Saturday, June 18, 2011
My friend Judy Sohn, a fellow Salesforce Dreamforce attendee and Vice President of Operations at Fight Colorectal Cancer, recently pointed out that Dreamforce 2012 is scheduled to overlap with the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah. This is a serious problem to her and perhaps thousands of other Jews who might attend the conference.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, responded quickly and graciously with an apology and offers of assistance in making the best of a bad situation, but in reality, there is nothing to be done. A conference for 35-40 thousand people has to be planned years in advance. G-d is unlikely to move the new year, even for a cloud computing event of this caliber.
What should have happened was, a planner should have pulled up a website like this one and done a quick check. In only a few minutes, the conflict would have been obvious and avoidable. Like wearing a seat belt though, the time to do this is before the accident occurs.
We live in an increasingly multi-faith and multi-cultural world. In my own planning, I religiously (pun intended) use the following procedure, particularly if I don’t know every, single, attendee.
1. Is it a religious holiday? Check at least www.interfaithcalendar.org, where the “major” events for each religion are listed in bold. Unless I am aware that there will be Jainists, Sikhs, or other less commonly (in this part of the world) encountered groups, I check for Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu days.
2. Is it a national holiday? Obviously, look at the country where the meeting will take place, and the place where remote attendees reside. Nothing is more provincial and annoying than for an American to happily set up a meeting with a Brit on a bank holiday!
3. For face to face meetings, are the participants likely have any dietary, cultural, or disability related restrictions? Don’t be like me and serve ham and cheese sandwiches to the Rabbinical Council. Make sure that not only is the meeting room wheelchair accessible, but that the restrooms are too, if you have someone who is mobility challenged.
It’s a little more trouble than back in the day when we were all white, Christian, males (and even then, we really weren’t!), but the payback in good feelings and smoother meetings is fully worth the effort.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Mike, the shop guy where I take my car for service, taught me a very important business lesson. On the invoice, there’s a line item called “Shop Charge”. It’s always just a few dollars or even less and I never paid any attention to it until one day when it caught my eye.
Mike explained, “Rather than figuring out exactly how many paper towels the mechanic used on your car, plus maybe a few inches of tape to hold some wires, and a couple of tiny screws, we just charge you 0.5% of the total and call it a shop charge. It doesn’t make sense for me to force the guys to track every one penny washer or nickel’s worth of grease they use. I trust them and anyway, obvious waste is well…obvious!”
Compare that to some companies that require time sheets to the minute, demand ROI analysis on the smallest purchases, and use cost justification to bully employees into doing without. Who’s being the better business person, Mike the mechanic or Mary the MBA?
The next time you’re tempted to say, “Show me the ROI on that,” ask yourself if you really aren’t sure or if you just want to see how badly the employee wants to take the training. Are you looking for the best use of the money or are you seeing how much abuse you can get away with and still keep the “chickens laying”?
ROI is an important concept, but it’s only one metric among many. Not every good decision can be reduced to, “If I spend X, I’ll recoup X+3”. Sometimes you have to trust your people, go with your instincts, and take a risk. Beware the cult of ROI.
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