Leadership Series:  Juran’s Rule and the Call Center

We have a problem, speaking plainly and simply; this problem is that a truth has been bent to escape responsibility.  Tribus (n.d.) was plain and stated:

WARNING: In presenting the reasons for change, the leader should accept the responsibility for whatever is wrong.  Remember Juran’s rule:
WHENEVER THERE IS A PROBLEM 85% OF THE TIME, IT IS IN THE SYSTEM, ONLY 15% OF THE TIME WILL IT BE THE WORKER [emphasis in original].”

Please allow me to note that I have regularly advocated that Juran underestimated and personally have found that 90-95% of the time, the problem is the process, not the workers.  This is my opinion, and I am not here to convince you but merely to help clarify Juran’s rule and provide some clarity on the writings of Tribus (n.d.) as well as build foundational understanding.

The Situation

A client company has a problem where managers are not holding their people to productivity standards.  Deep diving into the situation, we find several fundamental issues, in no particular order:

    • Human Resources tells operations what production goals can be.
    • No production goal can be set where 75% of the workers cannot easily meet the goals set.
    • Goals cannot be changed without HR approval, a lengthy research process, and a legal team review.
    • No productivity goal is published. Feeder metrics, KPIs, and so forth are not communicated or standardized.
    • No standard work crosses from one geographic location to another.
    • Facility leaders might receive training in other facilities, but the training is broken and disjointed, and the regional managers charged with holding leaders to a standard lack standards and feeder metrics to hold facility leadership accountable across regional areas.
    • Currently, no region or facility is meeting any goal regularly or uses a process that can be replicated.

Interestingly, this situation has existed for more than 15 years, and none in higher management remember a time when this situation was different.  But, every manager will quote a version of Juran’s rule to explain why they are hunting for operational processes to review and change.

Conflict vs. Contention

At its most fundamental level, conflict is about helping spur growth and development and bringing about change in an organized and logical manner.  However, I cannot stress this enough; conflict is NOT contention.  Conflict is not born of pride and a desire to feel better about yourself through violence.  Conflict can be observed in a disagreement or difference in opinion, but conflict does not include emotional hyperbole (pride).  Conflict should be about mental disturbances spurred by people seeking greater ideas and ideals, personal growth, or team development.  Does conflict lead to contention?  Yes, but only because pride entered into the disagreement, emotions were injected, and desires to be right at any cost dictated, it is time for violence.

Let me be perfectly frank, contention and conflict are not the same.  While the terms are close, they are distinct and tell different sides of the same story.  First, contention is an act of striving or an assertion.  Contention is a violent effort to obtain or protect something vehemently!  There is effort, struggle, and exertion in contention; there are violent efforts, and the core of contention is pride.  Pride breeds animosity, animosity breeds struggle, and struggle is contention, where pride demands that violence is acceptable to achieve the desired end goal.  When contending, “The ends justify the means.”

Contention is animosity personified into action, effort, and desires become evident as contention unfolds.  We cannot forget these facts about contention.  Consider the following; I went to work in a hostile atmosphere; due to a contract signed, I could not quit and find a new job, and reassignment was not going to happen.  Jealousy and pride entered because I was very good at my job, and violence followed like the sun rising after a moonless night.  Contention was born and festered, violence was perpetrated against me, and the violence was acceptable to the organizational leaders as it gave them feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The violence was justified because I was “too good” at my job, made “decisions above my paygrade,” and “I needed to be taught humility.”  The result was four disastrous years of struggle, incredible stress levels, and mental torture, with physical acts of violence thrown in to spice up the environment.  I am not bemoaning my fate nor holding myself up as an example of anything, merely hoping to convey that contention stunted organizational growth in everyone unlucky enough to experience this organization during this period.  Contention is pride expressed through violence and justified to fit the individual’s desires.

Conflict is a tool; like all tools, it can build, enhance, strengthen, and create when used appropriately.  If the tool is improperly used, destruction, damage, and chaos are spawned.  Conflict happens; what a person chooses to do with that conflict and how that person considers conflicting occurrences is how the labels “good,” “bad,” “valuable,” “beneficial,” etc., are applied.  McShane and Von Gilnow (2004, p. 390) postulated, “conflict as beneficial [when] intergroup conflict improves team dynamics, increase cohesiveness, and task orientation.  [C]onditions of moderate conflict, motivates team members to work more efficiently toward goals increasing productivity.”  The sentiment regarding conflict as a tool and beneficial is echoed throughout the research of Jehn (1995).  Jehn (1995) reflected that the groups researched labeled the conflict as beneficial, good, bad, etc.  Based on the group’s dynamics and the conflicts faced and settled, the groups formed an integrated model for organizational conflict.  Essentially, how the conflict is approached and used by the team members individually and collectively dictates how beneficial the conflict is for the team and the organization.

Rao (2017) built upon previous researchers’ shoulders, perceiving conflict being a tool, and provided vital strategies for leaders to employ conflict.  Rao (2017) provided that conflict builds character, whereas crisis defines character” [p. 93].  Rao (2017) recognized that conflict labels are an individual choice.  In organizational conflict, one team could label the conflict as valuable and beneficial, while another department could label that same conflict as damaging and horrible.  When the conflict in an organization has disparate labels, understanding why conflict is disparately evaluated remains more important than changing the label.  Important to note, conflict is not competition, although occasionally used synonymously, there are important and distinct differences, important enough for a different article.

Thompson (2008) raised significant points regarding conflict, beginning with a real-life example of how conflict spurred organizational change and growth for the H. J. Heinz Co.  Thompson (2008) calls those who actively work to avoid conflict as those taking “trips to Abilene;” included in those making trips to Abilene are those who take conflict personally and choose to become offended, as well as those who choose not to see conflict as a method of ignoring conflict.  Thomas (1992) again captured how individual choices about the valuation of conflict open or close the door to the productive use of conflict.  Ignoring conflict, avoiding conflict, and other strategies of not facing conflict form the most dangerous people to be around, for when conflict grows beyond a point where it can no longer be ignored or avoided, that conflict that can destroy people, places, and things.

Thomas (1992) echoes Jehn (1995), Lencioni (2002), and Thompson (2008) in declaring the distinction between conflict as a process and the structure in which the conflict process occurred is critical to how beneficial the conflict will be for the team, business, or society.  Consider, for a moment the structure of the organizational environment.  Conflict is the mental thinking, adherence to operating procedures, and individuals working who become the instigating factor, which threatens what is known or done at the current time.  Hence, Thomas (1992) provided a keen insight into conflict as a tool, purposeful initiation of a process (conflict) to improve a structure (organizational environment).

When people recognize the power of conflict and purposefully employ conflict, everyone receives the potential to improve through conflict (Lencioni, 2002).  Thus, conflict continues to be a tool, nothing more and nothing less.  The disparities between organizational conflict labels are critical to understanding the chasm between teams evaluating conflict as the process and business structure.  The gap in understanding conflict’s results can create inhibitions to future organizational conflict and create unnecessary additional conflict processes, all while undermining the organizational structure.

Tribus – Changing the Corporate Culture

Juran’s rule is prescient but based on several foundational situations underpinning their understanding; the following applies regardless of whether the organization is building a learning society or merely keeping the money tap flowing.

    1. Operations, and by extension, operational goals, productivity standards, and processes for producing a product or service, are the sole domain of operations personnel. Does this preclude Human Resources from having a seat at the operations table; NO!  Having HR dictate operational goals to operations is akin to having a bullet tell a shooter how to aim.
    2. Training is a process. Training requires standards to judge performance as a means to declare training exceeded.  However, the quality of training, and the proof of trained personnel, is not an HR function, nor is the trainer the sole person involved in judging the efficacy of producing trained personnel.
    3. Organizational hierarchies are a process, the business culture is a process, learning is not training, and both learning and training are processes but have two different controlling entities; accountability and responsibility are a cultural extension of the process of organizing people into a functioning business organization.

Consider the fibers of an interwoven rope.  Each fiber is twisted with other fibers, then these twists of fibers are turned into more twists, repeated until eventually building a finished rope.  The same goes for these preceding foundational aspects.  Operational principles make, like many fibers twist, into a rope that can secure a multiple hundred-ton ship to a pier.  How the ropes are used is an operational process, but the core of the ropes are these essential aspects.Cut Rope with Rope - The Prepared Page

Some have argued, to their demise, that too many companies with this mindset are suffering from silo-mentality; when the obverse is true.  Each department of a functioning business organization relies upon processes similar to these foundational fibers.  Operations managers should not go into another business unit and expect to use the same tools from successful operations in those different business units.

For example, while I have been a successful operations manager, the tools I use in leading software teams are decidedly not the same tools I would employ on a production floor, even though both business units are expected to produce a product.  The people are different, their approaches to problems are different, and the environments conducive to product delivery are dynamically opposed.  Similarly, the tools HR would use to solve production issues are not opposed but definitely not employed similarly to those used in troubleshooting a problem in legal or accounting.

