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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle


New Podcast from the Archives

This interview on the Breakfast Club with Paul Thomas, former CEO of Lascelles Division of Lascelles de Mercado, done in 2000, speaks to some of the results he realized in a major culture change programme.


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Thanks to a Fellow Blogger

Recently I put out a volunteer request for someone to edit the entries on my blog.

The author of the fine blog, BeyondBee, agreed to be my editor, and in addition to fixing numerous typos, she also indexed each of the entries.

It was the kind of thing that I could not bear to do myself, as I get quite embarrassed at some of the stuff I have said in the past, or the way in which I have written it.

She seemed to have no problem with any of it, and effortlessly fixed all sorts of errors with a smile and a willing spirit.

This blog owes her a debt of gratitude... and I hope my readers will visit her own blog to sample her fine writing. See http://www.beyondbee.net.


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Christmas Morning

Here it is. Big Christmas morning, and I am at my computer typing away.

What gives?

Well, I was lying in bed thinking up all sorts of ideas to write about, including this one, and concluded that sleeping was just... boring.

I much prefer to be here -- taking an idea out of my head, and giving words to it. It's simply more fun as my computer operates as my personal canvas of sorts, a way to express myself in the world.

This past year, the expression has taken the form of audio and video, more than ever, with the publication of my first several podcasts.

Recently, I made my first foray into e-commerce, with my "New Habits-New Goals" course allowing for on-line payment through PayPal.

The truth is, I love this part of what I do -- to think up new stuff, and then turn my creativity into tangible expression in the world. I lay in bed thinking that this is what an artist must feel like when they go into their studio at 4:00 am with an idea in their heads that they just cannot shake.


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Not Really A Merger...

In May I wrote about the fact that the LIAT/Caribbean Star "merger' was really turning out to be an acquisition.

Now, several months later, in December, all pretense of a merger has fallen away and the only public conversation is about the pending acquisition.

This, in an article from Caribbean360.com:

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, November 15, 2007 - The seven-year-old Caribbean Star will operate its final flight today, marking a takeover by competitor LIAT, in a buyout that Chairman, Jean Holder describes as "one of the most significant business deals in the history of the Caribbean".

Late last month, the two carriers finalised and executed an agreement that facilitated the transfer of Caribbean Star's assets to LIAT. That asset purchase agreement did not include the remaining five aircraft leased by Caribbean Star which are expected to be transferred to LIAT in a separate transaction expected to coincide with today's closure of the carrier, owned by Antigua-based Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford.

Would it have been more truthful to just say this from the very beginning?


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More to Hate About RFP's

In a prior post, I ranted on and on about why I stay away from RFP's. Then a client called and said that he had one for me, and last week in a meeting another potential client mentioned that they would be doing the same thing.

It reminded me of an RFP that I read the other day that had to be the heights of madness.

For the kind of work I do, hiring a consultant is a little like hiring a combination of company coach, doctor, teacher, lawyer and friend. The work is up close and personal, and trust plus personal chemistry are some of the main ingredients that are absolutely required.

No-one uses an RFP process to hire a coach, doctor, teacher, lawyer or friend.

Yet, some companies try to do so, and the RFP I read the other day was a recipe for disaster. While it satisfies the bureaucrats, it effectively allows the client to do what Jeff Thull calls "self-diagnosing".

It's a little like deciding what litigation you want to pursue, the argument you want to make, and then hiring a lawyer only to make the case that you have developed to the jury.

Or, it's like calling up a surgeon to tell him that you have determined from your research on the internet that your gall-bladder needs to be removed and you'd "like to know his best price" because you are just "shopping around".

Anyway, this RFP I found for fireman consulting services included the following "point system".


