Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Link Blog October 31, 2007

Here are some posts that caught my eye today:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Zagat Guide to Doctors

A colleague alerted me to the recent Zagat/Wellpoint Press Release that announced the imminent launch of a Zagat Guide to Physicians. I'm a big fan of Zagat to Go, their handheld version that gives me access to 75 guides on my BlackBerry for just $29.95 a year.  

The concept is powerful - use consumer surveys to create restaurant reviews - and it has survived the explosion of user-rating sites such as DiningCity or TopTable and so forth.  I think this is in part due to the rigorous survey methodology and the wonderfully pithy editing (now there's a word you don't see very often these days!). Somehow Zagat manage to distill down all the survey results and draw meaningful conclusions using appropriate quotes. Where the responses are contradictory they say so. Whatever their secret sauce is, I find Zagat to be more reliable and accurate than any other guide on the web.

All too often the free web guides have only one or two entries per establishment so you never know if there are to be trusted (maybe they are written by the owners of the place or a competitor across the street?). Either that or you have to wade through many user responses to extract a sort of average in your mind. Zagat do all this work behind the scenes and that's worth $29.95 to me.

In the past Zagat has extended their brand to hotels, to nightlife, and to golf courses and other attractions. The move into rating healthcare professionals is a very bold step; many have tried and failed here before. I have a feeling that it just might work as long as sufficient patients can be persuaded to respond per Doctor. The Zagat methodology can then work it's magic to provide a balanced opinion.

I am sure that no-one at Wellpoint expects patients to make a choice solely on Zagat ratings but wouldn't it be a good thing if physicians started being a little more customer-centric as a result?

Link Blog October 29, 2007

Here are some posts that have caught my eye recently:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fearlessness: a new corporate value?

Anyone interested in change within corporate environments should read this great interview with Margaret Wheatley.

She paints a grim picture of modern corporate life: intense focus on short-term results at the expense of all else; no time left to think etc. Magaret quotes a Gallup survey on how people are feeling about their workplace: "Last year, more than 70 percent of the American workforce
felt disengaged, up from around 33 percent in 2000. That’s what happens if you squeeze fewer people to do more work, give them shorter deadlines, measure their work using meaningless metrics, and, to top it off, treat them with profound levels of disrespect."

So why is this happening, especially when most leaders and CEO's know only too well how damaging this can be?

Wheatley argues that CEO's are often powerless to act here, they themselves are too caught up in the vicious cycle, too busy delivering the results, too busy executing. Besides it's an impossible task for a single human anyway - to turn back the tide of market expectations.

To be fearless, she says, is to face the reality of your situation and to realize - without deluding yourself - that you can be more powerful than you are. Fearlessness is not the sole domain of the senior leaders, quite the reverse it can be found throughout the organization.

So give up on large-scale transformation, it just isn't going to work in the modern world. Chose instead to stimulate small scale change from within. Help a few people to realize their talent. Encourage some to innovate. Take time to engage with them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Publishing is Pants

Life has been a trifle hectic recently what with the move back to the Netherlands from Philadelphia and working midweek in the UK. Not only am I behind with my blog posts I have a mountain of Guardian Weekly's to catch up on too. That's why an article from the July 20th edition has only just caught my eye.

The success of the printing press in 1476 was made possibly by the ready supply of cheap paper upon which to print. But where did the cheap paper come from? From underpants according to Dr Marco Mostert of Utrecht University.

Until the 13th century books were produced on expensive parchment. The breakthrough came when a way was found to manufacture cheap paper from the rags of old underwear. Marco's research has shown that the use of underwear increased dramatically in Europe after 1200, as more people moved into towns (rural folk apparently preferred to go without). More underwear in use meant an increased supply of rags, which in turn led to more paper being available to print on.

I find it fascinating that the development of the publishing industry and with it the spread of learning, depended on something so mundane. It is also interesting to note how these two breakthroughs came together. Caxton made it easy to publish, underpants made it cheap.

Small things matter

I've always thought that small details often say much, much more than their size would imply.

Here's an example. I'm sitting in the gate area after security waiting to board NorthWest flight 69 to Boston. As usual at Schiphol on a Sunday it is busy.

In front of me are two guys with fairly large bags. These are placed to the sides of their chairs partially blocking the way through to the 'plane. There's enough room for a person to walk through though. Besides who can blame them there's nowhere else to put their bags.

Along comes a NorthWest flight attendant in uniform with two wheeled bags one in each hand. He's a wide load and obviously cannot quite get through the gap.

So what does he do? Does he wheel one bag through at a time? Does he ask politely if one of the guys could move his bag?

Nope. He blasts through pushing the bags sideways partially running over the corner of one of them. He doesn't even turn around to look, let alone apologise.

Now what does that tell you about NorthWest's attitude to customers?

All of us sitting here will board the 'plane. We are all customers even if we are not yet on board.

It's a small, tiny detail - insignificant to some I am sure - but I suspect it is telling sign.

Working in the service sector is tough. Customers are often rude and ungrateful. However I would maintain that every single interaction with a customer - whether minor or major, whether on duty or off duty, whether in the 'plane or outside it - is an opportunity to shine or stink.

Think about the companies you respect for fabulous customer service. Think about the sort of people they employ. And think about what they would have done in this situation. They would have had respect for us poor passengers and not because there was a corporate communication saying be nice to customers. They would have respect because that's the kind of person they are.

The NorthWest guy pushed through because that's the knd of person he is.

That's what small details are - they are indicators of the kind of people we really are.

UPDATE turns out the guy was the senior flight attendant on the flight