Juran understood these foundational situations, Tribus understood these foundational situations, and the best corporate leaders understand these foundational situations.  However, Tribus made clear something dynamic, leadership is not management, and management never achieves anything.  The dichotomies between leadership and management could not be more explicit in today’s business operations.Leadership versus Management - Entrepreneur Caribbean

Tribus (n.d.) calls upon the words of Homer Sarasohn, stating [emphasis in original]:

“THE LEADER MUST, HIMSELF, BE AN EXAMPLE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN HIS FOLLOWERS.”

“Managers must practice what they preach.”

“DON’T SAY, “FOLLOW ME; I’M BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY”
(IT MAKES EVERYONE GO IN CIRCLES).”

Application

What do we find in my client; managers who first do not know the work their operational employees do.  Managers who are disconnected by good jobs to the point they never engage in the better and best jobs their positions of trust demand.  The managers are not led but are managed and never were trained for their current positions.  These three items are why the client company is a dumpster fire of potential (blue money), where the bottom line evaporates, and nobody can explain why.  However, like in the Shakespearian play, “Much Ado About Nothing,” a lot of noise is made but goes nowhere fast!

Unfortunately, the much ado about nothing is worsened, not improved, by Kaizen, Six Sigma, Agile, and Lean efforts at process improvement.  The core problems are considered “untouchable,” “too dynamic,” or “too extensive” ever to be improved upon, and the new manager settles to change an operational process instead of core problems.  Essentially proclaiming, “Follow me, I’m behind you all the way,” the operational employees keep circling the drain.

What is the solution?

Solution generation for my client company begins with understanding the compelling evidence there is a problem.  Right now, the client thinks, “We are big enough to absorb these insignificant issues in the name of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”  This is where every business begins its failure; no business can long survive dumpster fires of potential (blue money).  People leave, and this has a high replacement cost.  People work slowly or below their potential, which is a tremendous cost in green (cash) money and potential (blue money).  Operational costs increase, increasing customer costs and the loss of customers is a dynamic cost to the business.Estimating Startup Costs

After admitting a problem, the next step is envisioning an end state.  Since I began to lead men and women, I have advocated a lesson I learned as a teenager, “Never take your body where your brain has not already traveled.”  If you cannot envision the result, do not start trying to make changes until you have envisioned an end state.  I sliced my fingers badly with a knife while cutting onions.  Why did I slice my fingers and not the onion?  I did not understand the end state and assumed I could start cutting and reach an acceptable end state (diced onion).  I should never have started cutting; between the loss of the onion and the damage to my fingers, the lesson was not “Never cut onions again,” but “never begin something without a clear end state (goal) in mind.”

The third preparatory step to building a solution is START!  The client has this problem of always wanting clear instructions, plans, and supplies on hand before beginning.  The speed of business requires action, not plans and instructions.  Take the first logical step and begin!  Tribus (n.d.) makes this clear with the assurance, “There is a sensible first step,” take that step!  I will reiterate a point Tribus (n.d.) makes, employees work IN a system of processes, and the manager should work ON the system of processes, with the employee’s help.  A manager should be analogous to a mentor, who, like a leader, after understanding the vision, looks sideways and builds people to meet their level before taking that next logical step into the darkness.

Conclusion

The simple truth is that Juran’s rule has been used as an excuse to dodge responsibility in too many operations, businesses, and organizations.  Like my client, the good news is that change is possible with the people you have right now.  My client is not a bad company; your company is not inherently bad.  People are intrinsically good, and when we better understand the fibers that help tie Juran’s rule to reality, we can employ reframing to shut down the noise and move from much ado about nothing to effective management and leadership.  How do we reframe:

    1. Establish legitimacy and shift from passive to active.
    2. Bring outsiders into the discussion, but do not shift responsibility for developing the solution or owning the goals.
    3. Get the stakeholder’s definitions in writing – Common words, AREN’T. Common understanding; is a goal to strive towards.
    4. Ask what is missing
    5. Consider multiple categories, seek out those subject matter experts, and add them to the discussion as equals
    6. Analyze positive and negative data equally without bias
    7. Question the objectives, focus on the future and keep moving forward.

As we, the leaders of call centers, strive to change our understanding, realize our roles, and build people, we will build people, not processes, to meet the future.  The first step is committing to the decision framed in the question, “Is your company a money tap or a service to the greater good of society?”

References:

The references are included if you want to further research conflict as beneficial.

Amason, A. C. (1996).  Distinguishing the effects of functional and dysfunctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a paradox for top management teams.  Academy of Management Journal, 39(1), 123-148.  doi:http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.2307/256633

Baron, R. A. (1991).  Positive Effects of Conflict: A Cognitive Perspective.  Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 4(1), 25-36.

Brazzel, M. (2003).  Chapter XIII: Diversity conflict and diversity conflict management.  In D. L. Plummer (Ed.), Handbook of diversity management: Beyond awareness to competency based learning (pp. 363-406).  Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.

Du, F., Erkens, D. H., & Xu, K. (2018).  How trust in subordinates affects service quality: Evidence from a large property management firm.  Business.Illinois.edu. Retrieved from https://business.illinois.edu/accountancy/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2018/03/Managerial-Symposium-2018-Session-IV-Du-Erkens-and-Xu.pdf

Jehn, K. A. (1995).  A multi-method exanimation of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict.  Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 256-282.

Lencioni, P. (2002).  The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable.  Hoboken, NJ.  John Wiley & Sons.

Lumineau, F., Eckerd, S., & Handley, S. (2015).  Inter-organizational conflicts.  Journal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation, 1(1), 42-64.  doi:10.1177/2055563614568493

McShane, S. L., & Von Gilnow, M. A. (2004). Organizational Behavior, Third Edition.  Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies.

Moeller, C., & Kwantes, C. T. (2015).  Too Much of a Good Thing?  Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Conflict Behaviors.  Journal of Social Psychology, 155(4), 314-324.  doi:10.1080/00224545.2015.1007029

Rao, M. (2017).  Tools and techniques to resolve organizational conflicts amicably.  Industrial and Commercial Training, 49(2), 93-97.  doi:10.1108/ict-05-2016-0030

Thomas, K. W. (1992).  Conflict and conflict management: Reflections and update.  Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13(3), 265-274.

Thompson, L. L. (2008).  Chapter 8: Conflict in teams – Leveraging differences to create opportunity.  In Making the team: A guide for managers (3rd ed., pp. 201-220).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Employers and Employees – The Battle is Waged: The Fight is Important

LookEmployers throughout the world, including Disney, American Express, Wells Fargo, and thousands more, have begun to battle their employees.  Unionized shops, the battle has been waged for 50 years and shows no sign of relenting.  Only recently have other employers joined the fray, not to help employees but to rid themselves of employees.  These businesses are fighting employees against their employees for the company’s culture and soul.  Couched in many a buzzword, political stance, and archaic practices, the employers want to rid their workforces of those they despise, and the battle is legal!

Make no mistake, what the employers are doing is immoral, unethical, and disastrous to those employees unfavored, but the actions remain perfectly legal, and this is the point we must understand.  Laws have been changed against the majority for the selectivization and advancement of the minority.  The fight is important because you might be next and never know your termination has been affected, but not enforced until it is too late.  This article intends to raise awareness, not cover every particle in the fight or catalog every avenue an employer might take to attack an employee.  Imperative to know and remember, as long as the actions are against individuals, no laws are being broken, and the employer wins when they can make the situation untenable, and the employee on the out quits or is forced out under a miasma of quasi-legal terms, so it appears that employee was treated fairly.Plato 2

Never forget, a lawyer’s job is to make the illegal appear legal, and the legal appear illegal, so a judge must decide.  Add in judicial activism and legislation from the judicial bench, and the trouble becomes apparent quickly.  Unfortunately, the lawyers’ training has shifted, and the legal mind’s quality has slipped under the weight of many of the topics discussed herein.  The vicious cycle can only be broken when the collective beliefs of the majority are re-established, not to the demise of the minority but the growth of the entire society.

