Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bad Service and Frustration - it can be avoided.

Oh, I know frustration and it is your fault!
Nothing seems to kick off a spiral of rage faster than poor service.  I reason this happens for me so quickly because I spend a majority of my time acting as a therapist, software developer, consultant and bucket boy for people who have very little appreciation for what it takes to build a web site.

In the midst of getting my insurance company to process my prescriptions, work a 45 hour work week and do more development for E3 systems, I try to go out to lunch each day as a respite from work.  What I was confronted with was poor service. 

As someone struggling to lose weight, I have taken to salad bars.  On a rainy Monday, I was confronted by a messy and poorly stocked salad bar.  Dressings were mixed together resembling a Jackson Pollock canvas, several toppings were missing, and no one seemed to notice or care that I was just standing there shocked that I was paying $10 for a poorly stocked buffet.  A waitress came up to me and apologized and said she would get the manager to restock the salad bar. 

The manager never came, the salad bar was not restocked and I was doomed to listen to the waitress offer more futile apologies for bad service.  My blood pressure and cholesterol levels matched my frustration.  I left a meager tip and left before the negligent manager had a chance to wish me a nice day.  He will not get the chance because I will not be going back. 

This would not be so bad if it was not so common.  Countless times at restaurants, movie theaters, casins and night clubs I am confronted with poor service.  The reason is that managers there are worried about overtime and overhead instead of providing good customer service.  This focus trickles down to the staff who seem to make enough effort to avoid getting fired.  In the mean time, customers like me suffer in silence.

I keep thinking back to W. E. Deming and his 14 points of profound knowledge.  Managers should be more focused on providing quality experiences than the costs of those experiences.  It is a shame how many businesses ignore Deming and his lessons.  If customers are more happy they will leave bigger tips, come back more often and become the regular customers a business craves.  Focusing on costs and overhead leads to lower quality and less revenue in the long run.

Someday, I hope to practice what I preach.

Until next time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hard Lessons

Learning a lesson from the Gipper.
I do not know how to describe the last month other than a difficult slog.  In that time, I have learned some valuable lessons about myself and what type of leader I need to become.

My daytime career has seen the transition from consultant to full time employee.  This is the first time in over five years; I have not been on the consulting merry-go-round.  It is nice to have developed a modicum of trust and to know that I am not going to be cast off like a dirty piece of facial tissue.  I am also looking forward to medical insurance.  Still, it makes me wonder why it took over four years to find a place to call home. 

I have also spent the last four weeks compensating for the malpractice of some consultants I worked with.  I took it for granted that they were the same kind of professionals I was and that they were committed to getting the project done on time and on budget.  I was grossly deceived.
After some investigation, my team lead and I discovered that unit tests were rigged to pass rather than testing actual functionality.  Stubs were put into place instead of connections to a database and worst of all, instructions and code reviews were ignored. 

We were left with software one third complete and two weeks prior to release date.  I felt a mixture of feelings but the most dominant one was betrayal.  I trusted these individuals to help get the work done and they did the bare minimum to create the illusion of completion. 
All this has reminded me about a nugget of wisdom from Ronald Regan, "Trust, but verify."  I trusted the work of the consultants too much and my reward was four weeks of crunch time where we condensed nine weeks' worth of work into numerous 12 hour days. 

I will need to be less trusting as a manager and verify the work of my colleagues with a much more critical eye.  If I am going to be a leader I will have to internalize that lesson.  Otherwise, I am going to have a lot more hectic weeks and unhappy customers.
Until next time.