Criteria for Evaluation of Proposals

Name of Company:_____________________

Experience, Qualifications and Expertise
  1. Number of years the Company has been in the fire department consultant business
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 years - acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 years - advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 years - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Highest degree earned by the lead member of the company or consulting team
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • bachelors degree - acceptable 5 points
  • masters degree - advantageous 10 points
  • PhD - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Minimum fire department service of team members with prior fire department experience
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 10 years - acceptable 5 points
  • 10 to 15 years - advantageous 10 points
  • over 15 years - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of fire department projects comparable to the scope and content of this RFP completed in the past 5 years
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 10 - acceptable 5 points
  • 10 to 20 - advantageous 10 points
  • over 20 - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of projects completed for Towns in the State of Massachusetts in the past 3 years
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 - acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 - advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Number of published articles on topics related to this RFP by consulting team members
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • less than 5 - acceptable 5 points
  • 5 to 10 - advantageous 10 points
  • over 10 - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Ability to complete and deliver report within time frame
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • >20% of projects delivered late - acceptable 5 points
  • >2% of projects delivered late - advantageous 10 points
  • all projects on time - highly advantageous 15 points
  1. Plan of Services demonstrates understanding of work to be completed
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • 2 or more items not addressed - acceptable 5 points
  • 1 item not addressed - advantageous 10 points
  • all items addressed - highly advantageous 15 points

Capabilities and Resources

  1. Studies currently under contract involving key personnel that would also be assigned to this study
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • 3 or more - acceptable 5 points
  • 1 or 2 - advantageous 10 points
  • None - highly advantageous 15 points


  1. Information on other organizations for which your firm has provided comparable consulting services
  • undisclosed - unacceptable 0 points
  • incorrect contacts listed - acceptable 5 points
  • correct contacts listed - advantageous 10 points
  • correct contacts listed and summary of work done listed - highly advantageous 15 points points:


I can just imagine the heights of madness this must reach. The predictable result that I have witnessed is that the process gets bogged down, and the project never begins.

The mass of data that needs to be assimilated to make a critical decision does not allow itself to be reduced to simple math like this.

Instead, clients would do better to work with one consultant at a time. If they are able to get themselves above the invisible, undefinable bar, then they should be hired. If not, then the search should be expanded to the next consultant that can be found.

The person who is going to use the firm's services MUST be the one who participates in making the decision. RFP's that use simplistic checklists like the one above get bogged down when the people doing the choosing are different from the ones who will actually work closely with the consultant. Inevitably, the consultant must sell themselves twice -- once to the gatekeepers, and then again to the direct client who they will be working with, often resulting in an impasse when the gatekeepers and the direct client are unable to agree.

After gaining some experience, consultants learn to stay far, far away from this kind of nonsense, if it can be helped.

P.S. This is not to say that RFP's are bad for buying things like cement, furniture or car tyres. They are a dangerous waste of time, however, if they are applied to professional and personal services.


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Creating the Customer Experience Is Easy

Meeting customer needs is hard, compared to creating a particular customer experience.

Unfortunately, human nature is such that when customer needs are met, but the experience is one that is negative, what is remembered is only the experience. Emotion trumps reason every single time.

In fact, a skilled listener can tell a customer no, and still leave them with an experience that is positive, warm and caring.

Here in the Caribbean, this is a rare skill.

In fact, there seem to be many more who meet the customer's need, but leave a negative experience -- and this I have seen across the region, with some countries much worse than others.

At the same time, it seems that the company that is able to provide a good customer experience should do well, and it's not because our local service is so bad region-wide.

Instead, the reason is that we take service personally. After a positive interaction, we talk about "how nice that lady was". After a poor experience, we talk about "disrespect".

In other parts of the world, they talk about the service that the company provides, but here it's about the individual and what they did to us that was good or bad.

It's personal.

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It's Been a Long "Time" Coming

If you have been following this blog, you might remember the posts I did related to the 2Time Management System -- for time management and productivity.

After a few years of developing the idea, I am launching the course today in the form of a pilot programme.

What: New Habits-New Goals - The Practice and Art of Professional Productivity in January, in Kingston

For more details, see http://fwconsulting.com/newhabits


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HR Trends: Bringing in Expats

In last month's issue of FirstCuts entitled "Expats of the Caribbean" I wrote about how companies need to do more to prepare themselves to be successful in bringing in expats.

With the advent of CSME and globalization, there are going to be more expats moving around the region, taking jobs in different countries. The burden of ensuring their successful transition lies in the HR departments in each country.

Unfortunately, most of them are ill-equipped to assist expats make the transition (a few have not evolved from being personnel departments themselves.)

They simply don't have the programmes in place to deal with the cultural transition that an expat must make, and many of them hardly understand the nature of the problem.

The fact is, they need to acquaint themselves with the nature of the programmes that their company needs, and will need to deliver increasingly effective solutions to what is bound to be a growing challenge.


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Simple-Minded Delegation

Recently, my mother told her gardener, Lincoln, that she wanted him to do a certain job in her yard. He dutifully began to work on it, while she went out.