Culture and Politics

As long as people have banded together into organizations, societies, governments, etc., there has been the push and pull of politics.  All of recorded history bears truth to this fact.  People have beliefs.  They express these beliefs through representatives who rise and fall in different leadership positions, and societies change according to the expressed beliefs through which a society is governed (law).  Pick a governing style (Communism, Socialism, Representative, Direct or Indirect Representation, Monarchy, Theocracy, etc.), and you will find the collective beliefs of the people expressed in how long a leader remains in power or the stability of the society so governed.  Politics happens and is best described as the push/pull of collective beliefs expressed by populations.  Economies rise and fall based upon the collective beliefs, expressed in the stability of the society and the government leader’s length of time as leader.Lemmings 1

History has shown when a governing leader is short-lived, it is generally because they refused to follow the collective beliefs of the population, giving rise to the credit ratings of stable governments and societies being higher than for those who are changing leadership every couple of weeks or months.  Those leaders who can tread the waters of public opinion maintain their jobs and, many times in history, their heads by following the collective beliefs in the morals of the people.  The US Dollar’s stability is one of the strongest reasons this currency is one of the world’s benchmark currencies.  Politics did that, and politics are the push/pull collective beliefs expressed by the citizens to their government leaders.  The process is messy and needs to be messy for a reason; only in the expression of two divergent points can a healthy middle ground be established, and society can grow.

Culture is not politics, but politics and politically minded people can influence it.  If politics is a society’s expressed beliefs, then culture is the expressed moral convictions as lived by a community.  For example, many institutions have been built on the law that coveting (envy) is wrong, but the practices of the people living build a culture that accepts graft, bribes, and other incentives that, while violating the law, are accepted.  Make sense?  The closer the culture is to following both the letter of the law and the living of the law provides for a stable and influential culture to invest resources into.?u=http2.bp.blogspot.com-BKwWSo412lIUngTRkmSYwIAAAAAAAARd8GqxDhvovmRgs1600salestaxcartoon.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

How does one change the collective beliefs of a society and the living practices of that society; first, you capture the children.  Bad ideas do not go away, they are either replaced with good ideas, or the bad ideas go into hiding, awaiting the time they can make a new appearance.  Everything modern society is facing has been faced previously, and the difference is that the seeds for the current dilemmas were planted more than 100-years ago, but the bad ideas first captured the children.  Why have these bad ideas advanced so rapidly?  The education of children in social customs, collectively shared beliefs, and individual duty, has been eroded and attacked mercilessly since “progressive education” (the refusal to teach children to read, write, and perform math) began in the late 1800s with Dewey, who called functional illiteracy “Progress!”

One of the first words plasticized, twisted, ripped apart, and then put together to fuel tyranny through modular language was the term progress.  Unfortunately, language has continued to suffer relentless attacks since the late 1800s, and more words have suffered the same fate in the modularization of language.  Consider with me the history of Tea.  Tea plantations in India were ruled by the iron fist of laws drafted in America and marketed with women in distress to the consuming nations geographically distant to where the crops were grown.  The tyranny of slavery is the same tyranny we face with modular language.  Nobody realizes this because to mention this connection is frowned upon by those making money off the tyranny of language.  The tyranny of modular language fueled the oppression of entire populations to fuel an empire.  The language led to actions (afternoon tea) and a host of other practices, words, and social customs to fuel the demand for Tea.  Unfortunately, the tyranny of modular language also fueled hot wars in China, more geographically distant suffering from the population consuming Tea.History of Tea | Dilmah School of Tea

Language – Plastic Terms

Diversity, what is it; what does it mean in practice versus meaning from a dictionary; what value does it have for a business?  Equity, same problem, fewer answers, more confusion.  Inclusion, same problem, confusion, chaos, and eventual destruction.  These are, but a small sample of current buzzwords strung together and causing problems in businesses.  There are entire word classes set apart for plasticization, which sound good to the ear, and that people love to rally behind, but these terms cover a hidden agenda.   They have been weaponized to destroy, not lift and build—tyranny through modular language, plastic words.Plastic Words: The Tyranny of a Modular Language By Uwe Poerksen

American Express is a perfect example of how DE&I efforts (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) have been weaponized to pick away, through politics, the non-politically affiliated, those who show up to their employment and merely want to work their job.  The University of Phoenix is another company long captured by, and suffering from, DE&I tyrants.  Both American Express and the University of Phoenix began their DE&I journeys with the best of intentions.  Still, the result remains the same, the minority classes bring politics anathema to good order and discipline into the company, initiating change cloaked in DE&I.  The result has been the discouragement and disenfranchisement of employees.  The DE&I champions crow and cheer for these people leaving as it injects more DE&I hiring, and the new employees realize that unless they are politically affiliated, read that as aligned to a militant tyrant in DE&I, they too will be out of work very shortly.

Language matters, and when terms are plasticized, the only result is destruction and tyranny.  Consider the teachers in the Albuquerque Public Schools System or the employees of the State of New Mexico; both populations stress DE&I initiatives under various names but with the same purpose.  Who are the enemies of DE&I; those who do not wear their politics on their sleeves, acting as emotionally charged smart bombs of the media.  Even if a person holds some of the DE&I beliefs, if they are not militant in their beliefs, they are ostracized by their language, judged, and removed from employment.Political Correctness = Language and Thought Control | Wake Up World

When the patients rule the asylum, the problems for all patients in the asylum double and triple, not improve.  The same result occurs when the vocal minorities of a population gain power that is not theirs, and they make no concerted efforts to rule fairly and justly.  One of the truths about any revolution is that those who initiated the revolution rarely (if ever) get to enjoy the fruits of their rebellion as they are so focused on fixing what they perceive as injustices, they miss that they have become worse in action than those they deposed.

80-20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule is known by many monikers, but always it is the same rule, in different wrapping – 80% of a population will be controlled by 20%.  In standard terms, the minority is setting the culture for the 80% to follow, and they hope you will never realize you are stronger without the vocal minority than with them.  Take the recent changes at Disney.  There is a vocal minority demanding change, couching the changes in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the Disney business model is about to self-destruct.  The same is true of American Express, where if you are male and white, you are not welcome.  But, if you are one of the members of any number of protected classes, you are welcome.  When politics interferes in professional pursuits, 80% will always suffer under the tyranny of the 20%.  What happens when the vocal minority becomes the majority, they fang themselves to death, and nobody is left to care because that 80% majority has left them to their own devices.Pareto Principle: understanding the 80/20 Rule

It should go without saying, but I will make plain, I am not against diversity.  I do believe that diversity for diversity’s sake is wrong, immoral, unethical, and anathema to good order in a society.  Diversity of thought should be preeminent as the diversity of thought transcends skin color and lifestyle choices.  Diversity of thinking includes the desire to see all succeed on merit, character, and individual action.  I abhor in the strongest terms picking a person solely based on their gender, skin color, religious preferences, disability status, culture, or any variable that supersedes accomplishment, education, and learned skill set.  The same is valid for inclusion and equity; when people cannot compete solely upon achievement, education, and intellectual skill sets, this creates an imbalance in the population.

Hence roadblocks to education must be removed, character-defining and building experiences should be shared and taught, and achievement recognized.  What is missing from schools from K-12 and up; is accomplishment, education, and learned skill sets.  What has replaced these; is DE&I, where the vocal minority is destroying with no thought for what replaces the institutions, societies, corporations, and more.  Iconoclasm in its most destructive form has taken over employers, and these companies are committing suicide to pacify, tranquilize, and placate a small population at the expense of all.Make the 80/20 Rule Work for Your Online Marketing Efforts | WillTan.com

Inherently, change is not bad but growing, productive, and useful change requires inputs from a diverse population.  Inclusion is not inherently a bad thing, but the current demands for inclusion, only for the sake of inclusion, make the activities of the vocal minority lethal to the entire social body.  Equity is a prerequisite for society to grow, develop, and be stable long-term.  This is why societies built on slavery, or those muzzling 50% of the population, are inherently ripe for hostile takeovers.

The actions of the vocal minority in employment right now are precarious at best, suicidal at worst, and permanently immoral and unethical.  The models they promote have no substance and enable unfair, unjust, and unequal systems.  Worse, companies that flout their customer base, which is the largest stakeholder in any business, will find smaller profit margins and higher expenses as employee churn increases.

Knowledge Check!One truth that should give hope to the employees affected is that when the minority becomes the majority in a body and does not have any substance, they destroy themselves.  C-Leaders, are you sure you want to take the company you have been placed in control over down this dangerous path?  On my first day at American Express, new hires were introduced to the rich, proud, and stable company history and core values.  How sad it is to witness how fast this company has fallen!  Who will replace these companies?  Will their replacements learn from the failures of the past?

© Copyright 2022 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Circling Back:  Going the Extra Mile in Customer Service

Bobblehead DollIt is no secret; I am a doctoral candidate.  On Facebook, I advertised my dissertation to find participants to engage in my dissertation data collection.  My dissertation is all about the role of the trainer in call center training.  I am looking to answer some specific questions about what a trainer does, their role in training, and flush out details about the role of the call center trainer in establishing genetic memory.  My first ad on Facebook, believe it or not, received more direct respondents than my second or third attempts.  That the respondents accused me of being fake, a troll, and committing several bodily functions on their timelines bothered me greatly.

