationships.   Recognizing a contribution or advocating for someone helps strengthen the bonds and the ties between us.   We are better together and we are better when we recognize each other.   It is simple to do.   Be mindful, be courageous and bold, advocate with intent and without fear, the costs are low and the results will always pay off.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Thanks Wendy Woodson for your creative contribution

When Giants Tip Toe #Leadership #Social

138H

Small Actions

We are all tiny giants walking through this world creating ripples with far reaching and unknown impact.

It is a struggle to know if the decisions we make will have a positive impact or a negative one.  We can’t predict the future, but we can realize that we are all giants.    The world is becoming smaller through technology and each of us individually is becoming larger.  Today we have more ability to reach and impact millions of people with very little effort.

In 4 minutes and 4 seconds Candace Payne made over a million people laugh by wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing throughout the video.  Not only did she do that, she set off a sales and marketing blitz for the retailer Kohls .

Of course this is a good news story for this family and Kohl’s.   It is proof that (if you need any) that social media, the internet, and interconnected media shrinks the distance between us.  It also means that we can get crushed by the same effect.

Big Mistakes by Big Players

Anyone with a connected device could impact millions of people with something interesting, funny, brilliant or otherwise compelling.   If this is the case, why do so many companies make critical mistakes with social media?

These companies are aware of the opportunities to the extent that they experience them but they aren’t aware of the opportunities in the sense of creating them.  Under these conditions they are trying to “tip toe” carefully while using the social digital space as a walking stick.   Under these conditions, they seek to “be social” but with carefully controlled messaging.   The underlying issue with this is that they are already social, but social can’t be controlled, it can only be influenced.   The influence occurs through natural human interaction.   How many CEO’s have I/O psychologists readily on hand?  Instead they look at data and what they call sentiment analysis.    This by itself is a mistake and it is akin to removing a splinter with a hatchet.   Giants think they need giant things and giant solutions, but the reality is they need small solutions and small tweaks.   The reason is that small things in a giant world have large impacts.

Retired General Stanley Mcchrystal said, “I would tell my staff about the dinosaur’s tail: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”

Carefully Well Thought Out Poor Decisions

How much did it cost Kohl’s for the four minute social wave of marketing?   In 2012, it is estimated that Kohl’s spent 1.16 billion dollars.  In 2014, they spent an estimated 1.9 billion.    The underlying reason they spent more on advertising was “weak profitability. It is too early to tell what the “Candace Payne effect” is, but it cost them around $5,000 (they gave Candace $2500, 10,000 reward points, and Star Wars toys for her kids) and that was by their choice.   In other words, Kohl’s was smart to respond but they didn’t have to because they were mentioned as a natural part of the conversation.

There is a lot to think about here.  For example, what if Kohl’s turned their advertising budget into enhancing the customer experience?   What if Kohl’s goal was to “create a shopping experience that made people happy?”    I am not knocking Kohl’s, I am just stating that they are solving the wrong problem precisely.   Another great example to consider is the Giant air carrier United Airlines.

United Airlines sent me a very personalized message signed by their CEO Oscar Munoz.

UA

 

There are many things wrong with this message.   The message could have been sent out generically without the personalized touch.   Marketing experts may tell you that x percent of people respond better when their names are put in a message, but that is nonsense.   People respond to kindness, honestly, integrity, humility and reality to start.   It is not reality to think that UA cares about my business.  If you think I am being too harsh, consider that United Airlines is ranked worst by a J.D. Power customer survey .   You see “all about the data” can go many ways.    What did Oscar say in his personal message to me that would make a difference?   Can I reach Oscar to respond to his personal message to me?   Let’s find out.. 

United Response “My name is NO.. my number is No”

CustomerCare@united.com <customercare@united.com>

May 20 (2 days ago)

to me
Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with
United.

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change. We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you
again.

Regards,

Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Original Message:
To: Munoz, Oscar
Subject: Message CX

Dear Oscar,

I received your message today and I don’t think your  message really means anything.  In fact,  I don’t know what you are doing to energize your employee base but I do know this.

Getting to the plane is painful.
Being uncomfortable while waiting for the plane is painful.
Getting on the plane is painful.
Sitting on the plane is painful.
Getting asked to pay extra at every turn is painful.
Moving reservations is painful.
The frustration pouring out of people in the airport and on the plane is
painful.

The whole experience together makes it simple for me to travel in that
since airlines don’t differentiate themselves any longer in any way, I
can just choose the lowest cost and be miserable for the duration of my
travel.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out.

Best Regards,
Howard Cohen

My Interpretation

 

Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am truly sorry for any poor experiences you have recently had with
UnitedI am sorry that we wrote you. 

I know in the past years it has been quite painful to travel with
United.  I have no idea what happened to you or your experience with United but I am just going to tell you that “I get it”  and hopefully that will be enough. 

