Monthly Archives: July 2009


How much damage can one man do?

I think everyone knows someone in their organization that, if left to their own devices, would most likely inflict serious damage to it? However, if kept focused in the right direction, the same person could possibly be of great value. But what if someone outside your business, a customer perhaps, could inflict a damaging blow to your company’s share value- what then?

This week I heard such a story, perhaps you did too? Dave Carroll a customer of United Airlines had his hand made Taylor guitar broken while in their care. After a year of trying to obtain some kind of compensation, he finally gave up and took the issue into his own hands by making an entertaining video and posting it on You tube, you can see it here. More than four million hits later and the story has now being covered by all the world’s top news agencies and United Airlines is having to engage in a massive unwelcome and unexpected PR campaign.

So what went wrong? United Airline’s image of being friendly has simply fallen out of line with their customer’s perception. Their customer care policy is being tested top its limits by thousands of people who are now reacting to the video, sharing their own experiences on the net and now adding their own claims on the back of it.

Of course in this situation, Dave Carroll gains global publicity for himself and his band, United get world wide attention and a chance to put things right – but the fact remains that enormous damage has and is being done.

So my message for other businesses that have built their names and reputations on a ‘We Care’ platform is: don’t allow your perceived company culture fall out of line with the hard reality of your customer care department and the policies behind it, educate and re educate your customer contact teams to keep in line with your corporate culture. And if you find that they are two far apart, then consider re-positioning yourself because the real problem in this story is that United positioned themselves on being soft and cuddly but the public’s perception no longer supports it.

In today’s anarchic media world – businesses are vulnerable to well informed, creative and upset customers. Trust me, this is just the beginning of a wave that will spread and become common place, even impacting SME’s and local businesses. When people see an advantage in someone behaving in one way, they do not take long to follow.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:31+00:001 Comment

What’s the difference between an employee and a contractor?

In the ideal world, I like to see a contractor as someone knowingly entering into a short term relationship. In some ways it can be compared with an affair or holiday romance, full of passion and focus but each party knowing from the outset that it is not likely to be (or ever intended to be) anything more!

There are some contractors that are invited to become employees after successful contracts. But what really is the difference between the two? Let’s examine the facts:

How long does the average employee work for your company 3 years, 30 years? How long does the average contractor work for your company? (I know many companies that have contractors on their pay role for several years). Is an employee ‘married’ to the company? And those employees that feel that they are married to their company, do they work any better than their contractor counterparts? Or, are they more focused on their internal (dare I say) ‘political’ career , than the content and results of their work? I know many married people that should feel secure and yet are constantly worried about divorce and hidden agendas. In theory, it is only the type of contract that should make any difference and yet it is often so much more.

There are basically two types of contractor: Firstly, the self employed contractor working either directly with the end customer or via an intermediary and secondly the employee contractor that is an employee of the clients subcontracting company.

In my experience the latter, is an excellent breeding ground for contractors (they acquire diverse experience over a short timeframe, as they move from one assignment to another) but the ‘real’ contractors are all self employed. The contractors that voluntarily gave up the security of their employee lifestyle to break away to prove their net worth on the open market.

Right now there are many self employed contractors that are regretting their decision, but (thankfully) there are still many rejoicing in their freedom. However, I do have one end word on this topic:

The pain and loss that some contractors feel at the end of a project can be surprisingly substantial (possibly the same as at the end of a short term affair)? The supposedly reassuring comment ‘but you knew it was going to end, when you started out’ does not help. Why? Because the pensioned contractor allowed themselves to become submerged in their assignment, they get in so deep that the desire to achieve excellence for their customer and colleagues, takes them over, even without them fully realizing it.

Sure there are many contractors, that never commit and only perform the minimum of what they are contracted to do – but then again, how many employees are the same? And if these contractors are self employed, then it is quite likely that the recession will filter them out of the market.

So my advice for business leaders and employers: choosing for short term relationships is often the best way forward for all goal oriented assignments and especially in these days of restricted OPEX. But please leaders, remind your employees to appreciate the fact that contractors are humans too, that they have families and friends outside the workplace that depend on them. Remember that it is absolutely fine to benefit personally by absorbing the passion that the new contractor can bring, but when the contract is over (or forcibly cut short) the contractor’s pain is probably not likely to be their loss of short term earnings but something much deeper – their pride, their unfulfilled ambition.