When mentioned to representatives from Facebook, who could see the comments and the original ad, the representatives reflected less care than I would have ever imagined.  Yet, Facebook claims to be “customer-centric,” “customer-driven,” and “customer-obsessed.”  LinkedIn, AT&T, Sprint/T-Mobile, Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, and many other companies make similar claims and act similarly, where the professed policies are disconnected from reality, and the only person who suffers is oddly the customer.  Then, the agents representing these companies are then asked to “go the extra mile for the customer.”Pin by N D on Jokes | Dilbert comics, Work humor, Funny picture quotes

When going the extra mile was first addressed, leadership, training, business processes, and organizational communication all were aspects to the foundation to helping an agent “go the extra mile.”  More needs to be discussed on “going the extra mile” and delivering upon the promises made by leadership.  However, the discussion is useless unless followed swiftly by concerted action; thus, this article asks for and directly inspires action.

Compounded Leadership Failure

Let’s begin with reality and address the 300# gorilla.  To the leaders of companies, customers are listening, and they are not stupid!  Whether you believe this or not, your customers do, and they do not like what they see.  AT&T, LinkedIn, and Facebook regularly inundate me with the voice of the customer surveys, new products, performance surveys, surveys, surveys, surveys.  These are not the only companies demanding answers and resources from customers, but these companies are especially egregious at this practice.  Tell me, why does nothing ever change in customer approach, customer service, customer care, and the voice-of-the-customer always appears to fall on deaf ears?Colin Powell quote: Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you...

Leadership never collects qualitative and quantitative data and then uses this information to make change, drive visible customer affecting policy shifts, or even act like the customer is worthy of being listened to.  How do we, the customers know we are not being heard; the agents do not have the ability to affect change.  I called Xfinity/Comcast; I have an issue, I get nowhere with the agents, but I am still expected and offered multiple times the voice-of-the-customer survey to help improve customer relations.  I invest my time in completing the survey; I even indicate a return call to discuss the scores is acceptable, only later do I discover that the voice-of-the-customer data is never worked, customers are not called, and the company does not care.

Poor Leadership #inspirational #motivational #quotes | Bad leadership quotes, Leadership quotes ...If you are sending a survey out, you need to address the survey results.  Publicly with your agents, transparently with your shareholders and investors, and clearly and openly with your customers.  By refusing to do these things, the leadership failures in demanding customer resources to complete surveys are wasted, compounded, and the customer is listening!  Worse, the customer is sharing this information with other customers and is openly looking for options to replace you and your company!  By publicly claiming “customer-obsession,” “customer-centricity,” and “customer-first” propaganda (e.g., marketing promises), you are making a commitment.  Failure to honor that commitment delivers a “Used Car Sales” pitch, and lawyers and politicians become more trustworthy than you and your company.  Customers are tired of “Lemons” when paying for cherries; is this clear enough?

Who is your first customer?

To every person claiming the first customer is a service or product purchaser, you are WRONG!  Your first customer is your employees.  Yet, employee abuse remains central to employee churn.  Asking your employees to “go the extra mile” for an external customer and not seeing the business first go the extra mile for them is disheartening at best to your employees.

I am intimately familiar with a well-known company, its operations, and its customer commitment.  The company does an excellent job in employee relations, which leads to year-over-year success with external customers.  But the company has some deep-seated problems they are working on, and because they are honestly working on these issues, I am willing to give them anonymity for their efforts.  One of the most fundamental issues this company has is in product delivery; the operations in the warehouse prioritize outbound (customer shipping of products ordered) to the exclusion of quality.  The products are more important than the people, which is a growing pain for this company.Tiger Team

By forgetting that the first customer is the employees, this group churns at phenomenal rates compared to other business units.  Why?  Because of the insanity of being left out of customer service.  Company benefits, time-off, vacation policies, “swag,” free merchandise, etc., none of this compensates for irrational operations that fundamentally treat the employee poorly and in a confused manner.  If your company is “customer-focused,” then employees are top priority, and in making them top priority, they look after your external customers more efficiently, more expertly, and they will build a fatter bottom-line through “going the extra mile.”

When was the last time your employees were honestly engaged in voice-of-the-customer surveys and results?  When was the last time the employees knew they were the top priority in your business?  When was the last time operational policies and procedures were adjusted to remove confusion about employee worth and value?  Tell me, are your shareholders and investors treated better than your number one investor, your employees?  If so, your shareholders should be raking the current leadership over the coals for robbery and theft.  Reduced bottom lines because of employee treatment should be a significant issue of discussion by the shareholders and investors, for this is nothing short of robbery. You are compounding another leadership failure through employee abuse, which increases costs and lowers bottom-line performance, e.g., robbing the investor and shareholder because you have refused to provide your first customer simple customer recognition, let alone service.

Going the Extra Mile

Before a supervisor, team leader, director, or other leaders in your business organization asks for an employee to “go the extra mile,” rate that leader on this question, “Have they already walked two miles with the employee?”  If not, that person is asking for the impossible.  No extra efforts can or ought to be sought when leadership fails to first show and do what it takes to walk two miles with an employee.

Call Center BeansWant to know a secret?  When the leader first walks two miles with the employee, that leader never has to ask anyone to “go the extra mile,” EVER!  Your best leaders, your followers, are the people who, instead of looking forward first, make it a priority to look sideways.  These leaders are experts at lifting the talent needed to look forward to a higher level.  Looking sideways includes value-added training programs, professional paths to progression, recognizing and praising efforts honestly and frequently, delegating assignments and tasks, and being actively engaged in delivering “customer-centricity” to the employees.  As a supervisor, team lead, director, etc., your first customer is those who follow you; what have you done lately to prove customer obsession to them?

By the way, your first customer is listening, awake, and actively engaged in either growing or leaving, all based upon how you treat your first customer.  I suggest taking heed of them.?u=http3.bp.blogspot.com-CIl2VSm-mmgTZ0wMvH5UGIAAAAAAAAB20QA9_IiyVhYss1600showme_board3.jpg&f=1&nofb=1

If you want to be part of my dissertation research, please reach out to me using the following email address: msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu.  Please help me help you and your company through value-added research.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the photos or images used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Asininity, Stupidity, and Ridiculousness – Hell from Human Resources

As a human resources professional, I know the ineptitude and despicableness from both sides of the HR desk.  It is time to think, way outside the box, and all I ask is for your consideration of the proposed idea.  I know I am not alone in desiring a better path forward; here is a suggestion.

For my entire career, military and civilian, I have stood for what is right, fair, and equitable.  I hate bullies and detest bureaucrats creating problems to protect their power and ego, especially at the expense of others.  Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, gets my blood boiling faster than to experience “This is the way we do things here” thinking!  Today, I will expose some worms to sunshine and see if we might fry them from the soils of productivity and free the captives.

Two weeks ago, I applied for an internal job posting advertised since April 2020.  Not only am I highly skilled, well qualified, and possess the academic and experiential knowledge for the role, I also have performed this role multiple times.  My supervisor’s boss told me, “Nothing stops you from applying.”  This is the subtle way of saying that you will not be considered for this role because you were hired at a lower pay grade; you are not “humbled enough.”  Today, I was told more information, “You have to pay your dues at this company before we consider you promotable.”

What does “promotable” mean; it is the personal opinion of my supervisor and his boss who have to give their blessing on my knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Essentially I need a gold star in my copybook before they will look favorably upon my promotion.  Please note, I am not trying to weasel a different position; simply be considered honestly for a position I can compete with anyone for and compete well.  Want a kicker?  There are two ways to be considered for promotion:  1. Leave the company and “boomerang” back.  2.  Win approval from your leaders for that gold star and blessing, then compete against external and internal candidates for the position.

Consider this for a moment; enough people have felt punished by HR, their bosses, and the intransigent stupidity in the promotion process and stuck in their roles that they have intentionally left the company, then applied for the job they are qualified for, and won that position.  The company calls these people “boomerangs.”  They treat them as second-class citizens, and promotions are even more challenging for a “boomerang” than they originally left.

Upon higher into my current role, I was told several stories of people who did incredible tasks for the company and were refused promotions they deserved because the leaders never set up a promotion path with HR.  Why did these leaders refuse to set up a promotion growth path; because my department was being right-sized for a technological solution until it was discovered that technology could not replace the people.  Now, everyone is stuck; they cannot promote or afford to quit and return, and the political situation is unbearably ridiculous!

When I write about leadership failures, I write from deep experience in fighting stupidity, asininity, and ridiculousness in human resources.  There is no excuse for a leader to pacify down and plead up to look better for the next promotion.  Yet, today I was told, “you have to pay your dues; working here is ‘humbling.’”  So is joining the military and having Congress halt all promotions in your field because they feel it is a “good path for the military.”  It was stupid then, and it is still stupid now!

