Archive for April, 2008

Waste Management manage to waste my time

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Ordering a rubbish skip should be a simple no-brainer. Unless of course the company lures you in by offering a special deal and then fails to deliver on its promise.

The ad on the radio sounded promising - order a skip for Anzac weekend and save $27 on usual price with Voucher Mate. I needed one anyway, so it was perfect (I thought). First step go to the website and order it there - enter all my details and go to the pricing page - no discount or facility to get my voucher discount. No worries, I’ll call them directly and it’ll all be sweet.

Firstly, the call quality was rubbish (appropriate), which didn’t help - I could barely hear them. The words “voucher mate” were either comprehended as Kitumbatu Swahili or, perhaps, familiar Kiwi “voucher - mate”. Whatever - they had no clue what I was talking about - so put me on hold and then dropped the call. I tried again - more time on hold - “could they take my details and ring me back tomorrow?” By that stage I’d had enough- called Skip Bins instead - in 2 minutes all sorted, no fuss and only eleven bucks more than “the deal”.

When a company’s processes aren’t coordinated between its marketing arms and customer channels it winds up creating customer dissatisfaction. I’d been a Skip Bins customer before and was willing to switch on “the deal” - but they won’t get me again.

Finally, did anyone think of testing? An employee could have acted as a “mystery shopper” and tried to order a bin with a voucher discount. That would have cost all of five minutes to ensure the promotion was working.

Meeting minutes - take hours

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

The conventional wisdom says that thorough and rigorous minute-taking is a requirement for effective meeting practice. In some cases, where there are compliance or other legal reasons for doing so - yes. However, for the vast majority of meetings this is overkill and to have a dedicated minute-taker is an expensive luxury.

I was discussing this with an Executive Assistant who was regaling me with the number of hours that she would be spending taking minutes in meetings and then writing them up. A one and a half hour meeting takes about an hour to write up - in detail - since there’s no point in having a dedicated minute-taker just to write summary notes and action points. That’s 2.5 person hours to produce the record of the meeting.

We recently demonstrated the Action Meetings process to a group of senior managers. One of the features they particularly liked was the way we encourage minutes to be taken. It works like this - use a whiteboard and record the agenda, decisions and resolutions and action points on the whiteboard. If it’s self-copying then press the button with multiple copies and give every participant their copy of the minutes as they leave or take a photo with a digital camera and send to ScanR and then email the images to participants - time taken, 5 to 10 minutes max.

95% of the value of minutes is in the action point list. If you just record them, you’re working smart.

All the above ignores the question - does anybody actually read meeting minutes? Maybe they do - in the next meeting when more time gets wasted discussing whether the hitherto unread minutes are actually an accurate record.

A five-minute primer for visual (and not so visual) thinkers

Friday, April 4th, 2008

I need diagrams and pictures to make sense of anything - until I see a few squiggles on a page or whiteboard I struggle to understand situations let alone try to formulate strategies or solutions.

Ten and a half commandments of visual thinking

This manifesto The 10 1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking: The “Lost Chapter” from The Back of the Napkin from the Change this website is a very quick, useful guide to some rules for generating effective problem solving pictures - the commandments come with pictures, as you’d expect.

Misleading traffic lights

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Do road engineers drive over the roads they’ve altered and check that everything is in order and nothing is missing?

The road layout where Webb Street meets Willis St in Wellington has been changed in the past few months to allow two lanes to turn left into Brooklyn Road for better flow south. If you take the outer lane, be careful not to follow the traffic light that sits right in front of you as it is missing the set of lights indicating the left filter. It would be all to easy to swing left and not see a pedestrian crossing with lights from east to west (towards the hotel willis) until it’s too late.

Ambiguous traffic lights - the right light is missing the left filter lights

The question that intrigues me is who, if anyone, looks at roads from the drivers point of view and not the engineers point of view? And - do they do a check afterwards to ensure it’s all OK? Unlike software which usually doesn’t affect life or limb, failures and omissions in road engineering can have serious consequences.

Heaphy Track - an overweight pack is a WOMBAT

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Because the Heaphy Track is a comparatively easy tramp it attracts a high proportion of first-time and inexperienced trampers - a group into which I fit very comfortably. One of the classic mistakes this group makes is to carry too much stuff - especially food. Yes - carrying too much stuff in your pack is a WOMBAT (maybe less of money and brains and more of effort and feet).

We had an idea we had too much stuff so on the way over we stopped near the top of the Takaka Hill and pulled out all that we thought unessential. I’m so glad we did.

That was Saturday, roll forward to Tuesday and the final walk from Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai - and the feet are feeling sore and the pack is lighter than it was but still feeling a bit heavy. Resting up in Punakaiki it was time to take stock of what food was left in the pack.

The unused food that was carried over the Heapy Track

Here’s the short list (individual weights are approximate) :

Half packet cabin bread
One third bag of parsley
200g spreadable butter
200g rolled oats
250g packet of fruit digestve biscuits (unopened)
200g peanut butter
135g satay rice
200g roasted cashew nuts
200g dark muscovado suger
85g can of tuna
150g honey
100g vegemite
100g salami
2 pkts Kavli bread
700g scroggin
20+ herb teabags
50ml rice bran oil
small packets of chilli powder, black pepper, curry powder, salt
3 chillies
7 cloves of garlic

I lumped it all together in a colander and weighed it - 3 kilograms. And, that’s apart from the extra weight that I carry round with me all the time.

To my feet, “I apologise”.