Strategy and the Fat Smoker

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I haven’t read his book yet, but David Maister’s new book on strategy seems to be right on target.

I recently read an article that he wrote by the same name in Consulting Magazine that shared some of the book’s ideas. The title? – Strategy and the Fat Smoker.

He makes the point that fat smokers know what they need to do to lose weight, and to ward off a heart attack and cancer. However, knowing what they need to do is just not enough. Instead, the
real question is whether or not they can do what it takes to sacrifice present discomfort for future gain.

Companies have habits, just like people, and changing habits takes diligence, discipline and perseverance, plus a tolerance for multiple failures.

On the smallest of micro-levels, it takes waking up each morning and starting the day on a different foot, determined to take actions that push the envelope on new-habit creation, or old-habit deletion. This is where the strategy gets implemented — on a person by person basis, in the quiet moments when they have a choice to act differently, and move out of their comfort zones in order to make it happen an inch at a time.

I happen to be doing an experiment of sorts to change some of my habits. Inspired by a blog I read on creating a ‘Scaffold’ for each day or repetitive actions, and also by the recent literature on what it takes to change a habit, I have been daily working through a checklist of new
habits that I am trying to follow.

I have been using a 30-day checklist that has helped tremendously as I keep the sheet in front of me as a guide to making sure that the essential actions are being followed each day.

I agree with him about the challenge it takes to change habitual actions. In his article, he says that “Discussing goals is stimulating, inspiring, and energizing. But it feels tough, awkward, annoying, frightening and completely unpleasant to discuss the discipline needed to reach those goals.”

This strikes a chord with me as I get to the end of the year, and notice which of my goals remain unfinished. When it comes down to it, for a few of them I just didn’t know how to accomplish the goal, but on others, I knew exactly what to do but didn’t muster up enough habit-breaking
will-power to get the job done, and that’s the truth.

Already, always networking

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The finishing touches are being put on Framework’s new ebook on Caribbean networking and it struck me that a professional is always networking, whether they want to or not. This can easily be seen with what is currently happening on Facebook, which is making the activity of networking in the region much, much easier than it has ever been in the past.

When the topic of Facebook comes up, the reaction is usually one of two: either they talk about how addictive it is, or they talk about how little time they have and how they are too busy to be on Facebook.

The difference is interesting — because Facebook does make networking easy. In fact, it makes almost ALL aspects of networking easy, effortless and it saves a great deal of time and effort.

It defies explanation to those who don’t understand it, but I am coming to realize that those who don’t have the time to be on Facebook are probably also the ones who don’t have the time to network. In other words, they are willing to leave their networking to chance. They are willing to squeeze the activity in a little here and there.

What they don’t know is that they would get a much bigger bang for their buck if they were to use a networking tool like Facebook. It is an extremely high-leverage activity.

Also, it is easy to see that on Facebook, the number of people using the free service is indirectly proportional to age. In other words, younger people have networks in the hundreds, while older people can hardly find ten.

The fact of the matter is that younger people are better networked than older people, and are using tools to give themselves a tremendous advantage over their older peers. They understand that they are always networking, whether they are thinking about it or not.

Their profile in Facebook is doing the work for them, and their presence in their friends’ networks speaks for who they are in an efficient and time-effective way.

Those that “don’t have time” to network are stuck with the old practices — attending functions, giving out business cards, etc. — that all take time, money and paper and they just have no idea what they are missing.

Customer Experience Programmes Falling Through the Cracks

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Customer Experience programmes are some of the most difficult for large corporations to manage, and many end up falling through the proverbial cracks.

I remember when I first heard the concept a few years ago, and applied it to my company newsletter, FirstCuts.

I found myself undertaking an out of body experience that was difficult. I had to imagine what it was like for a subscriber to go through all the touch-points that they would encounter, regardless of whether or not I had control over them or not.

Luckily, I subscribe to many newsletters, so I had a way of thinking about the service I was providing in terms of what I would have liked to see someone provide to me. It still was not easy, however, and resulted in my having a to create a tool to understand the different experiences that a customer could have at each touch-point (The Service Inventory.)

The problem is compounded tremendously in corporations.

Unfortunately, the touch-points that a customer experiences don’t all fall into one nice department called “customer experience”. In fact, most customers’ first touch-point has nothing to do with service in many cases. Instead, people’s first impression might be through the company’s advertising, a speech given by the CEO, what their cousin told them about the company, or the fact that they couldn’t find parking when they made their first visit.

These are all critical touch-points that help to create the emotional bundle of experiences that customers are left with at the end of the day.

What makes this all hard for companies, and for the heads of customer experience departments, is that they must somehow find a way to influence the entire company to provide a different set of touch-points for customers.

And this is why customer experience programmes often fail — companies either reduce them to mere customer service, or they fail to get the entire company to buy in on the importance of looking at all the touch-points, from the CEO on down.

It takes a total commitment to deal with all the touch-points that customers experience, and the truth is that customers don’t care which department is failing to give them the experience they want at the moment, all they know is that the company is bad.

Substituting Being Smart for Being Organized

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Here in the Caribbean, smart professionals sometimes get quite lazy.

They have quick minds which they use to run rings around people who are not quite as sharp as they are, don’t know how to hold them to account, and are unable to see behind their lack of organizational skills.

They are used to dealing with people who aren’t quite as smart as they are, and are able to get away with procrastination, arriving late at meeting and being sloppy with their commitments because they are able to “make up for it in the end” with a blast of concentrated effort.

The only time they run into trouble is when they come upon others who are either as smart as they are, or more organized than they are, or demonstrate a willingness to hold them to account for their promises. Then, the game is up, and if they don’t “up their game” to the next level, they are likely to fail, or be fired or be sidelined.

This laziness results in lower standards, failed objectives and a general sloppiness that pervades corporate Jamaica, and businesses across the region.

I compare this with my experience in some of the best corporations in the world. The difference is not merely one of size, but it starts with the choices that are made by one smart person, compared to another.

FirstCuts 17.0 — Expats of the Caribbean

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Don’t expats have it easy? They get the best of everything: higher salaries, better benefits and special treatment all around. In our small island homes, we have no idea what it takes for an outsider to transition to live in our own culture, and our ignorance is costing us dearly.

Read or listen in to the latest issue of FirstCuts to see what your Caribbean company could be doing differently now.

Please leave your comments on this issue below.

Advice from a Giant

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George Phillip was a quiet giant of Jamaican industry, and his recent passing away was a blow to most who knew him.

I had the chance to interview him for our recent study “The Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica” before he passed away, and he was generous and insightful — so much so that he was someone I wanted to do an audio interview with, until I heard the news. He was the most successful Trinidadian executive to work in Jamaica.

One unverified piece of advice he was known to give had to do with terminating Jamaicans. He said something to the effect that when one is terminating Jamaicans, one needs to go an extra mile.

“Johnson, as you know we are doing some downsizing and unfortunately your name has come up as someone to let go. As part of your separation, you are due to receive $X for each year of service. However, to help ease the transition we have decided to give you an extra $Z, just to acknowledge the work you have done in the company and to help make things easier.”

His point was that that little extra step is critical in leaving a Jamaican worker feeling respected.

George was right on the money — what we Jamaicans call brawta (a little extra) goes a long, long way.

During my interview with Douglas Orane at HRMAJ, he mentioned a study that was done at the U.S. Embassy. It showed that the Americans complained that Jamaicans were too casual, always late, etc. The Jamaicans had one complaint — Americans were rude, never said hello or good morning and left them feeling disrespected.

Whether this is a true story or not is to be discovered, but I am sure George would agree with the finding.