Hell from human resources includes some new verbiage gaining traction from the politicians, and frankly, this is a conversation begging to be had.  What are the employees in your organization, valuable, worthwhile, lazy, useless, human infrastructure, or individuals?  Choose your adjective, and I can tell you what type of leader you are.  Worse, I can forecast just how bad your business will treat everyone and how fast your company will die horribly!

A customer of mine told me I was crazy and full of “baked beans.”  They are bankrupt now, their employees all left with a horrible taste in their mouth for authoritarianism, tyranny, and oppression in their employer.  The red tape bureaucracy in human resources was such that to “avoid risk” in human resources (HR), the lawyers convinced the owners to design HR in such a way as to micro-manage to the Nth degree.  Too many HR departments are making the most egregious mistake in treating independent thinking adults like pre-schoolers in pre-K classes.

Unfortunately, the IRS supports the HR departments acting in this manner, and Congress continues to fund and increase the budget of the IRS to exasperate this situation further.  The powers of the IRS have been a recurring topic, and additional insight from those articles can be found in the links provided.

Would you like a solution to the fifth ring of Dante HR insanity?  FIRE Human Resource professionals.  HR is comparable to the man who discovers solutions to problems he creates after demanding everyone adopt the solution.  The fundamental treatise upon which HR justifies their existence is flawed and presume that humans need controlled.  However, if the IRS got out of dictating how to treat employees in the employer/employee relationship, HR would not be required!

Consider the veracity of returning HR to Dante’s fifth ring; every business already possesses human capital, structural capital, and relationship capital as part of its intellectual capital.  Intellectual capital makes your business different from your competition and is central to the knowledge management process.  Please note, HR did not build this for your company; like the government, HR has never been more than a “necessary evil” at best.  Creating processes and procedures that protect officiousness while punishing productivity and talented people.

How much does an open position cost an organization?  The honest and straightforward answer, nobody can quantify this number due to a mixture of variables.  The closest one can get to an estimate is between 3 times and 15 times the annual salary of the open position.  Why is this so difficult to quantify; here are some of the variables in the equation.  Please note that the human potential element, or the individual’s talents occupying the position, can never be quantified.

        • Annual Salary
        • Training
        • Salaries for those doing the job while the position is open
        • Loss of production from the position available and those covering the open role responsibilities
        • Organizational memory loss from the person leaving
        • Onboarding costs (advertising, interviewing, hiring)

Imperative to removing the minions from Dante’s Fifth Ring (HR), the organizational dimension’s seven S’s must be understood.  Leaders must constantly balance strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, style, and superordinate goals.  When HR is involved, balancing staff, skills, and style is crushed under the bureaucracy and inefficient thinking of bureaucrats who must have a process for everything.  Thus forming the disconnect between humans endeavoring towards an organizational goal (business) and achieving success.

Case in point, let us return to the open positions, the job market where millions of available jobs are stagnating, and people are not going back to work.  The model has failed, and the culprits are HR and the coequally corrupt government institutions on the local, county, state, and federal levels.  Thus, anyone with eyes can see that strategy, structure, and systems have been intentionally destroyed in businesses large and small by those charged with helping understand and support staff, skills, and styles while working to achieve superordinate goals.

Businesses are out of balance; the government built that!  Human resources helped.  America needs to reverse course, and it begins with freeing the employee from the employer/employee relationship.  While some will claim this answer is too simple, how many honestly remember what America was like before the Federal Government mandated how employers could compete for talent?  It is time to discover how small a government can shrink, and while shrinking, take HR with them!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Shifting the Employment Paradigm – I Still DO NOT want to be an Employee!

November 2012, I wrote the first in a series of articles on shifting the employee paradigms.  These articles discussed the freelance or consultant versus the employee in the structure of the organizational design.  Multiple times, the right to control has been addressed as part of the “rights” granted by the Internal Revenue Service to Employers, so the employers will continue to play the Federal Government’s game of control and heavy-handed authoritarian thuggishness.  These topics and more continue to surface on this blog in an attempt to help the employee understand the problem and issues, the loss of freedoms and rights, in becoming an employee.

Today, Joey, the blundering president, has published the 400+ page OSHA abomination that forces you to lose the rest of your privacy to your employer—ending HIPAA, foreclosing your rights to your liberty not to vaccinate, and shaming you into wearing a mask and discriminating if you do not.  While the OSHA regulation is unconstitutional and a clear governmental overreach, Congress remains silent in its scrutiny of the executive branch of the government.  Worse, the citizens of America think that the judicial branch can be trusted to “save them” from the executive branch of government, which is always a BAD IDEA!

OSHA and Joey have declared that employers with over 100 employees have to comply.  After this is accepted, then employers over 50-employees, then 10- employees, and so forth will be targeted until nobody who employees anyone can escape.  This is how the government works, and this is why we need a different structure to operate under.

Employers, employees, I have a better idea than trusting the government to act responsibly.  It is past time to revisit the structure wars and redesign the employee/employer relationship in America.  What is the answer; knowledge vending instead of the employer/employee relationship.  Please, allow me a moment of your precious time to explain.

The idea is simple.  You have employees who know your business cold, know your customers, understand your processes, procedures, workflows, products, and services.  How many of your employees would love to brand themselves to your organization as knowledge vendors?  Ask them!  Then offer them the choice to become independent contractors using the IRS publications as a guide.  The knowledge vendor provides their tools, you provide them access, and they brand themselves and contract to serve your organization, with autonomy to work for you on their terms and schedule.

Please note, this is critical; the IRS continues to change the rules on an almost fluid and whimsical basis.  The link takes you to the designation between an employee and a contractor.  Lawyers will need to help design the necessary contracts to control the relationship.  Some assistance will be required to help those transitioning to ensure they are not killed financially in the tax tsunami the IRS likes to launch.  However, taking this step forces the Federal Government hand over OSHA and allows you and your now independent contractor workforce to return to business instead of compliance. Everyone retains their liberty, plus your privacy and medical records remain your business, not your employer’s or the Federal Governments’.

It cannot be stressed enough; the IRS should never have been placed in control over the employee/employer relationship controls.  Worse, these controls should never have been assumed by the government in the first place.  Since the Federal Government has assumed these powers, everyone needs to understand the fundamental categories that differentiate an employee from a knowledge vendor/contractor.

These topics are covered in-depth on the links, and I have covered them in various articles previously.  Until Congress removes these rights from the IRS, the contracts covering those knowledge vendors must spell out succinctly these controls to avoid the IRS meddling and penalizing the vendor and the employer maliciously.  More to the point, the IRS has, in the past, gone backward and retroactively changed its rules to penalize employers and vendors through “clarifying,” which the courts upheld.

Risky path to take; potentially!  However, all life is risk, and I cannot think of anything more perilous than capitulating to Joey and his merry band of authoritarian thugs!  Plus, America needs to join the rest of the industrialized nations in offering choices to the employer/employee relationship.  Tax laws, generally, and the IRS specifically, are choking the lifeblood out of American ingenuity and increasing the cost of compliance year-over-year.  We need real solutions to these problems and freeing the American worker is the best solution.

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

The Role of a Call Center Trainer: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Bobblehead DollI want to express my deepest gratitude to Call Centre Helper Magazine for the opportunity to advertise for my dissertation research.  I once asked a call center leader what a trainer does; their answer still makes me chuckle.

A trainer trains!

Kind of obvious, right.  Now, what does a trainer train?  How does a trainer train?  How does a business leader know the trainer has been successful in training?  What is the purpose of training?  What does training do for those trained?  These questions and the business leaders’ comment have inspired my professional and academic footsteps for several years now.Call Center 2

In early July 2021, I finally received permission to begin human testing for my dissertation.  I have posted several advertisements on social media for call center workers, trainers, and senior leaders to entice 17 people willing to answer some questions about training in call centers, a call center trainer, and what precisely a call center trainer does.  The following is a brief description of the aims and intents of my research to increase interest and hopefully glean the needed participants to finish my study.

Consider for a moment a teacher who has influenced you professionally or personally, and why did they make such an impact?  Could a different person have made the same impact?  Why?

The above questions are the crux of my research; to date, the role of the instructor has not been considered a variable in corporate training.  As an adult educator, I find this gap very alarming.  In academia, the teacher’s role has been extensively studied, and opinions abound regarding the role of the teacher.  Yet, in a professional setting, no researcher has addressed this gap to date.  With the push to move all training to computer-based solutions in autonomous environments, if the trainer does not teach corporate knowledge and behaviors, who does?

Call Center BeansIn researching the history of professional training, the model employed has not changed since a master taught journeyman who led novice instruction.  Yet, with technology, global populations, cultures, language, and globe-spanning organizations, the role of the trainer seems to continue to take a back seat.  Yet, if a corporate trainer profoundly influenced you professionally, would you not want that experience for another person?

