Tag Archives: communications

Monday Morning Moment – Operational Transparency – Opening Up Windows to Our Lives at Work, Home, and Community

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s take a close look at our work and life for a moment. When product and customer service are both excellent, we experience the greatest value as both employees and consumers. However, when there are processes at work that we can’t really visualize or don’t understand, we may question the value of either the product or the service. Especially when those processes are obscured in their availability. Especially if when we seek to see and understand, we remain without adequate information. We can grow disheartened, disgruntled, and even repelled.

Let’s have a look.

We could take a deep dive into government operations or into a large for-profit or non-profit, but let’s just look first at a very normal experience of a popular fast-food restaurant. Without naming the company, this chain is known worldwide for providing consistently good food. When the product is excellent, we don’t feel the need to look inside the operation (or kitchen, so to speak). As for customer service, that’s another matter.

In the rush of lunch-time ordering and food delivery at the drive-through, a young mother with two small children in-tow has to leave her car and come inside the restaurant twice for corrections on her order. One correction was just the number of chicken pieces (four when she asked for and paid for six). The counter staff person couldn’t take the four-piece back, in accordance with health standards, and give her a six-piece. So instead of just saying to the customer, “We’re so sorry. Keep the four-piece and I’ll get you a six-piece”, she tossed the four-piece in the trash can and returned, without emotion, with a six-piece. The rest of the exchange, on both sides, was polite but not restorative for either.

The mom will probably go back…one day…but this did not build the trust that could have been built. The employee also was probably not left with any sense of appreciation for how hard everyone was working behind the counter for demanding customers.

What does this have to do with operational transparency?

Well, given the perceived quality of the product, little transparency in food preparation was required. That wasn’t the issue. The small but significant dilemma here was the transparency of the customer service model (which was bare-bones “correct the problem” without consideration of customer experience or inconvenience – or so it seemed, from the employee’s response to the mother).

Harvard Business School professor Ryan W. Buell defines operational transparency as the deliberate design of windows into and out of the organization’s operations to help customers and employees alike understand and appreciate the value being created. To determine when and how to design such windows, managers must understand when and how customers and employees want to open up operations to scrutiny—and when both parties would prefer that work be undertaken behind the scenes.*

*Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Is too much of a company’s operations behind the scenes? Are we expected to just trust that companies, governments, and civic organizations are working with our best interests in mind?Photo Credit: Flickr

The article by Ryan W. Buell linked above is a brilliant examination, with lots of real-world examples, of how important transparency is in our operations. For internal and external outcomes – both with product and employee/customer relations. [Don’t miss the read.]

Back to restaurants, the food service industry is really starting to run with this. One of our favorite restaurants is Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. It is a highly visual food experience. You order at the counter with the help of customer-savvy servers who guide the diner through the process.Photo Credit: Reston Now

Employees not helping the diners are doing food prep and working the grill, all in plain view. By the time the customers reach check-out, they have a bowl or plate of generous portions of savory, authentic Mediterranean food plus an added sense of value from the excellent customer service.

Operational transparency.

Home delivery food franchises and online shopping companies are upping their transparency by providing accurate tracking options for their customers as well as other perks aimed toward customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Photo Credit: Twitter

In the workplace, we need to listen to customers who actually give us feedback, especially complaints. There’s much to be learned by that sort of engagement. Becoming more and more transparent will help. Buell’s research shows the employees benefit as much as the customer with greater operational transparency.

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home spouse, I understand my husband’s question of “What did you do today?” It is the same as my question to him. “Writing and laundry” and “meetings all day” neither tell the whole story of either of our days. Operational transparency applied to our dinner conversation could make it a whole lot more engaging and valuable.

Taking the mystery out of how decisions get made and products/services actually happen can add greatly to the employee and customer experience.

Just as our teachers in school instructed us to “show our work”, we can do that for each other in creative and credible ways.

I have no idea how a letter gets from my friend in London to me in Virginia in less than a week…but it is easy to get frustrated when it hasn’t arrived in three weeks. The postal worker dealing with my frustration would be well-served…as would I…by opening a window into the complexities of the work of mail gathering, sorting, and delivering.

My father-in-law went from being admitted to an ICU post-stroke one day, to lying in bed all the next with an IV hanging but not dripping and no word from a doctor, to a visit and discharge by a palliative care team the third day. We welcomed the discharge home but a bit more transparency on that second day would have been really helpful.

