Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Whose customer is unhappy?

Customer is the king. Despite this mantra, all of us complain about our clients. When we complain about our customers, we often forget our behaviour when roles are reversed. Are we any less demanding than our customers while we are dealing with our suppliers? We can be as difficult as our customers. Once a friend confessed to the guilty pleasure of dealing with vendors for it gives him an opportunity to behave like his customer.

Recently, I came across a disgruntled customer. The customer has become disillusioned with prices and level of services after years of business with a reputed system integrator. Now they are shopping for a new system integrator. Since I was working for the same customer on a different engagement, I became friendly with various groups of the reputed system integrator. My association with the system integrator was neither in professional interest nor personal interest. Working on the same floor, friendships and casual acquaintances has a way of blooming.

During my association with different groups of the reputed system integrator, I unearthed a finding which baffled me. Whenever the conversation turned to the strained relation between the system integrator and the customer, there was only one statement regardless of which group was involved. "My customer is happy with my services. But they are not happy with the other services being offered." I was confused after talking to all the groups. The individual groups were confident about their service levels and the customer's satisfaction levels. But they were worried about service levels offered by other and the respective customer satisfaction levels.

What is wrong, in this case? Is everyone lying? Or is everyone so naive that they are unable to read between the lines? Is the customer playing games? Or is the customer overly polite while giving out the negative feedback? Whose customer is unhappy?

Tags: Musings, Customer, Satisfaction

Monday, February 23, 2015

Movie Review: Kraftidioten

Does "Kraftidioten" in Norwegian translates to "In Order Of Disappearance" in English? "In Order Of Disappearance" is the title of this movie for the English-speaking market. I find Scandinavian films appealing because of the thriller element in them. More than the bone chilly coldness of the characters, the loneliness these souls feel in the cold countries is more enigmatic and intriguing. The movie features two of the prominent names from this side of the Atlantic, Stellan Skarsgård, and Bruno Ganz. The former needs no introduction. If you are wondering about the latter, remember who played Hitler in that movie, aptly named "Downfall", which features last few days of the dictator.

A small village in Norway provides the backdrop for the movie. Stellan Skarsgård plays Nils, who is a snowplow driver. Nils is a recipient of Model Citizen when the movie opens. Because of the nature of Nils' job,  we see only snow in all directions. As a result, the entire frame is white, dazzling and mesmerizing you at the same time. When his son dies of a drug overdose, Nils is shattered. According to Nils, his son was not a drug addict. Unable to sleep at night, Nils hunts down the people responsible. The pursuit and persecution of the perpetrators unintentionally erupt in a gang war between crime syndicates.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland, the film is difficult to classify. There are elements of a thriller in the movie. But the film isn't a thriller. The whole movie is based on the concept of the son. Everybody is at each other's throat because of their sons. There are fathers avenging their son's death. There is a father who is worried about his son's safety. Like I said earlier, it is the concept of the son that binds the movie together. The movie cannot be classified as a drama either. There is a sense of loss that drive many of the characters to avenge and betray. But this characteristic alone is not be sufficient to classify this movie as a drama. Finally, it is not a comedy. Although there are many a moment, that puts  a smile on your face. The Count played by Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen is one such character. Losing temper very easily and unable to cope with the pressure in the chosen vocation, the Count aka Greven, makes you smile at him in misery. Similarly, Stellan Skarsgård and Bruno Ganz makes us smile and laugh in their way.

The movie is interested despite the gory scenes. The movie offers a thriller and comedy rolled into one. Go for it. If not the story, the photography, highlighting the emptiness, will keep you hooked to the movie.

You will find more information on this movie here.

Language: Norwegian

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Is flying coach cheaper?

A few weeks ago, I came across a tweet concerning the finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis. The tweet attracted my attention because Yanis was traveling coach.  The act resonates well with the economic turmoil unfurling in Greece. Who wants to spend the money on luxuries when you are struggling to get your finances in order? But isn't it a security nightmare? 

Yanis flying coach brings me to a chairman of a big company who loves to fly coach although he is wealthy enough to travel first class or business class. He doesn't like to throw away money. This characteristic might be the what has made him rich in the first place. While I was talking to my friend about this chairman. My friend says it is untrue. To his credit, he is more knowledgeable than me.  Now, the chairman travels business class. The chairman no longer travels by coach.

My friend explained the reason to a surprised me. The chairman, being a prominent citizen, should be given a highest level of security. This directive dictates a certain area should be cordoned off around him which means a certain amount of seats has been booked without being utilized. When the bean counters did a cost benefits analysis on traveling coach versus business class, the latter was cheaper because of the security constraints.

All that glitters is not gold. The first looks can be deceptive. A news can be sensational but when you dig deeper, it might not make any sense. So I advice you to have that pinch of salt ready with you.

Tags: Musings, Coach, Travel

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sleep, the energizer

I would like to sleep on it. Have you anyone say so? I have heard this countless times. On many occasions, the response left me aghast. How could you talk about sleeping when we are staring at a disaster? That sums up my reaction although I mostly didn't express it in such blunt terms. Now I am older, not necessarily wiser, I have better sense to question this behavior. Does sleep help?

According to experts, sleep is essential because of three processes that take place during our sleep. The three processes are unitization, assimilation, and abstraction. If you are wondering what these big words mean, have you seen science fiction movies where computer plays the main villain? This villainous concoction of hardware and software can connect events and experiences to derive new meanings that make it more powerful as the plot progresses. Our mind behaves the same way during sleep. Our mind analyzes what we have encountered so far, interprets it in different ways and finally forms new associations. If we oversimplify the whole process, our mind is constantly evolving during sleep.