Due to the restrictions on human testing in research, I cannot change the dry legalese of the advertisements.  I know they are long, tedious, and challenging to get through.  However, if you are interested, please get in touch with me directly using:

Msalisbury1@my.gcu.edu

Please note, to participate, you will need the following:

      • Work in an English Speaking Call Center with a home base in the United States.
      • Have a LinkedIn account (This is for verification of professional qualifications only).
      • Speak English like a native.
      • Be willing to answer demographic questions, including time in the current role, education, and so forth.
      • Be willing to elaborate upon your answers. I will ask you some questions about your experiences; please provide details, depth, and descriptions as your answer.

Knowledge Check!Important to note, your name and business will never be mentioned in my dissertation!  I am not collecting any personal data beyond education and years of experience.  Any direct quotes employed will carry no connecting data, and no one will see your details.

Thank you for considering joining me in my dissertation research.  I look forward to publishing this research and discussing the findings with you in later articles.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

Flexible Workspaces – Alternative Work Options

Bobblehead DollAfter my service-connected injuries went crazy in 2010 and my nerves decided I needed to be a “bobblehead doll,” I quickly realized there was a need for alternatives to commuting to an office every day and working as a traditional employee.  However, alternatives to conventional employment continue to be few and far between, primarily due to the IRS in America.  2020 saw a breakout in other options to the traditional employment paradigm, and I would like to continue this discussion to generate more alternatives to conventional employment.

Olmstead and Smith (1989) wrote what I consider to be the quintessential and sentinel book on alternatives to traditional employment, “Creating a Flexible Workspace: How to Select and Manage Alternative Work Options.”  Flexibility in the workplace is not just a Human Resources (HR) duty but is helped by having HR people with imaginations and who are empowered to be creative to keep good employees.  Flexibility is not merely limited to a wide variety of work schedules which can be offered optionally.  Flexibility in the workspace also includes on and off-site employment, and cross-training, as key fundamentals in empowering employees and driving workplace flexibility programs.  But flexibility always begins with the realization that flexibility is a two-directional relationship between employer and employee and a means for enhancing the talents, skills, and abilities already hired as part of a dedicated appreciative inquiry desire to innovate.

Appreciative InquiryQuestion

Appreciative inquiry is a growth mechanism that states that they already have enough of what a business organization needs, provided they listen to their employees.  Appreciative inquiry and common sense tell leaders who want to know and change their organization how and where to begin.  Appreciative inquiry-based leadership is 6-continuous steps that start small and cycle to larger problems as momentum for excellence permeates through an organization.  But the first step, just like in defeating a disabling addiction, is admitting there is a problem.

The six operational steps of appreciative inquiry:

      1. Admit there is a problem and commit to change.
      2. Define the problem.
      3. Discover the variables and stay focused on the positive.
      4. Dream BIG!
      5. Design the future and outline the steps to that future.
      6. Destiny, create the destination you desire.

Follow the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”  The appreciative inquiry model can be scaled, repeated, implemented into small or large teams, and produce motivated members who then become the force to building change.  Allow yourself and your team to learn, this takes time, but through building motivation for excellence, time can be captured to perform.

Call Center Agent - FemaleFlexibility and Viability – Not just Terms, but Lifestyles

Flexibility in an organization is understood as accepting change and positively using that change to grow and develop more flexibility.  Viability in an organization is where the continuing effectiveness of flexibility generates new growth markets and creates the organization’s potential to flex to meet the growth areas.  Flexibility and viability are interlinked and interwoven ideas that every employee should be conscious of and striving to enhance personally as part of their brand.

Andragogy - The PuzzleErroneously called “Employee Engagement,” flexibility and viability are the continued efforts of all employees to participate in the business’ success.  Appreciative inquiry is the sum of the efforts to flex and be viable in competition with other businesses, recognizing that the answers to your current problems are always found in listening to employees.  Please note, you can think your business is flexible enough, but when the winds of change blow, will your business collapse or grow?

For example, as a consultant and subject matter expert, I was called into a manufacturing company to improve flexibility.  The company had been around for more than 100-years, and the owners, a family business, figured they were pretty flexible.  From day one, though, it was apparent the business had stagnated, and there was no flexibility or viability left in the organization.  When the 2008 market recession occurred, the company lost 5 of its 6 operating shifts and barely survived by draining all remaining liquidity to stay afloat.  The company has limped along ever since, to the amazement of everyone who has worked at this facility.

GearsHence, one must understand the principles of viability, flexibility, and appreciative inquiry as a lifestyle of daily choices where the leadership is engaged in and listening to employees.  Failure to listen remains the number one reason businesses, and governments fail.  Who should governments be listening to; average citizens, not statisticians, not special interest groups, not lawyers and political cronies, the people who voted them into power.  Who should businesses be listening to; their employees, not customers, not vendors, not shareholders, all of whom need to have a voice, but the front-line employee has answers.

Realities versus Fiction

Having worked with many a small businessperson across the continental US, the smaller a business understands the need to listen to employees, but the bigger a company becomes, the less desire they have to listen to anyone, let alone employees.  This is a reality.quote-mans-inhumanity

The fiction is the proclamation that the customer should be listened to, the shareholders know what the business needs, or the vendors have essential information for the company.  While all have a seat at the table, the front-line employees remain a wealth of information generally untapped, unused, and depressingly denied the ability to help.  As a consultant, I spend most of my time listening to the employees, then presenting their ideas to management.  I have never claimed another employee’s ideas as mine and never will.  Yet, I know too many consultants whose ethical and professional brands might be slightly less demanding than my behavior standards.  This also is reality, watch the ethics of a consultant; if they waiver, there is duplicity nearby!

Creating Flexibility in the Workplace

As an industrial and organizational psychologist, I affirm in a language most somber that no single tool will be a “magic bullet” for fixing employee concerns and building flexibility and viability.  Holistic solutions are not just a current “buzzword,” but an actual truth.  The solutions must grow from an apt quote from Captain Jack Sparrow:

“The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man, or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that someday. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not” [emphasis mine]?

People ProcessesWhat can your company do, and what can your company not do?  Between these two extremes are a lot of different possibilities, opportunities, and areas for exploration.  For example, as a call center, can you home shore your agents?  Maybe the technology is there, but are the legal questions regarding data security and safety open to home shoring?  What about contingent employment, where you use knowledge vendors to fill in during peak times, thus allowing your call center to flex off and not have to work overtime so much?  Would your call center do well with phased retirement, partial retirement, or voluntary reduced work time programs?

Each of these options builds flexibility and viability, but they come with consequences, and the valuation of those consequences should include input from the front-line employees.  For example, a call center I am familiar with used to have stepped departments, where a rep could learn the basics, then promote into the next higher step.

3-direectional-balanceExcept, the model was broken by HR, and the depth of available personnel dried up.  Thus, the call center went to a universal agent model, where all agents were expected to know all the different departments and steps and act accordingly.  The universal model was sold as a cost-saving measure.  The employees did not like the new model as all the business processes were built on the old stepped agent model.  The universal model failed, the company could not afford to return to the stepped model, and knowledge was walking out the door at an exceeding pace.

The answer was to listen to the front-line employees, but it took more than five years and ten different consulting firms and technology firms to reach this point.  But the cost of lost potential sales and lost business knowledge is still hindering this company from a full recovery.  Why; because the change that broke the company has never been fixed, just plastered over, and the universal agent approach destroyed organizational trust between employees and the employer.  Decisions have consequences, and if you do not know what your company can do, you do not know what your company cannot do; especially, if you refuse to listen to the front-line employees.I'm not listening - boring :: Funny :: MyNiceProfile.com

What will your employees do?  What are your employees already capable of doing if provided the opportunity?  Where is the focus in your company, customers, vendors, shareholders, or employees?  Why?  Who of your employees can you absolutely trust to accomplish a task?  How do you know that employee is trustworthy?  What makes that employee happy to return to work every day?Michael Shurtleff quote: Listening is not merely hearing, it is receiving the message...

When you listen to your employees, honestly and openly communicate with them, and know the why to share the why your employees can work marvels you could not believe possible.  If you desire flexibility and viability in your company, build it!  One employee at a time using imagination, honest communication, and build organizational trust.  You will be surprised at how often the answer to improving your company doesn’t have a dollar sign but a living person and a debt of gratitude.

Reference

Olmsted, B., & Smith, S. (1989). Creating a flexible workplace: How to select and manage alternative work options. American Management Association (AMACOM).

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Loyal Oppositionists – A Leadership Principle Requiring Focus and Explanation

ToolsThe last time I discussed being a loyal oppositionist, I am afraid people missed the point.  Apparently, the thought absorbed was that only a person could be a loyal oppositionist in politics, which is incorrect.  Thus, I am revisiting the principles of choosing to be a loyal oppositionist.