As an employee I agree with you, but Mr. Munoz has brought
great change.   I agree with you.   I can’t say anything else beyond that because I am in customer service.   Mr. Munoz has brought great change and change is good because change means change. 

We have been improving the morale of all employees and in
turn have created a wonderful customer experience for all of our
customers.  We are improving morale through our efforts of change and we have created a wonderful experience for customers <– in past tense as if this was something that happened and not in present tense as something that is happening. 

We do hope you allow us to show you how we improved and
continue your loyalty with us.  You probably aren’t going to fly with us anytime soon. 

Mr. Cohen, we appreciate your comments and look forward to serving you
again.  Did you actually think in small giant feeble mind that Oscar Munoz the CEO of the company would read your message?  You aren’t even a very frequent flyer, why would you matter?   Thanks for the laugh and enjoy my generic response.  

Regards,

Matthew Miguel
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case: 10376324

Only Time Will Tell

In 2010 Forbes Lee E. Ohanian said that “Recent lessons indicate that once an industry starts to get big through mergers and acquisitions, it is hard to change course. And this may well be bad news for both travelers and taxpayers.”   (http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/11/airlines-merger-economy-opinions-contributors-lee-ohanian.html)

The reality though is that airlines are thinking about ways to cram more folks into the plane.   Flying me to Cuba in a box while I am hibernating or strapping my feet to the floor while I stand in the subway isle of the aircraft isn’t going to be interesting to me.    I predict more challenges for United.

Summary

Every connected person is part of the digital ecology.   We are giants and our small actions will have long lasting effects.  The days of leadership from the ivory tower are not over but we are moving more towards a complicated hive network topology between corporate employees and customers alike.   What does change really mean?   Consider that whether you walk with a flat foot or tip toe through the network, you will have an impact on the ecosystem, your presence will be felt and we are all “leaders from where we are.”

As an FYI, I did follow up with United after their response and never heard back from them.   I don’t have unreasonable expectations, but it is clear that they are struggling with their social strategy.

3ea600dd2131

 

Project Management Tips ON POINT #Quick Advice

struggle leads to success

PM Tips from a Master

Gopal Srinivasan https://www.linkedin.com/in/gksrinivasan  says if you want to be successful in project delivery consider these tips as you start your initiative.
Even with the best planning sessions and strategy the best projects can go off the rails without great leadership.  I have witnessed Gopal pulling folks together and getting projects right on track.   I asked him how he did it and what his thoughts were on the subject.   In kind, he responded with some clear thoughts on “getting it right” and on point with projects!

Keep these concepts in mind…

  • that process or methodology is not a panacea (people make the process work – remember people, process, technology)
  • things do not go according to plan – constant risk mitigation and contingency planning is key for successful execution
  • communicate and accountability – ensure ownership (usually single point of contact vs. groups) to bring items to closure

Additional points that help during any initiative:

  • be ready to course correct (use war rooms and deep dives to focus on the issues, bringing critical contributors together in addressing the issue)
  • assume positive intent – no one comes to work thinking “I am going to really mess up today…”
  • commitments delivered! builds credibility and track record

Gopal said “You have to always realize that people are the number one most important factor.”    It is amazing to me to see that a “people first” approach in all business and subject areas is the key to successful outcomes.   Delivering on promises and commitments while being open, transparent and honest will make for the best outcome.   This coupled with a kind hearted and sensitive approach that considers cognitive, physical and social factors will accelerate team, project and program success.

 

http://icsgrp.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Quick-Reference-Guide.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gopal Srinivasan https://www.linkedin.com/in/gksrinivasan  says if you want to be successful in project deliver consider these tips as you start your initiative.
Even with the best planning sessions and strategy the best projects can go off the rails without great leadership.  I have witnessed Gopal pulling folks together and getting projects right on track.   I asked him how he did it and what his thoughts were on the subject.   In kind he responded with some clear thoughts on “getting it right” and on point with projects!

  • that process or methodology is not a panacea (people make the process work – remember people, process, technology)
  • things do not go according to plan – constant risk mitigation and contingency planning is key for successful execution
  • communicate and accountability – ensure ownership (usually single point of contact vs. groups) to bring items to closure

Additional points that helps during any initiative:

  • be ready to course correct (use war rooms and deep dives to focus on the issues, bringing critical contributors together in addressing the issue)
  • assume positive intent – no one comes to work thinking “I am going to really mess up today…”
  • commitments delivered! builds credibility and track record

Gopal said “You have to always realize that people are the number one most important factor.”    It is amazing to me to see that a “people first” approach in all business and subject areas is the key to successful outcomes.   Delivering on promises and commitments while being open, transparent and honest will make for the best outcome.   This coupled with a kind hearted and sensitive approach that considers cognitive, physical and social factors will accelerate team, project and program success.

 

http://icsgrp.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Quick-Reference-Guide.pdf