Operational transparency builds trust, enhances communication, and facilitates accountability (see image below). Even when transparency reveals a negative (as in the fast food experience of the young mom), the company can turn that around once exposed.

From the Ryan Buell’s article, in closing:

“Don’t forget to close the loop. Transparency is the most beneficial when it’s allowed to flow in both directions—from the customers into the operation and from the employees out to the customers. Forcing employees to toil in obscurity deprives them of seeing how their work is helping customers, reducing their feeling that their work is appreciated and undermining their motivation. What’s more, transparency for employees can give them the information they need to customize service and help them learn better ways of operating.

Consumers [can] take work for granted and employees [can] lose out on the learning and motivation that customer connections afford. With that in mind, businesses should stop reflexively hiding their operations for the sake of efficiency and instead thoughtfully consider when and how to open them up to create more value for customers and employees alike.”

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Photo Credit: Flickr

Creating Reciprocal Value Through Operational TransparencyRyan W. Buell, Tami Kim and Chia-Jung Tsay

Let’s Be Real – Why Transparency in Business Should Be the Norm – Robert Craven

YouTube Video – Defaulting to OpenWhile transparency is often associated with increased accountability to the public, the most visible outcome of open public data in recent years has been more and better services for citizens. This session addresses the opportunities and challenges of making open data useful, actionable, and relevant for users inside and outside government. Mike Migurski Chief Technology Officer at Code for America moderates a conversation with Alan Williams, 2013 Code for America Fellow; Joy Bonaguro, Chief Data Officer, City and County of San Francisco; Ryan Buell, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School; and Mark Head, Developer Evangelist, Accela

Open Data

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter in the Hallways – Workplace Humor

Photo Credit: Arkadin, Sophie Huss

Michael Kerr makes a living with Humor at Work. His video  “It’s Monday Morning!…I can’t wait to go to work.” is the stuff of wonder. Wasn’t there a time you couldn’t wait to get to work? If never, or especially not today, then you could start with lightening your workday baggage with lightening your heart.

Photo Credit: Awesome at Your Job Podcast

Kerr talks about using three mental tools – 3 R’s – to shake-up your perspective in a happy way:

  1. Reframe – Stress is one person’s take on a stressor. Where the voices in our heads take us isn’t necessarily how the situation will play out in reality. So wisdom is to “practice playing with the voices in our heads”. Reeling in our negative reactions to stress isn’t about stuffing them but about turning them into healthy (and potentially) humorous responses. My husband and I have a couple of mantras – lines from an old Western movie titled Silverado – that we use to lighten a situation:
    “It’s working out real good.” – Danny Glover responding to a question of how he was; bloody, beaten, and unscathed by it, in his resolve to get the bad guys.                                                                   “That ain’t right and I’ve had enough of what ain’t right.” – again, Glover.                                                                                                                     YouTube – Silverado – Film Clip – Ready for Revenge
  2. Reward – Kerr prescribes attaching a reward to something that is stressful. Say if there is a specific type of meeting or a particular colleague that stresses you out. Put a reward in place that you can go to after those meetings/encounters. It doesn’t have to be chocolate. It can be a walk around the building – inside to say hi to encouraging people or outside to just enjoy nature. If you find yourself demoralized by a situation, what can you do to both laugh at yourself and give others the opportunity to do the same? We can take ourselves and our stresses entirely too seriously. Our enjoyment of work and our work itself can both be debilitated if we can’t figure out how to “pull up”. Rewards. What sounds like it would work for you? For your team?
  3. RelaxStress does terrible things to us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Laughter does just the opposite. Sometimes, our focus on spreadsheets, email, and weighty decision-making leaves little room for laughter in our work lives. Who’s responsible for that? We can blame our boss, or the CEO, or whomever. However, we can also just learn to relax – creating space – putting distance between us and what causes our stress. Kerr talks about a Humor First Aid Kit. This could include funny books, workplace humor photo signs to use for selfies etc., props to wear or place on your or your coworkers’ desks, bobbleheads …chocolate. What would you recommend?Photo Credit: AppAdvice

The Power of Workplace Humor – Podcast with Michael Kerr – Awesome at Your Job

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Photo Credit: Sam Glenn, Facebook

We have all had the occasional forced fun day foisted upon us by C-suite execs – leaders who have diagnosed that way too many employees are silently and loudly giving all indication that morale is low. They are trying so give some grace here. Don’t punish yourself by refusing the free lunch or tshirt. Just come up with your own ideas of what helps you and your team get the joy back.