Loyal Oppositionists

It is less that you are an adversary and more that you are someone with an opinion that (although frightening to me) might in some way enrich my own. And if I raise myself to being a partner with you on this mutual journey of ours, and if I refuse to bow to the posture of being a frightened adversary as you intersect my journey with a journey different than my own, we can profoundly change what we would have otherwise both died wrestling over.”  ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Webster defines “Loyal Opposition” as “a [person] whose opposition to the party in power is constructive, responsible, and bounded by loyalty to fundamental interests and principles.”  If we are ever in a position of power, we, the loyal oppositionists, stay mindful of our actions, responsible and accountable to those who supported us to power. We remain true to the organization’s fundamental principles, giving us the privilege to serve as a leader.

Lemmings 5Loyal Oppositionists never use violence to control the thoughts of others.  We refute ideas with more potent ideas.  We employ words, conviction, and confidence.  We love the freedom found under the “Rule of Law.”  We are constructive in our comments, truthful, and we research and report, even if it means we must improve our individual actions to meet our ideals.  Now, more than ever in American History, America needs loyal oppositionists to step forward, answer the call, and defend liberty against the tyranny thrust upon us.

You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”  ― Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

Principles of Loyal Oppositionists

Trust is earned, respect is given, and loyalty is demonstrated. Betrayal of any one of those is to lose all three.” – Ziad K. Abdelnour

Thus, the first principle of loyal oppositionists is to adhere to and commit to understanding this basic equation.  Failure to know and live this basic equation means loss of leadership, wasted resources, and chaos.  Important to note, these principles come before being “constructive, responsible, and bounded.”

Exclamation MarkWhile not precisely a ranked principle, a person’s character is witnessed; they are not spoken, not listened to, observed, and judged by others.

You can easily judge a man’s character by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Like trust in a relationship, a person’s character is built upon mutual experiences, time, and consistent behavior.  Loyal Oppositionists understand the power and reputation inherent in a person’s character; they are slow to judge, quick to observe and create their own opinions about other people’s character.  Realizing that a person’s character is built, allow yourself and others time to get to know your character.Virtue

The following cannot be stressed enough:

Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” – Woodrow Wilson

Self-sacrifice is not equivalent or comparable to being a floor mat for everyone to walk on.  Self-Sacrifice is all about knowing the why and being a volunteer.  Not to the point of burn-out, and not to inflate an ego or anything other than an honest desire to render assistance to the best of one’s abilities.  Loyal oppositionists want to help!  Failing to understand this mental desire is the number one reason why loyal oppositionists lose positions, roles, and employment.  Leaders, do you know who to trust as a loyal oppositionist?  Do you know how to use a loyal oppositionist to advance ideas to solutions?

DetectiveConfucius makes a powerful statement here for loyal oppositionists and their leaders.

Base yourself in loyalty and trust. Don’t be companions with those who are not your moral equal. When you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to [admit and] correct it.”

How often has a team failed in competition because one team member has the moral integrity of a louse and the entire team suffers, without ever knowing why they keep losing?  Consider your favorite sports teams, how many make the news for acting without moral integrity, and you can answer the first question quickly and easily!  Doubt this fact, pick a team, any team, any sport, and job, and you will find the truth glaring at you.  Morality matters!

Leaders…  Never Forget

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.” – Edward R. Murrow

Remove America, insert your company or branded organization, and you will find significant truth in the statement from Mr. Murrow.  Dissent is defined as concluding contrary to the majority, expressing an opinion different from prevailing opinions or an official position, or simply a disagreement.

cropped-bird-of-prey.jpgI was working in a call center for a prominent online adult educator, where I questioned the software being changed and the rollout of the new software system.  The software would not be finished and thoroughly user-friendly for an additional five years after the initial rollout.  I expressed my dismay at rolling out a partially completed product when time and energy should have been put into finishing the software before rolling it out for all the employees.  My director felt this was disloyal to the organization, trumped-up fallacious claims, and wanted to punish me for disloyalty.  I walked out of that job; I was not disloyal then, I am still not disloyal to the brand.  I am not loyal to that director or the supervisor who craved a promotion and signed off on my being punished on fallacious claims and charges.

Mr. Murrow’s point is extremely critical for leaders and followers to embrace.  Loyal opposition lives as long as leaders, and followers, agree to disagree.  In the middle of two extreme points, truth is found, solutions improve, and people are built.  Thus, loyal oppositionists’ value is the second point in an extreme to aid in changing perspectives and building a better product, service, country, or nation.

Knowledge Check!While killing loyal opposition is most visible in the political spectrum where partisan politicians cannot agree to disagree and work together, the problem with killing loyal oppositionists is everywhere.  From sports teams to board rooms, to political forums to every business, refusing loyal opposition has become the disease we are strangled with.  Some try to blame communication skills, others try to blame the “speed of business,” others will use one of a thousand other excuses, but as the axiom goes, “Excuses are like butt-holes, everyone has one, and they stink!”  Embrace your loyal oppositionists and allow them to help you!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Buzzwords and Canned Phrases – More Tyranny From Plastic Language

Stretched WordsPlasticized words make the most trouble.  Unfortunately, public education in America does not appear to care; public educators are some of the worst abusers of words, disconnecting words from meanings to achieve an agenda, which is practicing mental terrorism.  Poerksen (1995) discusses this phenomenon in some detail, and the need to be more cognizant of the problem is a small part of the solution. For example, Poerksen (1995) brings up the term ‘strategy’; the context might not be clear. Without specifying the intention and meaning, the audience becomes lost quickly but lost with confidence and lost doing what they understand.

Hitler’s Germany was famous for plasticizing words to make socially unacceptable actions acceptable with no negative consequences. For example, consider how cattle cars were used in the transportation of Jewish Citizens and other humans deemed useless, by plasticizing the term “cattle,” the Jews could be eliminated, society could believe what they were doing as acceptable, and the political agenda of Hitler was pushed forward, because a human of different religion, handicap, and so forth has been dehumanized to the level of cattle.Non Sequitur - Plasticity of Language

Poerksen (1995) is correct in labeling those who intentionally destroy language through plastic words as tyrants and tyrannical actions.  Mao was an excellent speaker, but his deceiving methods included making words plastic to cover abuses of people, destruction of lives, and to help his followers feel good about what they were doing. Likewise, ex-President Obama used a TelePrompTer because extemporaneous speaking is not his forte and because of the plastic words which were bent, twisted, and molded to deceive.  We all remember the promises of Ex-President Obama where ObamaCare is concerned.  However, what is fading from the collective public memory are the plastic expressions lauded upon Bergdahl to justify nefarious actions.  Bergdahl is a tiny example of how Ex-President Obama manipulated language to hide, obfuscate, denigrate, and deride the American People.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)3-direectional-balance

If you are going to work in a department with such an auspicious title as “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEI), one might imagine that you have a clear and present understanding of the power of words. But, apparently, those working in DEI either have an agenda and desire to be tyrants or are uneducated in the power and ability of words.  Draw your own conclusion, but I present in totem an email received earlier this week while I was out of the office.

12 Things You Should Never Say… And What To Say Instead

It’s easy to say the wrong thing when you’re under stress or a problem arises. Take a pause to reframe your response:

        1. That’s not my problem. ‘I recommend you speak to_____’
        2. But we’ve always done it that way. That’s a different approach, can you tell me why it’s better?’
        3. There’s nothing I can do. I’m a bit stuck, can you help me find other options?’
        4. This will only take a minute. ‘Let me get back to you on a timeframe.’
        5. That makes no sense.I’m not sure about that one – can you give me some more details on your thinking behind it?’
        6. You’re wrong. ‘I disagree and here’s why ______ what do you think?’
        7. I’m sorry, but…. I’m sorry about that… next time I will _____’
        8. I just assumed that. ‘Could you clarify what your expectations are for me?’
        9. I did my best. ‘What could I do better next time?’.
        10. You should have... ‘It didn’t’ work – here’s what I recommend next time…’
        11. I may be wrong, but... ‘Here’s an idea…’
        12. I haven’t had time. ‘I will be able to get this done by…’

And if you have said something you regret, here are three steps to quickly recover:

        1. Apologize. Be sincere for any upset or confusion you might have caused
        2. State what you didn’t mean. Admit your error, explain what you did not intend to do or say.
        3. Say what you actually meant. Explain what you really intended to say or do.

Please note, no grammar changes were made in copying and pasting this email; I changed the format to emulate the original. So now, let us carefully examine, without judging the grammar, the canned phrasing presented here along three lines: applicability, usefulness, and value.

ApplicabilityDetective 3

When discussing applicability, we are looking for situations where the canned phrasing offered is better than being natural, admitting error honestly, and moving forward from the current position in a constructive manner.  I fully appreciate that the 12 bolded phrases might not be the best way to state something.  However, the lack of applicability for the canned replacement phrases does not improve the situation.  Imagine a situation where the offered canned phrase would work, and I will show you a real-life scenario where it was tried and failed miserably.

