Thanks to a Fellow Blogger

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Recently I put out a volunteer request for someone to edit the entries on my blog.

The author of the fine blog, BeyondBee, agreed to be my editor, and in addition to fixing numerous typos, she also indexed each of the entries.

It was the kind of thing that I could not bear to do myself, as I get quite embarrassed at some of the stuff I have said in the past, or the way in which I have written it.

She seemed to have no problem with any of it, and effortlessly fixed all sorts of errors with a smile and a willing spirit.

This blog owes her a debt of gratitude… and I hope my readers will visit her own blog to sample her fine writing. See http://www.beyondbee.net.

Christmas Morning

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Here it is. Big Christmas morning, and I am at my computer typing away.

What gives?

Well, I was lying in bed thinking up all sorts of ideas to write about, including this one, and concluded that sleeping was just… boring.

I much prefer to be here — taking an idea out of my head, and giving words to it. It’s simply more fun as my computer operates as my personal canvas of sorts, a way to express myself in the world.

This past year, the expression has taken the form of audio and video, more than ever, with the publication of my first several podcasts.

Recently, I made my first foray into e-commerce, with my “New Habits-New Goals” course allowing for on-line payment through PayPal.

The truth is, I love this part of what I do — to think up new stuff, and then turn my creativity into tangible expression in the world. I lay in bed thinking that this is what an artist must feel like when they go into their studio at 4:00 am with an idea in their heads that they just cannot shake.

Not Really A Merger…

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In May I wrote about the fact that the LIAT/Caribbean Star “merger’ was really turning out to be an acquisition.

Now, several months later, in December, all pretense of a merger has fallen away and the only public conversation is about the pending acquisition.

This, in an article from Caribbean360.com:

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, November 15, 2007 – The seven-year-old Caribbean Star will operate its final flight today, marking a takeover by competitor LIAT, in a buyout that Chairman, Jean Holder describes as “one of the most significant business deals in the history of the Caribbean”.

Late last month, the two carriers finalised and executed an agreement that facilitated the transfer of Caribbean Star’s assets to LIAT. That asset purchase agreement did not include the remaining five aircraft leased by Caribbean Star which are expected to be transferred to LIAT in a separate transaction expected to coincide with today’s closure of the carrier, owned by Antigua-based Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford.


Would it have been more truthful to just say this from the very beginning?

More to Hate About RFP’s

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In a prior post, I ranted on and on about why I stay away from RFP’s. Then a client called and said that he had one for me, and last week in a meeting another potential client mentioned that they would be doing the same thing.

It reminded me of an RFP that I read the other day that had to be the heights of madness.

For the kind of work I do, hiring a consultant is a little like hiring a combination of company coach, doctor, teacher, lawyer and friend. The work is up close and personal, and trust plus personal chemistry are some of the main ingredients that are absolutely required.

No-one uses an RFP process to hire a coach, doctor, teacher, lawyer or friend.

Yet, some companies try to do so, and the RFP I read the other day was a recipe for disaster. While it satisfies the bureaucrats, it effectively allows the client to do what Jeff Thull calls “self-diagnosing”.

It’s a little like deciding what litigation you want to pursue, the argument you want to make, and then hiring a lawyer only to make the case that you have developed to the jury.

Or, it’s like calling up a surgeon to tell him that you have determined from your research on the internet that your gall-bladder needs to be removed and you’d “like to know his best price” because you are just “shopping around”.

Anyway, this RFP I found for fireman consulting services included the following “point system”.

——————————————————————————————-

Criteria for Evaluation of Proposals

Name of Company:_____________________

Experience, Qualifications and Expertise

  1. Number of years the Company has been in the fire department consultant business
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 years – acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 years – advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 years – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Highest degree earned by the lead member of the company or consulting team
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • bachelors degree – acceptable 5 points
  • masters degree – advantageous 10 points
  • PhD – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Minimum fire department service of team members with prior fire department experience
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 10 years – acceptable 5 points
  • 10 to 15 years – advantageous 10 points
  • over 15 years – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of fire department projects comparable to the scope and content of this RFP completed in the past 5 years
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 10 – acceptable 5 points
  • 10 to 20 – advantageous 10 points
  • over 20 – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of projects completed for Towns in the State of Massachusetts in the past 3 years
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 – acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 – advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of published articles on topics related to this RFP by consulting team members
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 – acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 – advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Ability to complete and deliver report within time frame
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • >20% of projects delivered late – acceptable 5 points
  • >2% of projects delivered late – advantageous 10 points
  • all projects on time – highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Plan of Services demonstrates understanding of work to be completed
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • 2 or more items not addressed – acceptable 5 points
  • 1 item not addressed – advantageous 10 points
  • all items addressed – highly advantageous 15 points