An hour later, my father returned and decided to ask him to stop what he was doing, and start something else. Lincoln refused, mumbling something about "This is what the Madame wanted." My father was not amused, and Lincoln would only relent when my mother returned and confirmed my father's request.

Add in the fact that Lincoln probably didn't have more than a primary school education, and was pretty simple minded and you might have some pretty idiosyncratic behaviour.

Yet, in a meeting at an insurance company the other day, they described the exact same behaviour from a worker receiving instructions from 2 different managers. Perhaps Lincoln's behaviour was not so odd after all.

Where does this come from? Is it a vestige of slavery days, and a plantation mentality? Is it a good thing? What point was he trying to make, if any?

Is it the case that he was just too simple to be able to handle conflicting instructions?

Is there some way to harness his commitment in a positive way?

I'm open to ideas here.

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Speech on the Caribbean Customer Experience

Here is a new recording of a speech I gave at the Jamaica Customer Service Association Conference.

Francis' Recordings

Speeches, recordings, podcasts completed in the course of doing business in Framework Consulting

Enjoy! -- Francis Wade

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Strategy and the Fat Smoker

I haven't read his book yet, but David Maister's new book on strategy seems to be right on target.

I recently read an article that he wrote by the same name in Consulting Magazine that shared some of the book's ideas. The title? - Strategy and the Fat Smoker.

He makes the point that fat smokers know what they need to do to lose weight, and to ward off a heart attack and cancer. However, knowing what they need to do is just not enough. Instead, the
real question is whether or not they can do what it takes to sacrifice present discomfort for future gain.

Companies have habits, just like people, and changing habits takes diligence, discipline and perseverance, plus a tolerance for multiple failures.

On the smallest of micro-levels, it takes waking up each morning and starting the day on a different foot, determined to take actions that push the envelope on new-habit creation, or old-habit deletion. This is where the strategy gets implemented -- on a person by person basis, in the quiet moments when they have a choice to act differently, and move out of their comfort zones in order to make it happen an inch at a time.

I happen to be doing an experiment of sorts to change some of my habits. Inspired by a blog I read on creating a 'Scaffold' for each day or repetitive actions, and also by the recent literature on what it takes to change a habit, I have been daily working through a checklist of new
habits that I am trying to follow.

I have been using a 30-day checklist that has helped tremendously as I keep the sheet in front of me as a guide to making sure that the essential actions are being followed each day.

I agree with him about the challenge it takes to change habitual actions. In his article, he says that "Discussing goals is stimulating, inspiring, and energizing. But it feels tough, awkward, annoying, frightening and completely unpleasant to discuss the discipline needed to reach those goals."

This strikes a chord with me as I get to the end of the year, and notice which of my goals remain unfinished. When it comes down to it, for a few of them I just didn't know how to accomplish the goal, but on others, I knew exactly what to do but didn't muster up enough habit-breaking
will-power to get the job done, and that's the truth.

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Already, always networking

The finishing touches are being put on Framework's new ebook on Caribbean networking and it struck me that a professional is always networking, whether they want to or not. This can easily be seen with what is currently happening on Facebook, which is making the activity of networking in the region much, much easier than it has ever been in the past.

When the topic of Facebook comes up, the reaction is usually one of two: either they talk about how addictive it is, or they talk about how little time they have and how they are too busy to be on Facebook.

The difference is interesting -- because Facebook does make networking easy. In fact, it makes almost ALL aspects of networking easy, effortless and it saves a great deal of time and effort.

It defies explanation to those who don't understand it, but I am coming to realize that those who don't have the time to be on Facebook are probably also the ones who don't have the time to network. In other words, they are willing to leave their networking to chance. They are willing to squeeze the activity in a little here and there.

What they don't know is that they would get a much bigger bang for their buck if they were to use a networking tool like Facebook. It is an extremely high-leverage activity.

Also, it is easy to see that on Facebook, the number of people using the free service is indirectly proportional to age. In other words, younger people have networks in the hundreds, while older people can hardly find ten.

The fact of the matter is that younger people are better networked than older people, and are using tools to give themselves a tremendous advantage over their older peers. They understand that they are always networking, whether they are thinking about it or not.

Their profile in Facebook is doing the work for them, and their presence in their friends' networks speaks for who they are in an efficient and time-effective way.

