Random Thoughts

May 30, 1994

Road Warriors Square Off— One Monday a couple of weeks ago, I got up at 3:45 a.m. to catch a 6:00 flight from Boston’s Logan Airport, the start of a long week to come. After checking my bag, I got on the fully-loaded plane around 5:30. At 6:00, they told us our flight was cancelled and took us all off the plane because it had a cracked windshield. As we all waited in a long line to be re-ticketed, one fellow decided to short-cut the process. He went up to the side of the ticket counter and interrupted the airline rep, who dropped what she was doing and spent the next five minutes looking for this guy’s ticket, while the rest of us waited out turns. Of course, everyone in line was furious. Not being in the best of moods myself (I had not yet even had my morning coffee), I decided to shout over to the fellow that we were all in a hurry and all had to make other arrangements, and that we’d appreciate it if he waited his turn. (It was a good thing this guy had to go through airport security— at least he didn’t have a gun!) At first, shocked that I said something, the guy asked if I was talking to him. I told him that I was. “You do it your way and I’ll do it mine,” he said I told him that the problem was his way wasn’t the right way, that he should be waiting in line like the rest of us. The crowd cheered me on. He eventually huffed off, and my blood pressure normalized. I thought to myself, “At least it will be while before that guy tries that again.” The point of my story is that some people will always try to work around the system. Whether that means a passenger butting into line at the airport, or a project manager neglecting to fill out a project initiation sheet and establish the budget on a new job, the result is the same—other people are inconvenienced because of one person’s lack of consideration. The real crime is when things like this happen and no one says anything. If you see someone turning in a late time sheet, cheating on an expense report, keeping six people waiting a half hour for a meeting to start, or violating the system in some other way, speak up. Because if you don’t, it’s possible that no one else will. And if you want your staff to do the right thing, all of the leaders have to. Building Management Acceptance of Computers— Those of us who did not use personal computers in college are less likely to use one today than our more junior counterparts who grew up on the things. Like many people of my generation in business today, I got into computers out of necessity. When we started our company, there was no way we could afford secretarial staff. We all had to do our own support work. The computer made that possible. Now, I don’t leave home without one tucked under my arm. Last week, I brought along my notebook computer to a business planning retreat. The night before our sessions started the president of the client company and I stayed at the cabin we would be using for the next several days by ourselves. Before hitting the hay, I got out my computer to show him a game that I had bought for $5 at an airport news stand. The game involves finding hidden treasure and escaping from a complex maze. The president— a fellow who has evidently spoken out in opposition to a computer purchase or two in his day— was amazed at how much fun it was. He got the hang of it in the first five minutes, and I saw how quickly playing a simple game could overcome a fear of computers. Maybe all of the diehards who still haven’t learned how to use a computer should start by playing one of these games. I bet my client will be more willing to see what can be done with a computer now that he has controlled one successfully. Creative Promotion— We received a great little piece of direct mail last week from Rizzo Associates, Inc. (Natick, MA), a 120-person engineering and environmental consulting firm located right down the street from us. The purpose of the brochure was to announce the firm’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), but it used a creative approach. “Call us,” it read. “One of our owners would like to work with you on your next project.” And printed in small, white letters in the background of the text was the name of every employee in the firm. This piece is going to send a strong message to clients and potential clients that Rizzo firm has some significant staff capabilities. Hats off to them for doing something creative to announce their ESOP, instead of walking right past a great P.R. opportunity, like so many other firms in this business would have. Originally published 5/30/1994.

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