Unfortunately, we do not give importance to sleep. In fact, we sacrifice sleep with the slightest hesitation. David K Randall, a sleep expert and an author, talks about sleep. 
While we'll spend thousands on lavish vacations to unwind, grind away hours exercising and pay exorbitant amounts for organic food, sleep remains ingrained in our cultural ethos as something that can be put off, dosed or ignored. We can't look at sleep as an investment in our health because - after all - it's sleep. It is hard to feel like you're taking an active step to improve your life with your head on a pillow.
I have learned my lesson. I am no longer surprised if someone says they want to sleep before making a decision. They will be able to make a better decision if they get time to unitize, assimilate and abstract.

Tags: Musings, Sleep

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are you young or old?

Given a chance, we would all love to be young having the wisdom of old? But are you young or old? Some of us like to say we have young mind. Some of us are lucky enough to have been the right genetic composition which makes you look young compared to your age. But what differentiates between young or old? 

Do you feel the time flies? While approaching 40s, I started realizing the time was flying by. Before you realize, a week passes by, then a month and subsequently an year. Everyone is racing. Why is that so? At 30, our body slows down in terms of metabolic rate, reaction time and also cognitive processing speed. This gives us an impression of time going fast. 

When we are young, we like to learn new things. We also like to push the envelope a bit further in order to experience new things. When we are old, we like to do things we are comfortable and the outcome of which are already known to us. This is all because of the limited time we have.

Read what author David Levitin has to say. 
... different views of how we want to spend time are partly fueled by how much time we feel we left. When time is perceived as open-ended, the goals that become most highly prioritized are those that are preparatory, focused on gathering information, on experiencing novelty, and on expanding one's breadth of knowledge. When time is perceived as constrained, the highest priority goals will be those that can be realized in the short-term and that provide emotional meaning, such as spending time with family and friends.
This also explains why young people who are left with little time to leave suddenly starts to behave like old people.

If you want to stay young, start doing something you have not done yet. Learn a new skill. Adopt a new hobby.

Tags: Musings, Young, Old

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pappettan provides feedback

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

The season of feedback is here. Most of us know this season as appraisal season. As most professionals try hard to make sense of their year-long struggles and woes, I met up with Pappettan. Pappettan was frantically searching for something when I arrived.

Me: *curious* What are you searching?

Pappettan: *searching all over and also talking at the same time* The dictionary.

Me: *smiling* You want to find out the meaning of a word. Why? Are you writing anything important?

Pappettan: *patiently* I am providing feedback for a colleague as a part of the appraisal process.

Me: *impressed* Interesting. *cuts to the chase* Which word are you looking up?

Pappettan: *determined* I am not looking up a word. I want to make sure I am spelling the word correctly.

Me: *curious* Which word?

Pappettan: *nonchalantly* The word "useless".


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Communicate using maxims of Grice

In our professional and personal life, communication plays a significant role. Communication occurs as either conversation or emails. You may find acquaintances who are superb in both modes while there are cases where people fail miserably.

I have come across colleagues who can confuse the audience every time they report daily or weekly status updates in person. While they are excellent in executing, they fail at communicating. As a result, their progress are reported by intermediaries in order to avoid confusion and also constant meandering from the objective. There is a bigger question about what is the value addition of these intermediaries. When compared to the bitterness generated in the person sidelined because of the communication style, the bigger question is less damaging.

How can we communicate well? There are many books and self-help articles about this. More you read it, more confused are you. Recently, I came across Grice's maxims. These are simple rules stating the framework of a conversation. We can use these maxims for designing our communication.

The maxims are 
  1. Maxim of Quality: Do not say what you believe is false. Do not say that which you lack adequate evidence.
  2. Maxim of Quantity: Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purpose of exchange). Do not make a contribution more informative than is required.
  3. Maxim of Relation - Be relevant.
  4. Maxim of Manner - Avoid obscurity or expression. Avoid ambiguity. Be brief. Be orderly
Note: The maxims are quoted from Wikipedia.

You may not become a star by following these maxims. But you will send the right messages and will not lose the interest of your audience. If we have their interest, then they are processing our message.

Tags: Musings, Communication, Grice

Monday, February 9, 2015

Memories, changing with each recall

A friend recollects an event differently. You are baffled on hearing his version. The event is hilarious than you remember. But the details have changed. As a result, you feel amused. At the same time, you are also hurt a bit. Eventually, you decide not to confront. Instead, you play along. Has this happened to you? Were you secretly angry with your friend for twisting the facts? If you have been hurt or angry, then your friend did not deliberately alter the event. This phenomenon happens because of how memory works. Memories can change. The above fact is described by psychiatrist Bruce Perry of the Feinberg School of Medicine.

"We know today that, just like when you open a Microsoft Word file on your computer, when you retrieve a memory from where it is stored in the brain, you automatically open it to 'edit.' You may not be aware that your current mood and environment can influence the emotional tone of your recall, your interpretation of events, and even your beliefs about which events actually took place. But when you 'save' the memory again and place it back into storage, you can inadvertently modify it...[This] can bias how and what you recall the next time you pull up that 'file.'"

Whenever we access the memory, we also modify it before placing it back. As a result, all the events that we recollect has been changed. The order of magnitude of the change may vary. But the memory has been altered from its original state. While you may be cross with your friend for altering the event, your friends might also hold you guilty on the same count. Next time you hear a friend recounting an event, you must remember this characteristic of the memory.

Tags: Musings, Memory, Change

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