Archive for March, 2011

“Not my fault…blame him”

Last Saturday I visited my Mother and little did I realise that I would have a lesson in how embarrass customers, employees and in poor management.

An outing for Mother
My Mother has just broken her arm and is feeing very sorry for herself. So I decided to take her to a hotel for a favourite outing of afternoon tea. With great anticipation we drove up the long hotel drive in Miskin, South Wales, for a relaxing afternoon overlooking the large gardens to find that there was just one other couple in the lounge.

To say that the meal of sandwiches, cakes, scones and even the service was disappointing would be an understatement.  On leaving my Mother, an excellent cook in her time, caught sight of the manager and mentioned the fact and said that at £25 ($32) she considered the meal overpriced and lacked value.

The person responsible
The manager asked us to wait a minute. I wondered if some adjustment was about to be made to the bill. To my surprise he reappeared with the chef saying, “This is the person responsible, make your complaints to him” and then without waiting to hear what we had to say ran off on another errand. My Mother was at a loss to know how to handle this unusual situation and I outlined the problem in the gentlest terms to an embarrassed and petrified member of staff.

“The scones had been freeze-chilled and therefore had a consistency of being stale, the profiterole was similar and lacked any taste in the filling such as vanilla and the bread on the sandwiches was too thick to be able to taste the fillings…”. By this time I began to feel extremely sorry for the chef who was looking quite helpless. I end his torment I smiled and described the meal as “uninspiring”.

Not a customer’s job
We left vowing never to return. Not because of the poor tea but because, as customers, it was not our job to instruct the staff, that’s the manager’s job. It’s also not the kitchen staff’s job to be appraised of a “poor job” by customers, that again is the management’s job. I also attached the chef’s poor performance on lack of training and expectation by the management.

My offering of help!
However, as I love to cook cakes, pastries and have a wide collection of Indian, Chinese and Japanese teas I would be delighted to offer to show the manager how he could instruct his kitchen team and waiting staff to deliver a fresh, great tasting and perfectly served afternoon tea. That way he can manage to do his job!

No comments

“Don’t delegate if you want it done properly”

A few days ago I answered a question on delegation on LinkedIn and then on Friday was having a robust discussion on delegation with a friend in my network and thought I would share the discussion with you.

“Delegating could harm a career and promotion prospects”
Was the statement made by the senior manager in my network. He reasoned that obvious errors cost the business money and impacted on mission critical outcomes. Then with the time taken to recover from from errors delegating tasks took up valuable management time and could “harm his career and promotion prospects”.

“Management style didn’t encourage mistakes”
It seemed that his “management style”, and that of the business, didn’t tollerate mistakes. I pointed out that if the management don’t tollerate mistakes then there will be little room for experimentation. If people can’t experiment then, those that use experimentation to learn, will become frustrated and tend to leave to businesses that will allow it.

Experimentation is healthy. It’s how we learn to improve at any hobby, computer programme and game, even how to socialise and make friends. But, it seems that when people become managers they often have to be trained in how to encourage and manage it.

In any event lack of experimentation, from my experience, only helps competitors forge ahead with more efficient processes, products and customer focussed thinking.

The process
I explained the process my mentors showed me and which I’ve have adopted and train:

a) Discuss the subordinate’s idea with them. Be open minded, highlight potential problems as you see them, business issues and consequences of success and failure.

b) If the subordinate still wants to proceed then discuss the process they will be using and then provide support (physical as well as verbal) and have a plan to pick up the pieces.

c) If the subordinate is successful. congratulate and say how delighted you are and tell everyoneone else what a success it’s been. If it’s not a success then discuss the reasons with the person, then ask how they intend to recover the situation. Again provide increased support but don’t blame, chastise or bad mouth to others – (after all you made the decision to allow the experimentation and would have looked good if it had succeeded).

d) Turn the entire process, success or failure, into a learning situation by analysing what went right / wrong with the subordinate and what could be done differently next time. Either way make the subordinate “feel good” about the process and your support.

I’m not sure my friend was convinced by my arguments. Then I must admit he’s been secure in his current job for the past twelve years, despite higher than average team turnover and mediocre company results and doubtless will be there for a good while longer!

No comments

Time Is The Enemy Of Change

In the past few weeks I’ve been reminding people how time is often the enemy of change. Reading the business papers I’ve been struck by how many businesses and even Government accepts the “need to change” to reduce costs, increase productivity and remain competitive but seem to ignore the time trap.

The alcohol “responsibility deal” brokered by the UK Government and supported by Asda, Heineken but only signed up to by Tesco, Marks & Spenceer and others is just one example. 

Managing change creates frustration
Managing change creates frustration for those implementing it and those that have to work with the consequences. This frustration often creates delays, huge additional costs, lower productivity and result in poor staff morale as organizations take account of the economic cycle, merge and seek to become more competitive.

The time trap factor
One of the crucial factors for those designing change within organizations is the time factor. Yet time is the one part of the equation that is ignored, often with disastrous consequences

To understand the time trap factor let’s remind ourselves how change is planned and implemented. For some months plans will be made to improve systems or organizations. The people that work on these plans consider future benefits, implementation plans, risk analysis flow charts etc. Once all the plans have been finalized and an implementation process agreed, the time frame for these people has moved to the present and their outlook is to the future.

Different time frames
On the day that the wider world, generally those people that are affected by the changes, are informed, the managing group or government minister are full of confidence and optimism for the improvements that the future will bring. The group being affected, however, are in a different time frame. Their experience is based upon the past and, even if that experience was understood to be inefficient, there is comfort in what people know and understand.

All change produces winners and losers. The winners will move their time frame to the future and the losers will move further into the past. In addition each group will be seeing the change from the perception of not “Is this change good for the organization” but from the personal standpoint of “Is this good for me”

The trick is to move as many people to the future time frame as possible, right from the start. The more people that talk about the future change in positive terms the greater the chance of success. Errors, however, revolve around poor communication, hurried change, poor planning and implementation.

The result is the creation of two camps.
Those viewed as being supportive of the change and those that are seen as being unsupportive. When this happens it’s interesting to observe that once people are viewed as being in the unsupportive group by the change leaders it’s very difficult for the individuals to move themselves out of this group in the minds of others. In a company situation such staff will often feel forced to leave.

Ignoring the time factor may not reduce the need for change, it may, however, increase the frustration and management effort needed to implement it.

No comments