Thought #1 – Leave nothing to chance
I stopped in on the 25th anniversary celebration for High Profile Staffing. Bronwyn Allen, the President, has been an in-and-out participant of the First Friday Book Synopsis over the years, and she is one of those high energy dynamos. I could only be there for a few minutes, but it was enough. 25 years and counting in this day and age does not come by doing shoddy work. It comes from leaving nothing to chance. And High Profile leaves nothing to chance.
Herb Kelleher once said that “if our rest rooms are dirty, people will think our engines don’t work.” Well, High Profile’s engines work just fine, because everything else was perfectly attended to. From the moment I arrived, there was energy, attention to detail, personal touches. Jock Stafford, the CEO (whom I had never met) was at the door, and we “hit it off.” Which tells me that he hits it off with everybody he meets, because we did not have long to make that happen. And then, as I went through the offices, there was food (good, tasty, creative food – which, by the way, was overseen by Jock’s wife, whose name tag bore the description “The REAL Boss”), color, buzz… You know, the kind of event that screams “we are very good at everything we do – you can see that in the way we covered every detail in this event.”
Oh, and by the way, early yesterday morning I received a reminder e-mail about the event, with parking instructions in case it was still raining (we had had quite a rain the day before). So the high quality of the event was evident before I ever showed up.
The lesson – leave nothing to chance.
Thought #2 — Be simple
There are a few people who want to invest the time in looking for the very best, one step, one component at a time. But there are a whole lot more people – a whole lot! – who just want a quick and easy and “good enough” simple solution.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells the story of Target and its ability to target young mothers with just the right coupons to get them in the store, and keep them coming back. They know that a young mother, with a small child, has no time for the complex task of multi-store, leisurely comparative shopping. They want to walk in, find just what they need, and get out. (My daughter-in-law is discovering this with her 2 year old and one-month old daughters. These are our granddaughters I’m talking about. My impression is that she wants things really simple these days!)
So, this morning I was reading about IKEA’s new television: An Ikea Television? Why Not?: Ikea’s clever plan to sell you a piece of furniture with a TV attached to it, and how it might upend the TV manufacturing industry, by Matthew Yglesias. Yes, you read that right. IKEA is going to market their own television. No, it’s not better – but it’s good enough. And everything you need, cord management, sound, cabinet, will all be built into its one piece of furniture. No, it’s not the best. And that rare seeker of the best will go elsewhere. But it will be a quick, simple, one-stop, good enough solution. The article ended with this: In a world of good enough technology, the ability to avoid an extra trip may be all the selling point that’s really needed. I bet that they turn out to be right on this new bet of theirs.
The lesson — be the simple solution.
By the way, this is not a new idea. Anybody remember these marvels from my childhood days?
Thought #3 – Keep it human and engaging.
I don’t quite have as tangible an example of this as I do with the two others. But I’ve got a not-so-slight beef to get off my chest. I’m tired of inhuman, unengaging communications.
Last night, at the High Profile Staffing Anniversary, I made human contact. You know, eyeball-to-eyeball conversations. At moments like this you realize that all that advice to get out there and network is just a reminder to get out there and make a whole lot of human contact.
I have a couple of friends that I occasionally just call up and say let’s meet for lunch, just to talk through what I am wrestling with at the moment. And we talk, eyeball-to-eyeball.
When I speak, I try to make genuine contact with my audiences. That starts with topic selection and refinement (is this what this audience wants and needs to hear at this moment?) and then in the actual moment of delivering the message, it requires what the books call “eye contact,” but what I want to beef up just slightly with the phrase “eyeball-to-eyeball contact.” You know, genuine human contact. After all, those are human beings in that audience.
In other words, we are all, first and foremost, people. Before we are employees, before we are consultants, before we are task-doers, we are people. And people relate to each other with human contact.
Here’s one way this plays out. An e-mail is wonderful tool. To convey details, (here’s a map to our location; click here) it can’t be beat. But an e-mail is only any good after there has been some sort of more human connection. Same with a voice mail. I don’t mind leaving a voice mail with “information.” “The address is; the name of the book I could not quite remember is…” But voice mail does not let you have the give and take , the ebb and flow, of human conversation. For “relationship connecting — business and personal,” voice mail is woefully inadequate. E-mail, voice mail — these are stops #s two and after. Step one (which we should repeat one and over again) is face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. (Or, at least, actual telephone person-to-person conversation, which is much better than voice-to-voice mail)
Do yourself, and the people you interact with, a favor. Interact; converse; show up. Have some conversations, eyeball-to-eyeball.
The lesson – keep it human and engaging.
Why Not The Best?
“In your life was there ever a time in which you did less than the best?” If the answer was “yes,” the follow up question was: “Why not the best?” – asked by Admiral Hyman George Rickover (Admiral Rickover would ask this of all Naval Cadets, and the story was oft re-told by Jimmy Carter).
Good enough is good enough
“When good enough gets the job done, go for it. It’s way better than wasting resources (And, remember, you can usually turn good enough into great later”).
Fried and Hansson, ReWork
Think “good enough.” By “good enough” we mean absolutely, definitely, not our very best, not perfect. We are actively encouraging you to perform occasionally below standard… Men are better at saying, “OK, this is good enough in my eyes.”
Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, Womenomics
Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors).
“Zero Defects” is Step 7 of “Philip Crosby’s 14 Step Quality Improvement Process”
Good enough is good enough – until it is not. Then good enough is a disaster.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few days. The thoughts were prompted by a couple of news items, with some numbers buried within the stories that have deeply bothered me, and a whole lot of other folks.
Consider these numbers:
Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said Wednesday of his two-decade career in government: “I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time. And there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years.” (read about this here).
“86 percent of mines are safe.” (I heard this stated in an NPR interview by a spokesman defending mine safety – I don’t have a link).
The list is pretty long that describes business decisions, practices, “quality control” issues, where good enough is not good enough. The airplane safety was not good enough when the President of Poland and a plane load of others died in a crash that, at first reports, may have been caused by an unsafe airplane and pilot error.
Alan Greenspan was clearly not practicing the right levels of “good” when he was only right 70 percent of the time. In fact, when Greenspan said it, here was the response by the committee chair:
That prompted Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman, to say Thursday that he would consider himself a success if he was right just 51 percent of the time. “I don’t aspire to reach what Mr. Greenspan thinks he has reached,” he said, in a sardonic tone.
And a mine safety figure of 86 percent mines deemed safe is clearly not good enough – just ask the families of the twenty-nine dead miners, as they labored for a company with an abysmal safety record and an attitude that clearly placed profits over human safety and even human life.
One of the true business and society and life challenges is this one: when is “good enough good enough” vs. when is “my best” critical?
I agree with the “good enough” movement – except when I don’t. I don’t mind a “good enough” free pen in a conference center. I don’t mind receiving a text message with a spelling error. But I would like the very best airline safety, if you don’t mind. And when Alan Greenspan argues that his 70 percent right was good enough (that is a “C-” in most grading systems), I think it is time to dust off Admiral Rickover’s question.