Capabilities and Resources

  1. Studies currently under contract involving key personnel that would also be assigned to this study
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • 3 or more – acceptable 5 points
  • 1 or 2 – advantageous 10 points
  • None – highly advantageous 15 points

References

  1. Information on other organizations for which your firm has provided comparable consulting services
  • undisclosed – unacceptable 0 points
  • incorrect contacts listed – acceptable 5 points
  • correct contacts listed – advantageous 10 points
  • correct contacts listed and summary of work done listed – highly advantageous 15 points points:

—————————————————————————————————

I can just imagine the heights of madness this must reach. The predictable result that I have witnessed is that the process gets bogged down, and the project never begins.

The mass of data that needs to be assimilated to make a critical decision does not allow itself to be reduced to simple math like this.

Instead, clients would do better to work with one consultant at a time. If they are able to get themselves above the invisible, undefinable bar, then they should be hired. If not, then the search should be expanded to the next consultant that can be found.

The person who is going to use the firm’s services MUST be the one who participates in making the decision. RFP’s that use simplistic checklists like the one above get bogged down when the people doing the choosing are different from the ones who will actually work closely with the consultant. Inevitably, the consultant must sell themselves twice — once to the gatekeepers, and then again to the direct client who they will be working with, often resulting in an impasse when the gatekeepers and the direct client are unable to agree.

After gaining some experience, consultants learn to stay far, far away from this kind of nonsense, if it can be helped.

P.S. This is not to say that RFP’s are bad for buying things like cement, furniture or car tyres. They are a dangerous waste of time, however, if they are applied to professional and personal services.

Creating the Customer Experience Is Easy

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Meeting customer needs is hard, compared to creating a particular customer experience.

Unfortunately, human nature is such that when customer needs are met, but the experience is one that is negative, what is remembered is only the experience. Emotion trumps reason every single time.

In fact, a skilled listener can tell a customer no, and still leave them with an experience that is positive, warm and caring.

Here in the Caribbean, this is a rare skill.

In fact, there seem to be many more who meet the customer’s need, but leave a negative experience — and this I have seen across the region, with some countries much worse than others.

At the same time, it seems that the company that is able to provide a good customer experience should do well, and it’s not because our local service is so bad region-wide.

Instead, the reason is that we take service personally. After a positive interaction, we talk about “how nice that lady was”. After a poor experience, we talk about “disrespect”.

In other parts of the world, they talk about the service that the company provides, but here it’s about the individual and what they did to us that was good or bad.

It’s personal.

It’s Been a Long "Time" Coming

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If you have been following this blog, you might remember the posts I did related to the 2Time Management System — for time management and productivity.

After a few years of developing the idea, I am launching the course today in the form of a pilot programme.

What: New Habits-New Goals – The Practice and Art of Professional Productivity in January, in Kingston

For more details, see http://fwconsulting.com/newhabits

HR Trends: Bringing in Expats

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In last month’s issue of FirstCuts entitled “Expats of the Caribbean” I wrote about how companies need to do more to prepare themselves to be successful in bringing in expats.

With the advent of CSME and globalization, there are going to be more expats moving around the region, taking jobs in different countries. The burden of ensuring their successful transition lies in the HR departments in each country.

Unfortunately, most of them are ill-equipped to assist expats make the transition (a few have not evolved from being personnel departments themselves.)

They simply don’t have the programmes in place to deal with the cultural transition that an expat must make, and many of them hardly understand the nature of the problem.

The fact is, they need to acquaint themselves with the nature of the programmes that their company needs, and will need to deliver increasingly effective solutions to what is bound to be a growing challenge.

Simple-Minded Delegation

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Recently, my mother told her gardener, Lincoln, that she wanted him to do a certain job in her yard. He dutifully began to work on it, while she went out.

An hour later, my father returned and decided to ask him to stop what he was doing, and start something else. Lincoln refused, mumbling something about “This is what the Madame wanted.” My father was not amused, and Lincoln would only relent when my mother returned and confirmed my father’s request.

Add in the fact that Lincoln probably didn’t have more than a primary school education, and was pretty simple minded and you might have some pretty idiosyncratic behaviour.

Yet, in a meeting at an insurance company the other day, they described the exact same behaviour from a worker receiving instructions from 2 different managers. Perhaps Lincoln’s behaviour was not so odd after all.

Where does this come from? Is it a vestige of slavery days, and a plantation mentality? Is it a good thing? What point was he trying to make, if any?

Is it the case that he was just too simple to be able to handle conflicting instructions?

Is there some way to harness his commitment in a positive way?

I’m open to ideas here.