And so I ran a marathon….

Marathon MedalThere it is! The medal that proves that I just finished my first marathon. In an end time that I initially aimed for but never thought that I would be able to run that today 3:29:09.

An amazing experience to run this race. Finishing in the Olympic Stadium with the last 200 m on the track course of the stadium, looking to the sky and crossing that finish line. Contrary to what The Cure state in their song “Boys don’t Cry”, sorry but they sometimes do.

The journey up to this was definitely not an easy one and went quite bumpy to say the least. I did not start this marathon in the shape that I wanted to be in when I signed up for the event on December 31st 2014. In the last months leading up to the event I struggled with weight, form and motivation, but I wanted to run and finish it and nothing except a physical injury would have been able to stop me.

Disclaimer: This post is not about agile, work, coaching or anything related to that, there are no parallels or learnings related to a business context in this post. This post is about me. So if you want to find out a bit more about me keep on reading.

So here I am, a finisher of the marathon distance 42 kilometers and 195 meters of running. A distance of which I have actually said out loud that I would never even try to do that, but somehow I did. In the past days building up to this moment I have been thinking a lot about who I am, where I am and how I came here.

Work should be FUN!

Meet Nemo!

nemo

 

Most people know Nemo from the movie Finding Nemo. To me Nemo means something else.

Just over a year ago I had some time to kill while travelling and I read a small book called “Fish! a proven way to boost morale and improve results.

fishThis little book tells the story how an IT manager is stuck with a department that has lost all of it’s energy and enthusiasm. The IT manager visits the famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seatle over a lunch break and gets inspired by the workers of the fish market who made a seemingly boring job, hauling fish on the fish market, fun and in the process they have attracted a large amount of customers, boosting sales.

The IT manager uses this inspiration and the lessons she learns from the Pike Place Fish Market to boost the morale of her department completely turning things around at the office.

So back to Nemo! The other day when doing groceries at the local super market musing over my thoughts and troubles at the office, thinking of ways how to boost morale of myself and the people around me and then I walked right towards it 20 to 30 Nemo’s lying there all smiling at me. I couldn’t help but smile and think about the story from the book.

I grabbed one of the Nemo’s and the next day I took it into the office. Now Nemo is resting on my desk and is promoted to our CHO (Chief Happiness Officer), reminding me of the story and of the fact that we need to make the work and workplace fun for all employees.

 


The book: http://www.amazon.com/Proven-Boost-Morale-Improve-Results/dp/0786866020

 

“Customer delight”, not just a marketing statement.

“Delight the customer”

With radical management Steve Denning introduced a new phrase: “customer delight”. And more and more companies are picking it up. But unfortunately not to the extend that is needed to actually achieve delighted customers.

Now what is the idea behind “customer delight” ? In my opinion it actually has several aspects.

Customers are spoiled
We live in an era were customers have got used to high quality products and services. Satisfying customers is not enough anymore to distinguish a company from it’s competitors and to add the customers of those competitors to it’s own customer base. Customers expect to be satisfied so you need to delight them to get their attention.

Traditional marketing is dead
Traditional marketing which consists of advertisements as we know it is no longer accepted by customers. Customers are constantly “harassed” by commercials, smart sales people and marketing statements that do nothing more then stating the obvious. Customers won’t get fooled anymore by these empty forms of marketing, they need real stories to be convinced. And what better stories there are then the stories of delighted customers?

This change started in the consumer market but is now finding it’s way in the business market. This is a logical evolution since the people that were delighted by the consumer products and services probably also work for a living. And if you get a certain amount of quality and service of consumer products then why should you accept less from the business market?

Why should we want to delight customers?
During a seminar about radical management Steve Denning started with an explanation how traditionally managed companies will run out of business in a very short time. I strongly believe in this as well. If companies keep to their proven approaches from 50 years old while the entire world has changed and expectations about products and services have grown exponentially they are fighting a lost battle.

The first signs of this are slowly beginning to show. Companies that are operating from their ivory tower are loosing ground and will be in trouble if they don’t chance their approach, while the companies that focus on delighting their customers are largely succesfull and profitable.

