Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Poor Customer Service Reflects PPM

Don't you just love Apple stores. As you walk past you see all these exciting pieces of electronic equipment and the place is staffed by such happy, helpful people. There's an immediate reaction: "I like the look of this place and I've just got to go in." Now that's pretty good as far as it goes.

But what if you've got a small problem - like your IPhone's playing up? Just supposing you're close to an Apple store when this happens. You walk in and its one of those times when there's a lot more staff than customers. Staff are standing around chatting to each other but a receptionist quickly comes to attend to you. You explain the problem - and suddenly the famed Apple service disappears. "I'm sorry," you are told, "we're too busy to help you with this right now. You have to go on line and make an appointment." You look around. Staff are still chatting to each other - clearly not busy either with technology or customers: "Oh,", you say, "what about someone from over there? Can they have a quick look at it?" "No," comes the reply, "you will have to go on line and make an appointment."

Suddenly having anything other than Apple equipment seems to be a good option!

Now, as you might suspect, this isn't just a hypothetical example. It happened this morning at an Apple store in Sydney.

I can understand making an appointment when a store is packed with customers. I can understand that whatever is wrong with the phone might require a technician to examine it. I can understand that the problem may take a little time to be fixed and that there might be no phone for a short time.

What I can't understand is why, in a store that is obviously not busy, no-one can even make a brief examination of the phone and perhaps be able to help solve a reception issue. Somewhere in Apple is a manager - perhaps more than one - who is more concerned with process than with customers. And that's PPM - piss poor management.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"nato" Leaders

Some years ago I was speaking at a conference in Finland. In the discussion period that followed one member of the audience said "You have described problems with leadership very accurately. These problems are most often seen in nato (No Action Talk Only) leaders. These are the people who are quick to criticise, happy to utter platitudes, very full of themselves, but utterly useless when it comes to getting something done." Looking around it seems to me that this pseudo nato group is very much alive and well.

I thought of that when I was speaking with a political leader recently. Despite his party being elected with a very strong majority, virtually everything has been referred to a committee and the response to questioners is along the lines of "we're looking into it". Not only does this person appear to be a nato leader but it looks like its a "nato" leader meets Through the Looking Glass" scenario.

Now I have no opinion as to the leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (the "real" NATO) because, in part, living in the antipodes means that we are outside its influence. But I do have an opinion of the No Action Talk Only group (the pseudo nato) who purport to be leaders. My opinion is not positive and it extends to virtually all political leaders (no matter what their flavour); to those who conduct and/or focus on weekly (or other far-too-frequent) political opinion polls; to radio "shock jocks"; and to many of the analysts who prognosticate on what profits should be expected from public companies and who. by so doing, encourage a focus on short term results rather than long term issues.

Frankly I'm tired of low-profile, emphasise-the-negative politics designed to get some person or party into positions of power - and this politicking occurs just as much in large organisations as it does in the overtly political arena. Its not real leadership and its not real management - it is evidence that the scourge of PPM (Piss Poor Management) permeates to even the highest positions around.

Why do we have so much bullying, violence, and significant degrees of anti social behaviour? I suggest because all-too-often it is modeled by our political "leaders", by radio "shock jocks", by one-eyed opinion pieces in newspapers, and the like. The people responsible seem to think that only their opinion or cause is "right" or "just" and they seem to feel free to demean and attack those with different views or opinions. This isn't leadership - its bullying and should be labelled as such. We cannot seek to confront bullying in the school ground, in the work place, on the web, or anywhere else until we have confronted it in our "leaders".

We need leaders of substance. These leaders are those who have robust discussions and debates without total negativity, ego trips, or demeaning others. These leaders will acknowledge both their own weaknesses and the strengths of others. These leaders will seek the best for all followers even when this comes from others. These leaders will seek to act in a way that is best for all rather than just for themselves or their ideology. These leaders will inspire us with a vision and they will set out this vision in a way that makes us all want to work together in order to make it a reality. Where these leaders see something they believe is wrong, they will develop and offer positive alternatives and they will show how these alternatives can be implemented. When given the opportunity, they will act to bring about the better future about which they have been talking. These leaders are truly authentic and are people worth following.

Let's get rid of "nato" leaders. Lets get rid of bullying.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Keeping good staff

I was chatting with a few people at a Business Breakfast this morning when one of them, a senior executive of a good sized company (300+ employees) commented that they had a difficulty retaining their best apprentices after they qualified. It seems as though too many of the one's they want to keep go on to other employers within about a year of qualifying.

Lets consider a "for instance":

"Harry" (not his real name) finished his apprenticeship in June 2011. he was immediately nominated for advanced training and, over the last 10 months, has completed 25 additional courses that enhance his knowledge and employability. All these courses have been paid for by his employer. Harry absolutely loves his work and is nominated by his manager as the best technician in the company. As a result he gets most of the challenging work and he has a record of completing jobs on time, within budget, and to a very high quality standard.

But Harry's boss fits the PPM (Piss Poor Management) profile. Harry answers to a foreman, who answers to a controller, who answers to a manager, who answers to a general manager. Until recently the controller was the foreman and the constant complaints by Harry and the other techs related to their foreman allowing apprentices to follow questionable work practices and of taking short cuts in repair work rather than doing a job properly the first time. Eventually their frustration forced the manager to act - so he promoted the foreman! To the relief of Harry and the other techs, one of their peers - a person they respected and trusted - was then appointed foreman. Now, everyone hoped, things would improve. They haven't. No matter how much the new foreman tries to have things done the way they should be, he is stymied by the controller and the manager.

The General Manager and, above him, the Group CEO, should be aware of this issue. But, if they are aware, they're doing nothing. They see the company reaping the benefits from the quality and quantity of work done by Harry and his fellow techs - but they ignore immoral (and sometimes illegal) behaviour of the manager and controller. They are oblivious to the frustration felt and expressed by the foreman, Harry, and the other techs. The result? Harry, the foreman, all the other qualified techs, and the top 3 apprentices are all seeking other jobs.

Now I don't know the situation in the company represented by the person I was talking with this morning - we haven't got to any detailed chatting yet - but I do know that poor leadership is one of the key factors in organisations losing good staff - especially younger people. Good people don't work for bad bosses.

In a recent article ( I set out the characteristics of leaders who retain staff and who run high performing units and/or organisations:
  • they engage with others as individuals rather than seeking to obtain obedience or compliance
  • they are collaborative and facilitative
  • they encourage growth and self directed learning by everyone
  • they respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return
  • they invite questions and genuine discussion
  • they ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions
  • they listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions
  • they are totally non discriminatory in thought, word and action
Because of these characteristics, they are able to create environments in which people feel:
  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

Harry and his colleagues are leaving because because their organisation doesn't have a culture that encourages high performance by everyone. They've had their fill of PPM.

If you want to retain your best people, start by getting rid of PPM and develop the right culture.

Do you agree? Please make your comments below.

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