The Missing Element

Many threads are woven into the Xpertweb meme. Like most of us, I’m prone to remember poor service longer than good service. I’ve found, though, that outstanding service is so welcome that I want to tell my friends about it, like great art, which it partly is. By noting great service, I also reassure myself that I’m not yet so jaded that I have to wear my old fart lapel pin.

FWIW, I’ve been conducting an experiment for several decades. Regardless of the service, tip the cab driver generously on the way to the airport and you’ll never be an airline statistic. The warranty does not extend to your luggage.

Unfortunately I mostly notice poor service. For many years, I was a reasonably successful real estate developer. Since we contracted to build things, we were always a heartbeat away from a contracting meltdown that made the Money Pit look like a doghouse with crooked siding. About 1980, I was building a shopping center and construction had not started well. Haranguing the pleasant but somewhat lackadaisical contractors wasn’t helping. I walked into the construction shack one morning and immediately sensed that something was very wrong.

“Guys, there’s something wrong here.”

“Whaddaya talkin’ about?”

“I’m not sure. Something’s missing. Give me a minute.”

I looked around and suddenly I got it.

“Holy Fucking Shit! There’s no calendar! You guys are running a $4 million job without a fuckin’ calendar! Where are you from, the Moon?!”

It was true. A wall calendar, the essential enabling technology of project management, was missing. This was unheard of, as improbable as a Texas Republican building an insane deficit while gutting the Bill of Rights! Even the lamest contractor had a pin-up calendar from Snap-On, LJB Pipeline or Tarco Construction. Like, you had to work at not having a wall calendar!

Meeting Mania Intervention—The 12 Steps to Sobriety

Meetings waste more time than any other activity. Most groups would be better off with a Wiki. Most Wikis would be better with less conversation and more explicit promises. Do you suppose that explains the success of Open Source? It’s a huge operation that never holds a meeting.

The only reason to have a meeting is to find out what everyone’s doing, what they should be doing and when they will work on what they should be doing. Many organizations I’ve worked for want more technology, but often the best thing I teach them is how to have a meeting. It’s actually simple:

  1. The meeting leader takes the minutes with a note pad and a laptop.
  2. Everyone says what’s on their mind.
  3. Everyone will propose solutions.
  4. Ask who’s going to actualize the solution.
  5. Note who’s willing to do something and when.
  6. Outline the tasks, people and dates.
  7. Print and distribute the outline, requesting follow-up at the next meeting.
  8. Now starts the back-tracking:
    1. “Oops, I forgot I’ll be out of town this week”
    2. “I just realized it’s more complicated than I thought”
    3. “I’ll need Mary to help me”
  9. Record the changes and re-distribute the outline.
  10. 2 days before the next meeting, send the outline to everybody.
  11. Bring enough copies to the next meeting for everyone, since many will forget it, hoping you will.
  12. Repeat. Allow six weeks for behavioral change. In Europe, allow six weeks for behavioural change.

That’s it. Published promises galvanize productivity. If you do nothing more than list them, you’re ahead of 99% of the world’s workgroups. Xpertweb forms automate that process.

No frickin’ calendar? Sheesh!

10:35:18 AM    

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