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Hey, Comcast — it’s 2016 already!

Dear Comcast Support,

No, not you, the nice (and extremely patient) person on the phone with me today. I’m talking to the head customer support geeks — the people who allegedly design the process whereby support is rendered.

Thanks for wasting at least 15 minutes of my time on the phone today as I verified my name, address, account number and MAC address, then followed your inane flowchart-driven support process to check things that didn’t need checking. The only reason I was on the phone at all is that your robot IVR system yaks non-stop so much that it can’t even hear me when I ask to ‘reset my modem.’ That’s what I wanted. That’s what I said. Is that what happened? No. Instead, it responded with ‘let me get you to an agent.’ Great. Sure. Put Agent Smith on the phone. What the heck — maybe a human will be better than the IVR. I wish. Instead of all that verification nonsense, here is how the conversation should have gone after you called me back:

Good afternoon. This is Comcast Customer Support. Is this Mr. Wilkes?

Yes.

Excellent. How can I help you today, Sir?

I’d like my modem reset, please.

Of course. I see that you have only one modem, so I need no further information. Would you like that reset signal sent now?

Yes, please.

Very good. I have sent the signal. I will stay on the line until the modem resets. Just a moment. [pause] Everything looks good from our end. Will you try your service again please?

Seems to be working now, thank you.

Great. Is there anything else I can help you with?

All good here. Thanks!

Thank you for being a Comcast customer Mr. Wilkes. Have a great evening.

That would have been a pleasant customer experience.

Now that I think about it, though, even the above dialog, stellar though it would have been, is sub-par. This is 2016. You know… the IoT year when your refrigerator can tell your thermostat that the house is too hot? Yeah, that year. As my ISP, you have an always-on connection right into my house. You can tell if your equipment is working or not. I know. You tell me every time I get on the phone with you. So how this whole thing should have gone is… I open my email this evening to find this:

Dear Mr. Wilkes,

We noticed that your internet connection was down for more than a few minutes, so we sent a reset signal to your modem. Our diagnostics indicate that service has been restored now. I hope that our proactive service meets with your approval. Please let us know if you need follow-up assistance.

Yours Truly,

Comcast Customer Support

That right there — that would be 2016 tech support from a company that I pay serious coin to every month for exactly one thing… Internet service.

 

Team Values – Why and How

team-at-table

It had been some time since the team looked at our core values. The division head came back from a Dale Carnegie leadership training with some zeal for having us look at their value cards. Since we had a Release Retrospective coming up anyway, I decided to focus our effort on refreshing this aspect of our culture.

Preparation

To prepare the team for our group workshop, I sent out an email that contained many examples from other well-known organizations:

…as well as the Dale Carnegie Value Cards list (consistency, fairness, passion, etc. )

Benefits

Since the process of figuring out your team values is real work, it’s fair to ask whether the process is worth doing. Here are the key benefits of articulating your core values:

  • Identity – create team pride with good values
  • Culture – describe what it feels like to work here
  • Success – define what is rewarded here
  • Speed – facilitate quicker conflict resolution
  • Affinity – attract and retain top talent
  • Transparent – make your company acquisition friendly

Metaphor

keel1

A helpful way to illustrate the impact of clear team values is the keel of a sailboat. The keel helps the boat stay upright (don’t tip over) and stay on course (don’t slide sideways). To do so, it offers some friction in the water but this is a price we are willing to pay for the safety and progress that the keel affords.

Core Defined

What does it mean that we have core values?

  • Fundamentally valuable even when not rewarded
  • Desired in every organization we build
  • Timeless

Examples

How your values are stated can take different forms:

Curiosity (learn rapidly; seek to understand; broad knowledge)
~ Netflix

Focus on the user and all else will follow.
~ Google

I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
~ The Ritz-Carlton

Process

Our process to capture and refine values went like this:

  1. Capture personal ideas (quiet writing – 10 minutes)
  2. Form teams (we had 3 groups of 3-4 each)
  3. Group similar terms and define Core Values (cards – 15 minutes)
  4. Post findings on board (10 minutes)
  5. Refine the list (10 minutes)

Focus Question

The key question everyone was asked to ponder as they generated value phrases was:

“What is important in our team and what is unique about working here?”

Results

The goal was to arrive at 5-10 values we hold dear. Individual groups were asked to limit their list to five items. The team findings round started with 10 items on the board and we settled on the following seven, listed in no particular order:

  • Integrity
  • Work-life Balance
  • Passion
  • Fun
  • Quality
  • Life-long Learning
  • Adaptable to Change

Definitions

What exactly do you mean by Quality? Is it a low defect count or a high usability index or something else. We thought it important to define each of our terms. Here is the final list we came up with:

Value Phrase Description
Work-life Balance We respect the life circumstances of each person
Passion We succeed by loving what we do
Fun We enjoy coming to work
Quality We ship work that makes us proud
Integrity We act from our highest principles
Life-long Learning We constantly seek new knowledge and avoid past mistakes
Adaptability We adapt readily to a dynamic environment

Follow-Up

A key part of our self-improvement was the observation that our previous list of values had fallen out of memory. We tested this at the beginning of the workshop with a little pop quiz.

As a result, we resolved to have our values made more visible and to refresh the group’s memory of them through periodic reminders. To that end a colorful poster was made, copies will hang in several shared spaces, and a monthly reminder will highlight a given team value.

Image credit: Creative Sustainability

Really? You’re gonna be like that?

imagine-i-cared

I have a generally affable disposition and placid demeanor. A long fuse, if you will, and the ability to get along with many types of people. But there are a few things that get under my skin.

Arrogance

Unless God cut you out of the herd and told you that you are special, get over yourself. Or rather, just be yourself and lose the posturing. If we acknowledge that you’re a big deal, can we move on to building something together instead of stroking your ego?

Apathy

If you really just don’t care, would you please choose a job where your lack of enthusiasm is irrelevant? There’s a good lad. Oh, and try not to infect those who believe that their work matters.

Laziness

You can revel in stillness and do nothing if you want to. Just not here, where people are doing actual work. Take your inaction and work-shifting down to the unemployment line where it belongs. If you can still move, that is.

Obfuscation

Your dream of working for the CIA is admirable, but until they return your call how about sharing what you know with the rest of us working stiffs. Secretive kingdom-builders are neither appreciated nor long endured in a value-oriented culture.

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