In the time that a contractor is working alongside their employee colleagues, they should be encouraged to feel part of the workforce family and they should be treated and respected as such, yet always knowing that there is an end date, not so far away. Any forced exclusion from the employee group is tricky, and often de-motivational, even when it is understood why it is necessary.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:31+00:001 Comment

‘Changing Business’

No matter how you look at it, the world is changing and along with it, business is changing too.  For many companies, the way business is conducted today has changed almost beyond recognition to that of only ten or twenty years ago, thanks to the emergence of the internet and integrated mobile access technologies.

The applications we use to communicate and carryout business transactions are becoming much simpler to use and at the same time much more sophisticated. In recent times, completely new business models have been created - where companies that choose to give away their core products for free have become some of the richest players on earth.

With all this change, one thing remains, people. People need to be found, recruited, educated, motivated, re-motivated, removed, replaced, re-defined, re-aligned. Luckily, business is still about people. Luckily our shareholders are still human (even though it might not seem so, sometimes)!

In this 'Brave New World' the role of the Change Manager is becoming ever more important. Today's change manager needs to be a true professional. He, or she, needs to have  both the in depth theory of their craft and also the hard experience of making change happen.  Real change management is about managing change (making sure things happen in a different way) and not the other way around (trying to get control on what is changing).  In this sense, today’s effective change managers have moved more towards project management (getting the job done) and away from consultancy.

As my regular readers know, in my weekly blogs I share my observations from a business change perspective and I strongly encourage others to do the same in their contributions. (Notice that on my new blog platform, all my contributors are credited and are given top exposure in the right hand column for the entire world to see).

Each week I will continue to cover almost any topic related to business and business management and practices. From the trivial to the complex, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes both - but (I hope) my content will always be real, relevant, tangible, pragmatic, useful, interesting and entertaining.

How long will I keep this blog up?

For as long as people keep reading and responding, for as long as it has purpose.

Have a good week,



2016-11-17T08:25:32+00:002 Comments

Welcome to my new blog: ‘Changing Business’

I think some explanation is in order? Why all this change after two and a quarter years?

Just like some of us have home decorators in to advise us on our interior color schemes and furnishings, I have had the e-communication experts in.  I invited them to help me meet the demands of some of my regular readers and also to ensure that the effort I put in each week in writing my blog, is matched by market visibility. So here it is, my new blog 'Changing business'

So why the new name?

I chose ‘Changing Business’ because it is grammatically ambiguous, in that it can mean several different things, depending how you approach it.  I realized that most of us are involved with changing business, in one way or another, so I thought it an apt title - please feel free to make of it what you will...

All feedback welcome!

2016-11-17T08:25:32+00:000 Comments

Project Go-Lives are not what they used to be!

When I was a teenager I was often asked to organize student parties. Somehow I always seemed to be picked out for the one that got things done. In the beginning there was always something that either I, or one of my friends, forgot (apart from the alcohol which always came first). In fact we used to enjoy partying so much that we used to arrange ‘dress rehearsals’ the day before, just to make sure the bottle openers worked, the beer was cool, and the music was loud enough etc.. The problem was, it was often the dress rehearsals that caused many of the issues (beer shortages and neighbors getting upset on the second night etc.).

Looking back, the interesting thing about watching amateurs organize events or projects is that they don’t care too much about forgetting something. My theory for this is that people get a buzz from ‘fixing’ things. Bad planning nearly always results in people having an adrenaline rush of creative thinking in order to solve challenges such as: “where can we find flowers and 50 balloons at this time of night?”

Today, with project methodologies such as PMI, Prince 2 and any other approach that works, good planning and a mitigation strategy take out all the fun of the chaos that is normally associated with Go-Live day. It has been a very long time since I had to play Pizza man at three in the morning!

Why am I writing this blog? 1. Because it is Go-Live day on the first leg of a massive project I am working on and 2. Because it is a testament that having vision, staying focused, setting up objective criteria from which to measure readiness for go-live and surrounding yourself with just the right number and caliber of people, us humans can do just about anything!

Perhaps more interesting than a blog on successful project go-live days, would be a blog on project disasters? So if you some disaster stories, I would be very happy to share them, after all, we learn more from our mistakes than our successes and also it would at least pass the time… until I hear, “Harley, we have a problem…”

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:36+00:000 Comments