“It’s Monday morning!! I can’t wait to get to work.” Do it for yourself and for those you care about at work.

Utilizing Humor in the Workplace – Michael Kerr

The Work-Laugh Balance: Why Humor Is Key to Workplace HappinessSophie Huss

YouTube Video – Humor at Work – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

Photo Credit: Andrew Tarvin, TEDx Talk, YouTube

YouTube Video – The Skill of Humor – Andrew Tarvin – TEDx Talk

YouTube Video – Communications – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Workfront and Tripp and Tyler Present: “Email in Real Life” – includes Outtakes

The Four Keys to a Successful Workplace Culture That Drives Business Results Michael Kerr

 

5 Friday Faves – TV Sitcoms, Communications, a Love Story, Intercession, and Recovery

Friday! Yep…here it is again…on a Saturday.  This week’s days have flown. The month of April has already been half-spent. Typical of Virginia Spring weather, we have enjoyed cold windy days and perfect sunny days. Dave has transferred our young vegetable plants into the raised beds outside, and the yellow pollen of the leafing oak trees is beginning to blanket our cars. It is as much a part of the rhythm of life as the five favorites you’ll find here.

1) TV Sitcoms – We all have our favorites. Just to hear the theme music from one of them can stir a flurry of happy TV-driven memories with quotable lines to match. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has posted his arrangement of some of our favorites.

For me, TV sitcom The Office is one of the best. As one of his patrons, we could suggest themes and I suggested the theme from The Andy Griffith Show, but it didn’t make the cut…this time. Enjoy!

Beyond the Guitar’s TV Sitcoms Sheet Music – Music Notes

2) Communications – When we added the “s” to communication, we ramped it up to a science. Communication itself is as old as humanity. We remain ever challenged in it but supremely motivated to get it right. In my career, communications have been a big chunk of my role – either through customer care, customer support, employee engagement, or community development. How about you? Even the most introverted of us, even those in product development or manufacturing working in your own singular workspace…our lives are peopled. We want to make our best efforts in clear and caring communication. You know the experience of finding out just how little a colleague cares by the lack of such communication. Toward the goal of clear and caring communication, I love finding little gems of succinct information. Here’s this one:

This One Question Will Improve How You Communicate to Everyone Marissa Levin

Without your having to click on the link, (which you should; it’s a quick read and excellent resource) here is Levin’s one question:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

By simply asking someone how they prefer to receive their information, and by telling them how you need to receive information, you’ve paved the way for abundantly clear communications and aligned expectations. – Marissa Levin

For a few fascinating years, I worked in the role of communications strategist for a new venture. It was an extraordinary experience to learn how to enhance communications between designers and then our communications with the parent company and our clients. Maybe we can’t always customize our communications…but if we don’t at least establish some variation in our communication streams, we will miss people – their input, their understanding, and their engagement.

Worth the work…people are too valuable to lose, especially if it’s because we use our own preferred communication processes… ignoring the preferences of others in the process.

3) A Love Story – First Lady Barbara Bush died this week. That’s actually too passive a description. Really, she closed the book, finished her race, and loved her God and family until the end. She was ready to go.

Mrs. Bush was the wife of U. S. President George H. W. Bush (72 years married) and mother to U.S. President George W. Bush. She was a tireless champion for literacy and that legacy will follow her.

More than anything else, she loved her husband and she loved her family.Photo Credit: Facebook

Her graciousness, wit, and command of life will be remembered fondly…along with her fierce love. She was a force of nature…and she exercised it for good.

“At the end of life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.“ – Barbara Bush

In her last days, at the age of 92, Mrs. Bush removed herself from the hospital arena of life-extending medical care, and returned home to be in the company of her family. Whatever privilege she knew in life, she lavished it on others. Hers was a beautiful life right to the end… holding hands with her love of 70+ years.

It was a glorious love story…epic.

Ex-Secret Service Agent: Barbara Bush’s Code Name Was Absolutely Perfect – Tranquility – Jonathan Wackrow

Remembering Barbara Bush – CNN Video

4) Intercession – This may be a word unfamiliar to some. Intercession is the deep and longing prayer for someone else. Only God knows fully what His answer means to us who want so desperately for Him to move on behalf of a loved one…or even a country. Only He knows.Photo Credit: Quotes Creator, Facebook

Right now, Dave and I are interceding for a dear church family in another state going through a difficult and dividing trial. We are lifting up a friend who has miscarried multiple times. We are also praying for some in our lives to come to faith in God – some, for decades. Even when our hearts cool over time,  God Himself seems to stoke up the coals, and we feel the anguish again of prayer not yet answered. Knowing He can and He will.