Those that "don't have time" to network are stuck with the old practices -- attending functions, giving out business cards, etc. -- that all take time, money and paper and they just have no idea what they are missing.

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Customer Experience Programmes Falling Through the Cracks

Customer Experience programmes are some of the most difficult for large corporations to manage, and many end up falling through the proverbial cracks.

I remember when I first heard the concept a few years ago, and applied it to my company newsletter, FirstCuts.

I found myself undertaking an out of body experience that was difficult. I had to imagine what it was like for a subscriber to go through all the touch-points that they would encounter, regardless of whether or not I had control over them or not.

Luckily, I subscribe to many newsletters, so I had a way of thinking about the service I was providing in terms of what I would have liked to see someone provide to me. It still was not easy, however, and resulted in my having a to create a tool to understand the different experiences that a customer could have at each touch-point (The Service Inventory.)

The problem is compounded tremendously in corporations.

Unfortunately, the touch-points that a customer experiences don't all fall into one nice department called "customer experience". In fact, most customers' first touch-point has nothing to do with service in many cases. Instead, people's first impression might be through the company's advertising, a speech given by the CEO, what their cousin told them about the company, or the fact that they couldn't find parking when they made their first visit.

These are all critical touch-points that help to create the emotional bundle of experiences that customers are left with at the end of the day.

What makes this all hard for companies, and for the heads of customer experience departments, is that they must somehow find a way to influence the entire company to provide a different set of touch-points for customers.

And this is why customer experience programmes often fail -- companies either reduce them to mere customer service, or they fail to get the entire company to buy in on the importance of looking at all the touch-points, from the CEO on down.

It takes a total commitment to deal with all the touch-points that customers experience, and the truth is that customers don't care which department is failing to give them the experience they want at the moment, all they know is that the company is bad.

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Substituting Being Smart for Being Organized

Here in the Caribbean, smart professionals sometimes get quite lazy.

They have quick minds which they use to run rings around people who are not quite as sharp as they are, don't know how to hold them to account, and are unable to see behind their lack of organizational skills.

They are used to dealing with people who aren't quite as smart as they are, and are able to get away with procrastination, arriving late at meeting and being sloppy with their commitments because they are able to "make up for it in the end" with a blast of concentrated effort.

The only time they run into trouble is when they come upon others who are either as smart as they are, or more organized than they are, or demonstrate a willingness to hold them to account for their promises. Then, the game is up, and if they don't "up their game" to the next level, they are likely to fail, or be fired or be sidelined.

This laziness results in lower standards, failed objectives and a general sloppiness that pervades corporate Jamaica, and businesses across the region.

I compare this with my experience in some of the best corporations in the world. The difference is not merely one of size, but it starts with the choices that are made by one smart person, compared to another.

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FirstCuts 17.0 -- Expats of the Caribbean

Don't expats have it easy? They get the best of everything: higher salaries, better benefits and special treatment all around. In our small island homes, we have no idea what it takes for an outsider to transition to live in our own culture, and our ignorance is costing us dearly.

Read or listen in to the latest issue of FirstCuts to see what your Caribbean company could be doing differently now.

Please leave your comments on this issue below.

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Advice from a Giant

George Phillip was a quiet giant of Jamaican industry, and his recent passing away was a blow to most who knew him.

I had the chance to interview him for our recent study "The Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica" before he passed away, and he was generous and insightful -- so much so that he was someone I wanted to do an audio interview with, until I heard the news. He was the most successful Trinidadian executive to work in Jamaica.

One unverified piece of advice he was known to give had to do with terminating Jamaicans. He said something to the effect that when one is terminating Jamaicans, one needs to go an extra mile.

"Johnson, as you know we are doing some downsizing and unfortunately your name has come up as someone to let go. As part of your separation, you are due to receive $X for each year of service. However, to help ease the transition we have decided to give you an extra $Z, just to acknowledge the work you have done in the company and to help make things easier."

His point was that that little extra step is critical in leaving a Jamaican worker feeling respected.

George was right on the money -- what we Jamaicans call brawta (a little extra) goes a long, long way.

During my interview with Douglas Orane at HRMAJ, he mentioned a study that was done at the U.S. Embassy. It showed that the Americans complained that Jamaicans were too casual, always late, etc. The Jamaicans had one complaint -- Americans were rude, never said hello or good morning and left them feeling disrespected.

Whether this is a true story or not is to be discovered, but I am sure George would agree with the finding.

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