January 2014

Drawing of people waiting in an airport

A muddy airport floor and the forgotten link: People and Process

Drawing of people waiting in an airportI don’t know about you, but one of my least favourite parts of travelling by air is the experience of queuing for security.  I understand that it’s necessary, but the queues always seem so long, and inevitably the process involves removing shoes, belts and other random items of clothing.  Not only this, I clearly must look suspicious as I always seem to get singled out for a more thorough ‘pat down’ – which is never the most pleasant of experiences.

 

I was travelling back after a business trip recently, and I entered the dreaded security queue.  I was travelling with hand-luggage only, so I knew I needed to separate out my overnight bag (which contained liquids, deodorant etc) for inspection separately.  I knelt down to open my bag to grab my liquids, and when I stood up I was absolutely caked in mud.  I couldn’t believe it – the floor was so dirty that if you touched it the mud would cling like a magnet!

 

I was extremely surprised.  Being a keen Twitter user, I thought I’d give the airport some instant feedback.  They probably weren’t aware – perhaps a cleaner was off sick.  I won’t mention the airport, but I tweeted:

 

“You need to clean the floor in the security queuing area. I kneeled down and my suit trousers are now caked in dirt!”

 

I forgot about this, brushed myself down, boarded my flight and got on with some work.  When I landed, my phone chirped as I’d received a reply.  However, rather than looking to resolve the issue, the airport staff tweeted me back to describe how “challenging” it is to keep the surfaces clear (!).  I would have assumed that they would have used the insight I provided them to provide feedback to the cleaners or the cleaning manager – but it seems they didn’t, they just offered an excuse. An opportunity for continuous improvement was missed.  What a shame!

 

What this means for business and business analysis

Now, you might think I’m being rather self-indulgent by blogging about my airport gripes…and you might well be right… but there’s a serious point to be made about business and business analysis here.

A glass of soda

Don’t mix soda with strategy

A glass of sodaI recently visited a pizza buffet restaurant with some colleagues.   It had been a long day, so I had no hesitation in piling my plate high with a whole range of different pizza slices (well, everyone likes pizza, right?).

 

As I returned to my table, I saw a young kid at the self-service soda machine.  He grabbed a cup and his eyes lit up – there were so many choices of soda that he could choose.  After half a second of hesitation, he made his choice.  He was going to have all of them!  He took his cup and mixed all the sodas together:  Cola, lemonade, orange-fizz and more.  Next he went over to the dessert aisle and added some maple syrup and chocolate chips to his soda.     What happened next was rather unfortunate: He took one gulp of the brown, sludgy concoction that he had created, and his face contorted and frowned.  He’d created something virtually undrinkable – and it certainly wasn’t what he was expecting.

 

Luckily, a friendly waitress helped him to dispose of the sticky and sugary soda he’d created, and he went back choosing a single soda this time.  As he did, it struck me how some organisations inadvertently and quite unintentionally treat their business strategy in this way.  They flounder from market to market and from project to project in an unplanned and uncontrolled way, without seeking internal or external feedback.  They launch all sorts of contradictory projects, products and initiatives and just end up creating confusion.  They ‘mix their sodas’ too far.  All options seem attractive, so rather than choosing just a few they try to choose all of them – and end up with an outcome they certainly didn’t desire.

Business person standing in front of black-board with arrows pointing in conflicting directions

Customer vs. Strategy vs. Sales

  • Adrian Reed 
  • 6 min read

I’d like to welcome Debbie Laskey to my blog. We met as a result of our work for the IBM Midsize Insider Program and I’ve been really interested in Debbie’s blog articles about marketing and customer-focus. Debbie has 15 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree. She developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the non-profit arena, and the insurance industry. Currently, Debbie is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation in Los Angeles, California, USA – and she’s also been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Branding Experts” to follow on Twitter (@DebbieLaskeyMBA).  You can read Debbie’s blog at debbielaskey.blogspot.com

 

We recently discussed the importance of the “customer’s voice” in business, and the following collaborative post is the result.  Enjoy!

 


Customer vs. Strategy vs. Sales

 

Business person standing in front of black-board with arrows pointing in conflicting directionsHow often does your organisation truly consider the customer before making a strategic decision? Many, if not most, organisations would answer that question with the response that they place the customer at the heart of what they do. Yet as companies grow and become more successful, it’s easy for the customer’s voice to get lost in day-to-day operations.

 

Companies may intend to represent and consider the customer’s viewpoint, but they rely on layers of management (many of whom may not have spoken to a genuine customer in years) to provide feedback on behalf of an increasingly complex and sophisticated customer base. In some scenarios, this may lead to new product launches that are initially considered successful (as they are on-time and on-budget) but are actually complete failures (since no one buys them).

 

What can be done to avoid these types of situations? The following tips can create better alignment between your business products/services/processes and your customers:

 

Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower

Deadlines are soon forgotten: It’s the quality they remember

Portsmouth's Spinnaker TowerThis is a picture of the Spinnaker Tower, located in my home-town of Portsmouth, UK.  It’s a 170 metre (560 foot) construction with viewing decks at the top that opened in 2005.  It’s a real tourist attraction and if you’re ever in the area be sure to go and see it – there are superb views from the top! (In fact, if you’re going to be in the area contact me and we’ll catch up for a beer…)

 

If you do visit the tower, you might notice that the building hides a rather embarrassing secret:  It was built with an external scenic lift (elevator) attached to the side that has never worked reliably.  There is an internal lift that you can use, but you may well notice a redundant lift on the exterior.  To my knowledge, it has never been opened for public use.

 

If you speak to the locals, you’ll be told anecdotes about how on its day of opening several people – allegedly including the project manager – were trapped in the lift for over an hour.   This has been a thorn in the building’s side for years, and the external lift is allegedly being removed.

 

I heard this story again recently, and it reminded me of something that should be kept firmly in mind when progressing projects: