Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"I made a difference for that one"

One of the most frustrating things I hear is when a big organisation says things like;

“We are big so we can’t be as personal as the small company down the road. We just can’t get down into that detail. We have to think big numbers. We are dealing with thousands – not dozens of people. We have to make assumptions. We have to look at trends and aim to please the most we can. We cannot be as individual”

What a load of rubbish!

Caring for your customers is about the individual person in the organisation not about ‘the organisation.’ Every customer is important and you make a difference to every customer. A friend pointed me in the direction of this lovely story that says it all.

The Starfish Story

One day a young was walking along the beach when he noticed an old man picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the old man, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The old man replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. The sun is shining. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The young man said,
“Don’t you realize there are hundreds of miles of beach and thousands of starfish? - You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the old man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the young man, he said...

“I made a difference for that one.”


Randy Bosch said...

Thanks for "recasting" that excellent story. Those who refuse to make a personal difference for others, whatever their craft or discipline, eventually lead sad and lonely lives. I once heard a similar "we can't be personal, we're too big" comment from a corporate healthcare provider executive - obviously in the wrong profession!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Randy - Thanks for dropping in to my Blog - you are always welcome here Sir!
As you may know my corporate career was in healthcare for 35 years and I can relate to the story you tell. I knew many colleagues who felt that way and I regularly found myself in a huge minority in speaking up for the individual. That’s not because I’m smart – it’s because it makes sense. I find it sad and ironic that anyone who works in healthcare can even think that way. The good news is most front line staff know the right answers and it’s in management where the main problem lies

Steve F said...

i love the starfish story and am probably going to use it myself this week. as you and i both know, this challenge is for both our internal customers as well as our external customers. southwest airlines (who hire for attitude vs aptitude) lists their commitment to their employees above their commitment to their customers. seems to work for them and makes a lot of sense to me.

Trevor Gay said...

I love it too Steve and I had not come across it until a friend pointed me to it last weekend. Like all good stories it has a powerful impact. We don’t use storytelling nearly enough in management – it is one of our most under estimated skills. We concentrate far too much on the rational and objective and forget about crating emotional connections.

Steve F said...

totally agree with you trevor. i''m working for some people now who don't understand, as well, that less is more when you're talking/presenting and that any one person can only absorb or remember a small amount and you want to make sure they take away the most important things...which is why painting a picture with a story is so powerful.

Trevor Gay said...

Amen Steve - 'Less is more' is oen of my favourite expressions

J.KANNAN said...

The maiden para contains a dangerous word"Assuumption" which originates from the word "Assume" means................

It makes an "ASS" out of "U" and "ME" better big organisation Managers/Leaders bear this in mind.

Secondly we have seen in the recent times of memory that few big organisations have become "BUG" organisations and got crushed to end.

Better to be pragmatic and practical in organisations be it small or big to avoid becoming "BUG"


Trevor Gay said...

JK - Assuming was a big fault of mine in my early life. I like to think that as I've got older I've got much better. I realise there are ALWAYS things going on that we don’t know about in situations that may appear very cut and dried. Assuming is still a weakness of most of us I fear.

Celina Macaisa said...

RE: the traditional perception that we just have to accept that large organizations can only be impersonal to their customers,(or even their employees)then these people have to look at organizations such as Zappos who are still able to provide customer service at 'an individual/personal level' because of their team-based approach and culture which makes the outstanding customer service (customers appreciate & will make any company standout from its competition)scalable to thousands of employees.

The story was described in Dianne Crampton's book: "TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures And Why They Thrive."

It also includes illustrations of how growing companies are also able to personalize their engagement with their employees and motivate them using a team-based approach as well.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Celina – I’ve always been a great advocate of teams. Providing the culture of individualism underpins all that we do then of course personal service will always be provided regardless of the size of the organisation. Leadership is the crucial factor for me. The most effective leaders encourage a team culture and by example they show how every single customer will be treated as if they were a member of the family. Good to see you here at Simplicity blog - tell your friends.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Great starfish story, Trevor, and great reminder, Celina, about the importance of developing a team-based approach. Everybody pays lip service to it, but I still see too much autocratic decision-making by one leader.

Trevor Gay said...

John - I agree there is still far too much autocratic leadership.

The reality is that the REAL power is ALWAYS in the people at the front line - the best leaders know this. As our great mutual friend and guru Tom Peters put it today on his Blog; "Leaders exist to serve. Period."

I love that!