Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Leadership

Alaska Airlines finally apologized to the disabled gentleman they refused to help board their plane so he could visit his daughter in Washington. Apparently a man with Parkinson’s disease seemed disoriented at the gate (funny how that works), and nobody from Alaska/Horizon Airlines would help him—even when a concerned onlooker tried to intercede by appealing first to the professionalism of the airline staff, then to the basic humanity. In spite of the obvious need for their assistance, and multiple escalations with escalating appeals, the airline employees repeatedly recited their policy of not offering special assistance to any travelers.

Cameron Clark, the advocate for the elderly gentleman, quickly became outraged at the indecency of the way Alaska/Horizon treated this poor gentlemen, and took to social justice. He blasted Alaska Airlines on his Facebook page, and the story quickly went viral, then hit the national news with USA Today. Wouldn’t you know, Alaska Airlines has now taken a very active interest in our elderly and disabled gentleman flyer. In his apology, President Johnson from Horizon Air admits they should have handled it better.

I’d like to quickly address the leaders out there who believe good policies and procedures are the way to run a company. Directionally I agree; however you must be careful of getting into situations like Alaska. Good policies keep everything in order, and this is very important for an airline. They have a huge responsibility over others. Without an over-emphasis on policy, a lot of people could die.

That said, it’s impossible to create a policy/procedure for every situation. Especially when dealing with the public, there’s a wide variety of possible situations. They fell into the process management trap. Something obviously went wrong with Alaska, but I don’t blame the employees at the gate, I blame the leadership. Their philosophy is obviously bureaucratic, the employees were just doing what they were told, and they’re probably not allowed to do anything different for fear of some sanction.

The leadership needs to adjust their approach, and allow the employees on the front line to use some discretion. Yes, you will get a variety of inconsistent outcomes for different situations, but you must learn to live with it. It’s better than being crucified in the social media by your customers.

It’s good that Alaska apologized, but the damage is already done. This want so viral, I heard about it from my chiropractor when I was getting adjusted on Wednesday. You should read some of the responses to the apology. Few people are buying the ostensible sincerity of the President—would you?

It’s better to get the leadership correct so there is no need for an apology. There’s no undo in Unix; don’t issue return on the wrong command.

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Posted by on in Leadership

Some IT organizations today still cringe when employees, or even their own business users, come to them with the technology they want to use. To them BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is just another four-letter word. They’d rather if you just kept your smartphone and tablet computer far away from their precious infrastructure, as they hide behind corporate policy to avoid having to deal with integration hassles.

I’ve done a lot of work advising architecture for data warehousing and business intelligence solutions, and the crusades I’ve seen waged against the evils of spread-marts (spreadsheets used as data marts) and other user-controlled reporting mechanisms, is reminiscent of the holy wars of 13th century Europe. Leaders who participate in such barbaric behavior are waging the wrong battle. It’s difficult to get good feedback; great leaders don’t push it away, they welcome it!

I recently wrote an article for SearchCIO-MidMarket on how the consumerization of IT can be leveraged to improve an IT organization. You can read it here, if you’re a current subscriber (registration is free). The point extends beyond IT, so if you’re a leader in any capacity, what’s happening in IT is worth noticing.

For those of you not familiar with the term, consumerization of IT simply means employees bringing technology to IT, instead of the other way around. It’s been attempted for decades; however, the outmoded mantras of “use whatever IT mandates,” are being strongly challenged with the empowerment of the social generation. Under mounting pressure from top management, IT organizations today are forced to make things work instead of arbitrarily dismissing a proposed technology because it’s not a good architectural fit.

In my opinion, IT never should have pushed back. In their zeal to protect their fiefdom, they isolated themselves from the rest of the organization. This forced organizations to reconsider how integral the function of IT was, and many IT professionals found themselves out of a job as outsourcing became the rational conclusion.

Whenever you have the opportunity to have your users—whether they’re business users or customers—come to you for help in making their lives easier, you should jump on it right away. It won’t take long for them to determine whether or not you’re on their side. And if you’re not on their side—you’re on the wrong side.

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