Monday, December 12, 2011

Drama Not Included

I came upon a business improvement strategy this month that surprised me. Drama eradication. It surfaced in a Chief Executive Boards International meeting, where a member was talking about an employee who has drama circulating around her most of the time, and he doesn't think he needs it any more. He's right.

My wife and I had a weird experience this past weekend. We went to our neighborhood Pak-Mail store to send off some Christmas packages. The store has recently been sold by an owner who was almost always there, was friendly, and seemed genuinely happy to see you come in. Kind of like my barber, just a casual, comfortable place to do business.  Businesslike, efficient, and no drama. 

This visit, however, two women were running the store. The one behind the counter was dashing between machines -- frenetically would have been an understatement. She actually tripped and almost fell once. Not like they were busy -- there was only one customer ahead of us. Now, the process of weighing and labeling packages and collecting the customer's money had never before been so dramatic, but this day it appeared someone had made one too many visits to Starbucks.

Her associate was at a counter, slaving over some kind of manifest with sighs and great animation, and stepped up the tension by dramatically announcing, "I'm not ignoring you, but I just have to get these packages ready for the postman, who's already been by once." These two seemed intent on feeding each other's drama to the point it was just plain uncomfortable being there. As we left, we looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, "I don't know if we'll be back in there." We've been shipping packages there for 15 years, but previously drama was not included.

Contrasting Scenario

I've had my second recent experience flying Southwest Airlines. Volumes have been written about Southwest, but I don't recall any focused on the lack of drama in the Southwest experience. What do I mean by that? The boarding process. First, there's no need to crouch at the ready to jockey for position when your boarding "group" is called. They give you a boarding number, designating your place in line. They have a well-signed queuing area where people just line up in their assigned order - 60 at a time. Then they call segments of the line onto the plane, by number, and people walk onto the plane. Simple, cheap, and drama not included.

On the plane, there's no drama, either. They don't charge for checked bags, so people are not attempting to stow small refrigerators in the overhead bins. As a result, there's plenty of bin space, just like there used to be on most airlines. With no assigned seats, people tend to distribute themselves down the aisle, filling windows first, then aisles. Nobody has to get up to let someone from a later boarding group into their assigned window seats. It's just an amazingly calm, orderly and swift process. Drama not included.

So, I'm wondering if drama might be an indicator to watch for and eradicate from your business. It's hardly ever positive, and if you can find the root cause, which may be a broken business process or, perhaps more likely, a person whose bias towards drama you just don't need.

I'm interested in comments on your experiences with drama eradication. Or maybe you have some metrics -- some sort of drama index?

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Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

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