We’ve been praying for almost a year now for the American detainees being held in North Korea. As a meeting looms just ahead between our two countries’ presidents, we sense a hope and a possibility. This could fade…but one thing I know, with every beat of my heart: God is able. He calls us to pray. He loves his children.

When situations arise, and we feel utterly helpless in them, we might casually say: “Well, at the very lease we can pray.” No…at the very most, we can pray. We can call out to God even in seasons he seems silent and immovable. His answer might not always be our preference…but it is in the praying, the interceding…that we find hope, and even promise…and we experience the joy of finding Him in the midst of struggle…whatever way it goes in the end.

Free USA3

Be Heard Project – Praying also for Andrew Brunson, an American detainee in Turkey right now. Please pray with me for him and his family, along with the three detainees in North Korea…and their loved ones who wait for them to come home.

The Great Intercessor – David Brainerd

David Brainerd’s 300th Anniversary – Thomas Kidd

5) Recovery – A hard road stretches before the addicted person and those who love him. At some point, either because of imprisonment or shattered health and finances, the addicted person is forced to examine what is left of life for him…or her. At some point, recovery becomes the goal and returning to real life is the hope. Relapse is a constant risk and is often a detour on the road to recovery.

We feel fortunate to know our friends, Ryan and Ashley, who have come out the other side of drug addiction. Ryan gave me permission to post the pictures below. First is a series of arrest photos of Ryan, all related to consequences of his drug addiction. The second is a picture of his family reunited. Ryan is currently a case manager for Real Life in Richmond, Virginia. What an appropriate name for what is possible post-addiction. It is worth fighting for. Thank you, Ryan, for giving us glimpses of what can happen in a life turned around. We know it wasn’t easy, but so worth it.Photo Credit: Ryan Riggs

So…that’s my Five.

What happened in your week? Any notable mentions of your own? Please share in Comments. Enjoy the weather (whether it’s Spring or Fall, rainy season or dry – depending on your hemisphere or location)…and each other.

Bonuses

Scientists Agree: Coffee Naps Are Better Than Coffee or Naps Alone – Joseph Stromberg

 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Routines, Rituals, & Rhythms of Life – 10 Disciplines that Can Help Us Reclaim Our Life for Good

2015 March Blog on Routines  Spring flowers 007 - use this one (2)

When our children were small, we set routines in place that carried us for long years of relative sanity. We set routines for two reasons – 1) to give them a sense of order and loving boundaries, and 2) to provide a consistent infrastructure in our own lives as their parents. We all knew what the rules were, and what we, the Mills, were about as a family.

If we don’t set up routines in our lives, then our time and energy can be taken captive by the whim of others. By our own brain-in-neutral “me-time”. Or, in my case, just an inescapable drive to do too much, such that if I’m not careful, I accomplish little well. It’s lifelong learning here for me…

In talking about routines, it’s not those of snacking late and falling asleep every night in front of the t.v. Those happen with little effort on our part. It is setting routines in place that reflect God-inspired values…the kinds of routines that will take us right through our elder years; routines that our children will remember and may want for themselves…because those routines mattered; they were good and life-affirming…they are still – no matter the times and culture in which we find ourselves.

The 10 disciplines listed below speak to routines in the rhythm of life. There are rituals that can be set in place to help us be more successful in turning disciplines into a lifestyle. This list is not meant to be prescriptive as much as it is to be descriptive of what we want for our lives. We fail at them regularly, but we aim at these goals daily.

1) Quiet Time in the morning – A friend of ours grew up with a dad who had the philosophy: “Bible before breakfast”. Setting a routine of prayer, Bible reading, and journaling in place can transform our personal lives and our families (even where there are small ones – this is the most challenging time to set this routine; if it’s before the babies come, it’s easier to maintain). It requires getting up early and going to bed early enough to get up early, but it is so worth it. So important for every other part of our daily life.

2) Live life in an orderly way. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a wisdom statement whose origin is ascribed to several including Benjamin Franklin. As a piler (if my projects are put away, it’s as if they don’t exist), this is a life-long battle, but I work at it everyday. Especially the common areas of our home, the dishes, and the laundry. This could also relate to our email folders, but I won’t even go there on this one.

