Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who you callin' a pig?

Drew Winter puts some perspective on global warming. Interesting comparisons.

Details schmetails

Flew into Detroit Metro Airport Monday night. That evening, the airport flipped the switch on a new payment system in its parking deck. The payment kiosks were completely new, as was the software, method of payment and ticketing process. Signage was proud and prominent. Brochures and collateral explained how great the new system would be. A flashy, informative animated video and press release explained its incredible benefits. Even a few brightly painted vans were decal-ed to the hilt to celebrate the new arrival. Seems they did a pretty good job planning the communications and roll-out of the new system.

One small problem in the details: all those flying in that night didn't have tickets for the new system...our tickets were from the old one. And these tickets didn't talk to the new system. This meant all those with old tickets would have to go into an exit lane that had a parking attendant on duty, rather than the much-quicker automated lane. No big deal. Except that a couple more details were overlooked: there was only one open lane with an attendant; and the system in that lane had been replaced by the new system.

After 45 minutes of waiting to get out of the garage, without much movement at all, drivers started getting, well, unhappy. Horns. Yelling. Long, growing line of cars up that stretched onto other levels. At least one incident of a car hitting another.

Finally, a manager came out of nowhere and literally ripped the 2x6 arm off the parking gate and yelled "just let 'em out!" I applaud him for making the move, no doubt at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

The communication plan for this changeover appears to be pretty solid. The airport began its pre-change PR as many as nine months ago. The message was simple and the supporting materials were thorough. The actual execution failed miserably.

It reminded me of a theory which applies perfectly to PR, but also to just about every sector of business (and life, if you think about it):
Great strategy, poor execution = failure.
Poor/no strategy, great execution = likely failure (you can get lucky once in a while).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Collaborating...or cheating?

I'm a big fan of collaboration. When people truly collaborate, the results can be profound. It's one of the few instances where 1 plus 1 is more than 2. And I've never heard anyone say they are against the premise of collaboration (hmmm, maybe it's the ability to share blame across several people that makes it attractive?).

It's a simple concept, in theory. Gather up your best ideas. Share them without prejudice or pride of ownership. Get others to add their great ideas to make yours even better, to completely change directions, or to find a totally different application altogether.

But it must not be all that simple a concept. Google 'collaboration' and you get 128 million results. Search 'collaboration in the workplace' and more than 2 million results come back. A search for 'collaboration' in the book section at amazon.com returns 142,000 entries, over 26,000 of which are related strictly to business.

It never occurred to me the difficulty our society has with the concept of collaboration until last week, during a Vistage meeting. Mike Murray delivered one of the most usable, practical and common-sense talks about listening and communication that I've ever heard. In it, he spoke briefly of collaboration. The gist of what he said:

  • In business, when we take what we think is the answer, share it with coworkers, experts or consultants with the premise that they improve upon it and offer guidance, it's called collaboration.
  • In school, when we do this, it's called cheating.

After most of us spend 16+ years in school, it's no wonder we need millions of books, web sites and facilitators to teach us how to collaborate and, more importantly, that it's a good thing.

I give schools credit - many of them seem to be working hard to address this issue. They're pursuing multi-age classrooms, uncovering opportunities for teamwork and team projects, and actively cooperating with outside groups and other schools.

As for the rest of us, it's got to be a constant effort to encourage collaboration. Our firm is in the midst of designing new office space with an intense focus on teamwork and communication. It'll be interesting to see how our team reacts when going from a traditional office/cubicle set-up to a space void of walls and filled with open workstations, breakout areas and, hopefully, buzz.