Drawing upon more than 20 years of experience in and around call centers as a subject matter expert, as a customer relations expert, and published author, I can certify that canned phrases do not improve situations, nor can they cover mistakes.  Canned phrases stick out like a red dot on a white cloth!  The customer can hear the canned phrases, and the canned phrases will result in negative consequences!  Hence, this information from DEI fails the smell test before ever launching as a potential solution.

UsefulnessLook

When discussing the usefulness of a tool, the first aspect to always note is that any tool should feel comfortable, almost as if it was an extension of yourself.  Tools are intention incarnate; we select tools to perform tasks we cannot perform without the tool.  For example, hammering nails into house framing requires a hammer.   Not just any hammer, but a framing hammer, specifically designed for the job, framing, and because all framing hammers are not manufactured equally, should feel like an extension of your arm and hand.  The same is true for words; words are tools employed to communicate and should feel like an extension of yourself, be personal, and be helpful for the intent of delivering a message.

Again, we find the DEI email and canned phrases not passing the smell test.  Take any single item in the list above and try to use the exact phrase in a sentence with a friend or co-worker, and you will find yourself struggling to personalize that phrase.  Worse, saying it aloud makes you struggle with the offered grammar. So again, try personalizing that phrase; can you find any variation that feels natural to your method of speaking?  If so, you have used the offered phrase, but does it add or detract to the conversation when applying that phrase?  Herein lay the problem, some of the proposed phrases might work with individual variation but still cannot be used for a positive result.

ValueAndragogy - The Puzzle

Value is the sum of the application and usefulness of a tool to create opportunities to advance the situation to a solution positively.  More to the point, the value remains in the hands of the tool user, not the suggester of canned phrases. Thus, the tool’s value is not found in what has been created but in the usefulness and application to the tool’s user.

For example, while working in a call center, the agents were instructed to fit as many “keywords” into a conversation as possible.  The Quality Assurance Department (QA) was counting how often these keywords were used, so the pressure to perform was on the agent.  QA found that the offered words were often used in a single sentence to begin or end the call, and more often than not, when used during a call, led to call escalation.  Hence, the value of the terms was lost on the customer and worsened customer relationships.  Instead of releasing the agent from using keywords, the business managers doubled down.  The management team had no clue about the usefulness of the words as tools for communication and disregarded the need for tool personalization.  When negative results occurred, they compounded their error.  10-years after this disastrous decision, the agents are still forced to use tools that do not fit, the customers have continued to leave in droves, and the management team still struggles to understand why.

Knowledge Check!Application, usefulness, and value are how you measure tools, any tool.  From a tape measure to a hammer, from a computer to computer software, from words to headsets, the tools must meet these three criteria. Unfortunately, buzzwords and canned phrases do nothing to build value, enhance enthusiasm, or build cohesion into an impetus to motivate.  Often, buzzwords and canned phrases do the exact opposite, and failing to understand applicability, usefulness, and value is the problem of those insisting upon terminology, not the audience.  It cannot be stressed enough, plastic words lead to mental terrorism, and terrorism always leads to tyranny!

Reference

Poerksen, U. (1995). Plastic words: The tyranny of modular language (J. Mason, & D. Cayley, Trans.). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

 © 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE: “Constructive Criticism” – Killing The Lie!

Bird of PreyPoerksen (2010) provided sage counsel regarding how language plasticity leads to tyranny. Unfortunately, when discussing criticism, the tyranny of “constructive criticism” is displayed, and it is time for this lie to end, permanently!  Let me state, for the record and unequivocally, criticism never constructs positive behaviors!  Criticism doesn’t change simply because an adjective attempts to make criticism less harmful.

Criticism

Criticism defined, provides key insight from the common definition, “The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.”  Disapproving based upon perception and expressed through words, looks, actions, and behaviors; this is criticism, and the best people in the world to criticize are the British.  IIf I call the British extremely critical and claim that is a compliment to the residents of the British Isles, those in Scotland and Ireland will understand, and no adjective in the world can make this criticism “constructive.”  As a point of reference, I draw this conclusion about the British from history, but knowing that does not make the criticism less accurate or less painful. On the contrary, I think the British have come a long way in changing their critical behaviors, actions, and manners and applauding them for their growth.

NO FearThe remaining definitions in the term criticism expand nicely upon the point that criticism and being critical can never be “constructive.”  “The analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of work.”  “A person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something.”  The etymology of critic, which is the root of criticism, comes to us from Latin criticus, from Greek Kritikos, from kritēs ‘a judge’, from krinein ‘judge, decide.’  Never forget criticism, or the act of being critical originates from personal perception, a choice to be judgmental and critical.  The intent is to pass judgment upon something, someone, or someplace with the intent to cause personal harm or sway the opinions of others.

Constructive

Being constructive is “serving a useful purpose, or tending to build up.”  As noted above, criticism cannot be constructive because the adjective “constructive” is the polar opposite of criticism, which tends to tear down, demean, and depress.  Yet, when business leaders begin to write annual reviews, they are told to constructively criticize their employees, to sandwich criticism between praise to make the criticism less painful, and to construct comments in a manner that showcases strengths while not dwelling on the criticism.  Why; because this is the “scientifically approved” method for leadership, provide “constructive criticism.”  Except, criticism is a personal opinion and can never construct anything!

Why are we discussing criticism?Why

09 June 2021, in my company email box, I received an email, considered a “Thought of the Day,” from no less an auspicious source as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Department (DEI).  If anyone knew the damage of tyrannical language, I would think those in DEI would have a clue.  Yet, by their email, it is clear that DEI continues to drink the Kool-Aid and act the tyrant where language is concerned.  The email attempts to define destructive criticism and constructive criticism and then provides steps for distinguishing between the two forms of criticism.  Completely forgetting that criticism can never be constructive and will always be destructive.  From the email, we find these two fallacious concepts:

      • Destructive criticism: is undermining and can cause harm. There is no upside or way to positively spin what is said/written because the critic does not have your best interest at heart. It is destructive criticism that gives people fear of criticism in general.
      • Constructive criticism: is designed to be helpful and is based on valid facts/observations. It’s meant to help you grow and become stronger. It’s not always positive, but it can help you to see things in a new light. The critic almost always gives it based on their experience and genuinely wants to help out.Anton Ego 4

Using the definitions provided, can you see the tyranny?  Are the problems with plasticizing criticism behind the adjective “constructive” evident?  Do you understand the term plastic language and how plasticizing a word can destroy a person? Finally, ask yourself, does the professional critic write to “help the subject” of the criticism out, or do they criticize for another purpose entirely?

undefined1960, Doris Day’s movie, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” has a character who moves from being a professor of acting at a college to being a theater critic.  The movie is a comedy and delightfully shows the problems with criticism.  Better, the film underscores how criticizing never leads to constructing a person, a reputation, or an industry.  A more recent example of the problems with criticism can be found in the Disney/Pixar animated movie “Ratatouille.”  Anton Ego is the critic of restaurants, and his name strikes fear and dread into the hearts of the cooks and chefs in a restaurant.  Anton Ego is a tyrant who employs criticism as a tool for his own ends.  The final criticism of Chef Gusteau’s Restaurant near the end of the movie is a stunning example of how criticism can never be constructive!

Bait & SwitchFrom the DEI email, we find something very interesting in the Constructive vs. Destructive questions; the lack of the term “criticism” in the constructive criticism questions. Instead, criticism has been subtly changed to “feedback” in every place the term criticism should reside. So, for example, the first item under constructive is stated, “Feedback and advice from others are essential for growth and success.  Look at criticism as a learning opportunity.”  Better still, the third item in the constructive list states, “Detach yourself from criticism.”

Your ability to understand and refuse to play word games promotes operational trust in an organization, brings stability to teams, and establishes you as a person willing to learn.  Learning thwarts tyranny, and the tyrant has to give ground.  Never lose the moral high ground!

Knowledge Check!Fighting tyrannical modular language, or the plastic word games people play to control an audience, I suggest the following:

        1. Question terms used—demand logical answers.
        2. Know words and definitions; if unsure, ask SIRI, look the terms up in multiple dictionaries, but don’t rely upon one source for an explanation.
        3. When in doubt, practice #2, then #1 until you are less confused. I have found those working to plasticize words cannot stand scrutiny.
        4. Sunshine disinfectant works when tyranny is found; put the tyrant in the sunshine and watch them emulate a vampire in the sunshine!

Freedom requires a willing mind and a courageous heart; you are never alone when you take a stand against tyranny. So stand and watch the tyranny begin to fall like a rock slide.  Be the tiny rock that starts something big!

Reference

Poerksen, U. (2010). Plastic words: The tyranny of a modular language. Penn State Press.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.