How do we delight customers?
Ok probably everybody understands what a customer base of delighted customers can bring to your organization, but how do we delight customers. Well one thing is for sure, just stating that you target customer delight won’t be enough. Your employees need to understand when the customers will feel delighted and to know that you will need to give them some tools:

  • Vision / Strategy; I blogged about this before, if there is no direction people will just randomly run around doing things hoping that they are doing the right thing. If you are lucky it will work out fine but chances are slim. Give people that mark on the horizon.
  • Know your customers; How do you delight people that you don’t know? Simply put you can’t! If you want to delight your customers you will need to know who they are and understand what will delight them. Building a wall between the customers and your employees will put you out of business faster than you can imagine.
  • Don’t put the focus on costs management; Delighting your customers will probably cost money because you need to give them something special. Costs need to be managed, there is no denial in that, but is it the most important part of running a business? If you focus on it too much you will indeed drastically lower your costs because you will run your company out of business.A good example of this is a story about an online shoe store. This online shoe store offered overnight shipping to their customers. You could order shoes online up to late in the evening and the next morning a delivery service would be at your doorstep to deliver your order. A large group of customers made use of this option. A new management came in and saw the costs of this overnight shipping option and decided to “manage the costs”. The company stopped offering the overnight shipping option and indeed the total shipping costs went down. But next to that the total revenue went down a lot because they were losing a large part of their customer base.
  • Trust your employees; If you have hired the right people they will do the work for you, just give them the tools and let them do the magic.

Conclusion
Delighting your customers is not rocket science, but it is also something that should be underestimated. It is a mindset change that will be difficult to achieve within existing companies. But if you are able to achieve this, the benefits will be extensive.

Stay tuned because I will be blogging a lot more about organizational changes comparable to this.

 


The explanation of customer delight is my own interpretation of it, which is based on visiting a radical management seminar of Steve Denning, reading his book about radical management and my own common sense and experience.


 

New year resolutions

newyearSo it is 2012 now. A new year has started and people usually make new years resolutions for the new year. Most of the time they just drop these within a few days or weeks after the start of the new year.

I have other plans for my new year resolutions, I plan to fulfill all of them this year. Hopefully next year I will look back at this and will look at this list and can confirm that I achieved everything.

So for my new year resolutions:

  • Blog more often. I feel that my work experiences are worth sharing and that it helps me to gain insights to improve myself and just maybe it could also help other people who run into the same things as I do.
  • Delegate more. I am terrible at delegating work, even when I need to book a flight or hotel for one of my employees I do it myself. So for this year I plan to leave this to the people who got hired for it and who I should trust to do it.
  • Surround myself with people that share the same passion for work. I love my work and I am very passionate about it and I want to see that around me every day. I get goosebumps when one of my team members comes to me with something awesome they did or some great idea that they have and have that twinkle in their eyes when they explain it to me.
  • Give my first public Agile or SCRUM training this year. Last year I already gave a few extensive SCRUM trainings inside our own company to groups of 8 to 10 people. For this year my goal is to give at least one public training before the end of the year.
  • Start running again. I used to run. In the past I did about 20 – 30 kilometers a week. I at least want to start it again this year and see to which level I can get.
  • Read more. I have a big pile of work related books and magazines that I never got around to read because of the big workload at the office. This will change this year, I will make more time to clear my mind from the daily work and to gain new insights and gather more knowledge.
  • Have fun. Life and work should be about fun. I admit that working is a big part of my life, I cannot imagine myself not working. Even if I would win the lottery I would still keep working. But both in your work and outside of it fun should be an important factor.
I guess this should be enough for 2012 for now. Let’s see if I can accomplish this within a year.

The CEO does not need training

Education is a very important part of a business that is continually changing like the magical world of software development always is.

Fortunately for all the IT professionals in  the business many companies acknowledge this and have training budgets available to make sure that we are all kept up to date with the latest technologies and procedures. In the more structured companies this is even part of the evaluation of personel.

One group of “employees” however is always overlooked when it comes to education, namely the upper management of the organization. In many cases it seems like most CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s and other C level management seems to think “I am in charge, I know everything already”.

Even though the most important role of the management of an organization is to put the right people on the right places this does not mean that they don’t have to be up to date with the latest developments regarding their work area. Of course this does not mean that the CEO needs to attend a ruby on rails training but at least he or she should know the reasons why the company has chosen certain directions.

Besides the obvious need to know the reasons behind the core activities of a company it is also important to keep the management skills up to date. Just look at the way companies are managed nowadays compared to for example 15 to 20 years ago and you will see the need to constantly improve management skills and adapt to the changes in the business.

Unfortunately training the C level management of an organization is usually forgotten, which is a shame because you can have all the technical skills within your company that you can imagine, if nobody is able to manage it correctly it all goes to waste.