Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever

Lean, agile living for the running mother of Peter

2009-01-13

When your every day chore is an event for you customer


I guess the lift off of a space shuttle is still not considered an every day thing, but I guess it's kind of mainstream to the guys at Kennedy Space Centre. For my husband, spending a day watching the lift off was a real treat (he took the picture this summer and I hope he won't report me for stealing it from him to publish here but he's kind of used to me discussing his stuff on this blog). For him, this will always be a special occasion since it was the first time he saw a space shuttle lift off on site.

When delivering services like education, travel, theatre, health care, what ever, we have customers to whom THEIR experience is something extra ordinary but for the staff it's an every day thing. Also, the staff is often not be affected after the event has passed.

For example, a friend of me is in a few days having a new baby. Having born two really big boys before (both weighed over 5 KG), giving birth is quite frightening. But having the staff reassuring her that "but we deliver women every day" still does not help her in her fears. Because they don't deliver her babies every day. And they are not doing the actual delivering either. OK, they see it all the time and help out all the time. But that does not make every birth very unspecial to the parents involved. Also, a failed birth might to the staff result in punishment in some form, but for the parents and the kids involved, this is a life changer.

I often found this hard to tackle when giving computer classes. Even if I'd held a class a thousand time, the participants would only participate on that only occasion and really wanted to feel special and "all". And a failed course meant for me ... nothing ... while a failed course for a participant might mean that they could not do their job properly, feel stupid and perhaps cause other problems at their work places. I had a guy taking Excel classes who where going to calculate medicine doses after my class. What if I hadn't helped him get it right. Pride in your work is making every occasion count. Or as Gordon Ramsey put it: a chef is never better than his latest service.

Compare with travelling. What if your latest trip sucked and you contacted the company and they said; well, your trip sucked but the one before was excellent. Why would you care? And it does not matter if that you where the best developer on your last sprint if you produced bad code this sprint.

So, every time you think "Here we go again, yet another X. I think I'll do some short cuts this time because this is becoming boring" while completing your work, think that this occasion is a mark of your professionality. It does not matter that the last time you made X, you were brilliant. That mattered then. But it does not make it OK to do a crappy work this time. If the tasks are boring, find ways to improve them without affecting the quality or find yourself another job.

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