Where is the Blue Sheet?

IMG_1146 (2)Pursuit of excellence demands detail attention.  Audit trail, decision criteria, review stats, goal progress, and historical databases seem like a plague that plugs up progress.  Not really.  Only if they are not consistent with the flow of the organization engine and customer demand do they interfere.  They are necessary actions that meet legal requirements, compliance mandates, risk mitigation, and goals tracking.

Delegation in a clear format is one of those pesky details.  An abrupt email rarely captures all the specifics needed for good delegation.  A text is a waste.  A phone call will result in missed pieces.  When it is a matter of substance, take some time to write it out in discussion.  Hallway interruptions need to be recorded and followed up.

For one financial organization, I worked with multiple unlike departments.   Each had a separate form of management flow.  The corporation had a loose knit, meeting driven mode of management.  Confusion reigned.  Fear of failure walked the hallways.  Authoritarian dictates were the norm.  Power brokers and politicians love this environment.  They can manipulate in back rooms.  But the customer and the owners suffer most when a sales support piece hits the streets and does not work in the sales process due to unclear objectives.   All the fingernail flying meetings won’t fix a new software rollout for accounting that lacks key compliance fields for entry.

As a manager of a few service areas, this was always a challenge.  Our departmental customers were politics driven and would change a request after we had moved forward at significant expense.  We learned to use a “Blue Sheet” to contain the chaos.

Really, the Blue Sheet was a problem, request, and change capture instrument.  Later, our team convinced the organization over a series of years to move in the IT areas to online capture and communication in these areas.  That left many areas untended.  So the service departments I managed used Blue Sheets.

In the early days of small computers, I remember pleading with my senior executive for a desktop to keep track of our service areas.  His reply was absolute wisdom.  “All you need, Phil, is a good pencil and a piece of paper.”  That reply made me angry.  But, he was right.  I went back and invented my first “Blue Sheet” and gave a pocket sized version to every team member for working directly with customers.  It worked.  Our service reliability improved and I could sift through a month’s pencil capture and note trends and take action that made big differences.  Later, we put it all on a desktop database for deeper analysis.

When a team member came into my office, they became accustomed to, “Where’s the Blue Sheet?”  Working with hundreds of requests, service orders, problems, and changes a day, the Blue Sheet gave us specific guidance on single issues.  Regular work orders had an online capture system.  Irregular needed something, too.

A Blue Sheet (we used blue paper) captured critical contact information, issue symptoms, probable cause, delegated action approach, expectations and any due dates and times,  and assignment.  With that, a team member could run without continually looking behind and asking questions.  There were no needs for continual meetings after that was captured.  When one or two or more needed to meet on the issue for a decision and direction, we pulled the Blue sheet to ensure we were continuing on target.  Improved information could be added and directional changes could be noted.  The holder of the sheet owned responsibility for accomplishment until handed off.  If resolution or service provision lingered beyond a few days, a more formal project definition and action plan could be drafted.

Everyone of us has a litany of lingering items that need “Blue Sheets”.  They won’t get resolved to satisfaction of the stakeholders without taking a few moments to capture key information items.

Sit down today with an outline that works for you that can capture quick information and thoughts.  Sometimes a simple piece of paper and a pen suffice.  Where’s your Blue Sheet?

The Road to Human Loyalty- A Forever Journey

“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head.” Mark Twain

Greatness finds ways to be loyal and extract loyalty from those they serve. It is reciprocal. It is not a given.

Goodness find ways to give and earn respect.

Mediocrity finds ways to get by and fill the role.

You want loyalty above respect. You want to live in greatness. You can live in mediocrity or goodness or greatness. Choose.

Greatness: Every human relationship has the potential to be a great relationship. A customer can be a great customer. A supporter can be a great supporter. A family member can be a great family member. A co-worker can be a great co-worker. A staff member can be a great staff member. Choose. The choice lies in the hands of whoever takes the lead. Lead well. Manage that relationship.

Stages: There are five discernible stages to an effective relationship. Fringe, friend, familiar, faithful, and forever. You may have more, but I find these cross most relationships. In non-profits and congregations, I add a few and change the names around. These five hold. Honor them in building service inside your organization and amazing results transpire.

Fringe: Every relationship starts on the fringe. These are people with whom you have no relationship at all. They do not even know you exist. You may not know they exist. They are out there waiting to get to know you and enjoy your companionship and possibly your service. Respect them as valuable. Honor them. Give them credit for being worthy of dignity and your attention. People are worthy of your attention.

Friend: Somewhere you meet. Someone visits your brick and mortar shop. You talk to a businessman about a new sign. At the bank, you open a new account and meet a representative. Each human transaction can open a friendship. They become more aware of you and you become more aware of them. Being a friend is more than just acquaintance. You exchange information about each other. This exchange opens the next path. Many businesses leave potential customers at this juncture. They know your name and your business but nothing about you and your mission and vision and hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes. Open up and develop this relationship.

Familiar: Now, you have transacted business. This may be with a staff member where you’ve worked on a project. It could be with a customer who has purchased product or service. Maybe you have participated in a class discussion. But, there has been significant exchange requiring trust and revealing of more information. The familiar are more likely to engage at continuing intimacy of relationship and trust. Most people stop in relationships at this level. Customers never become settled. Staff members are held at a distance. Co-workers struggle to fully understand each other.

DANGER! The next two levels are dangerous. They require open-hearted exposure. That is why most never enter into these levels. When you lose a relationship at one of these levels it is painful. To be great, you must risk and receive pain. Go for it. The pleasure of good customer and co-worker relationships at these levels outweigh the pain. Assess the ability to be loyal in customers before you move them up into these ranks. Some customers are just jerks. Sorry. Be cautious. Some supporters are over controlling. Don’t be a fool and risk your organization. Some co-workers need psychologists more than you need them to get too close to the knitting. Advance the best and honor the rest.

Faithful: Over time, the familiar enter into more and more transactions. They become faithful. A faithful customer orders over and over. A faithful co-worker takes and gives advice continually and participates in more and more projects and actions. A faithful supporter reads updates and gives regularly. There is a goodwill and loyalty exchange that has become a given in the relationship.

Forever: Few relationships reach this level. There is a foundational commitment and insider understanding of operations for a business. These are customers for life. You find yourself talking through key business strategies with a foundational customer. A foundational co-worker sees you at your worst and at your best. A foundational supporter in a non-profit understands the mix of vision and mission and can advise on action with your best interest at heart.

Movement: Advancing from fringe to forever should be a pathway for marketing, operations, and activities of any organization. Take time to understand the events, education, information, engagement, transaction, and social touches that assist customers, co-workers, and compatriots in moving along this path. Each of these paths is a continual exchange and deepening of relationship. None should be one way. Have a purposeful plan to advance the best of the best relationships into the Forever circle.

Summary: This is a quick caricature of a complicated subject. Take time to map out your advancement strategies especially with key stakeholders and players in your life. You can have some wonderful moments with Forever people as customers, co-workers, and compatriots.

Remember people are not static.  As much as you invest, at any time an individual may abort the relationship and move to a conflict level or vacate the relationship. That is a risk.  But the joy of good connections outweigh the risks.

Join Champions of Fathering Sept 16th for Lunch and/or Tourney
Join Champions of Fathering Sept 16th for Lunch and/or Tourney