3) Tithe and avoid debt. Being generous toward God and toward others makes for a truly satisfying life. Living within our means and being thrifty help us develop the margin wherein we can exercise generosity. We have never had big salaries or huge debt, so we don’t know the temptation or struggle, respectively, of either of those. We have seen this principle of giving at work in our lives and that of others more generous than us. It is life-infusing, for sure.

4) Worship God. You can see there is no order to this list of 10. Worshipping God as a lifestyle can permeate all the other routines of life. This is not just about attending church; it’s really worshipping God, corporately with the church, as well as completely alone. Keeping a Sabbath makes for a huge jumpstart in a lifestyle of worship – setting aside a day of rest, as He has instructed us, and then using that day to reflect on Him. Amazing grace comes out of that. Then as we make remembering God a rhythm of life, all that happens to us and to those around us is set in the reality of a good and loving God.

5) Honoring Communications: This can be a prickly subject as our current technology has really not helped with communication as much as we think. We almost communicate, at best. When our children were growing up, we visited more, talked around the dinner table, and had guests in often. It can be a stretch for our introvert family members, but genuine, wholly engaged communication yields great gains for everyone involved. So…given where we are today: Answer those texts. Make phone calls when a situation is time- or message-sensitive. Write cards especially for those older, harder hearing, and far away. Deal with business communication in a timely manner. Exercise courtesy. Treat others in good faith. ‘Nuff said. I fail here regularly, but it’s always on my radar.

6) Work with your hands…whether it’s in the garden, or working in the kitchen, playing an instrument, or making things. When our children were young, they would sometimes complain of being bored. We would always tell them, “Go do something.” That seemed a simple instruction, but it seemed to help them rally, sort of “snap out of it”. I don’t understand boredom, really; there is so much out there to learn and do. I admire friends and family of ours who tackle challenging skillsets, figure things out, and create something of beauty or usefulness. Working with our hands makes a big difference in our lives. I know this experientially whether the science supports it or not.

7) Take time to be kind. Slowing down is really a requirement to being kind – to hold a door for someone, or make a meal for a new mom, or show care for someone instead of going straight to the business at hand. Time is a limited resource. Guard it…don’t squander it. Or redeem it – slowing down may not always be an option, but we can definitely restructure how we use our time. Have regular bedtimes and morning wake-up times. Healthier lives give us the fuel for both using our time better and showing kindness to those around us.

8) Honor your parents. I have had the great blessing of generous and wise mom and mom-in-law. They loved both Dave and me with open hands, encouraging us to watch out for both sides of our families. We gain so much in those relationships. We have a friend who talked to his elderly father every single day. He read the Bible to him over the phone when his eyesight got too bad to read it himself. His father has gone on to be with the Lord, but what a blessing that was for him, for them. Are you setting up routines in your life that serve those who loved you most?

9) Pray instead of worry or fret. You know what I’m talking about here. At night, I have a discipline of going back over the day with the Lord, placing people and situations in His hands. Then I can sleep. I try to do the same on waking, training my thoughts to God rather than stressing about the day ahead.

10) Be good stewards of your mind, body, and relationships. This is where all the healthy living stuff might come in. So much more than that though is the intentionality of being a good steward of your over-all life. For instance, life-long learning must be part of our routine or we really go into “slow”. Still another friend of ours has a routine of 45 minutes of reading a day (beyond his quiet time and reading at work), just for the purpose of learning. Regarding relationships, we can intentionally build routines that connect us with people. Breakfast clubs. Community Bible studies. Weekly prayer groups. Volunteer teams. Regular dates with friends (including our spouses or roommates and family). Just like our bodies and minds, our relationships require tending, and we will reap a harvest in how we steward them.

A few years ago, Jen Hatmaker wrote a book entitled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It was a great help for me to examine the excesses in life that keep us from establishing life-giving routines. There are many helps for us out there, but her book came at a time when I was searching for more balance, more space, in life…it’s available to us as we determine to build in routines and rituals through the rhythms of life.

Blog - Routines - 7 by Jen Hatmaker

Routines will happen. Just be intentional on making the ones you truly want to happen. Do something. Do the next thing. Do the right thing. Serve somebody.

7: An experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

How Changing This One Bad Habit Changed Our Home for Good – Complaining

Routines, Rituals, and Rhythms by an English Mum

Rhythms, Routines, & Rituals for Homeschooling Families

Family Routines and Rituals – A Context for Development in the Lives of Young Children