Archive for November, 2009

21 Wordsworth was rubbish at Sudoku

Posted in Uncategorized on NovemberThu, 19 Nov 2009 23:19:48 +01001919pm09 24 PMpThu, 19 Nov 2009 23:19:48 +010019Thursday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

I get hundreds of letters every week begging for money. My daughters are nothing if not persistent. Two are at university and therefore perpetually penniless as a result of having to attend all those extra night-classes led by Professor Funkalicious. The third is still at school and just thinks money is cool. She is an early adopter.

What is the best way for parents to redistribute their meagre wealth these days? Simply giving in to claims of child hunger is one way. However, I prefer to use a couple of slightly more externally verifiable KPIs in deciding which of my kids to keep alive: when the begging letters arrive, I assess them for lucidity of sentence construction and accuracy of punctuation. Txt msgs? If the entreaties are not dispatched with the flourish of a quill pen on crisp oyster vellum, then there ain’t no dough for the Lady Gaga show.

You’re lying for comic effect, I suppose.
Thank you for noticing. But I was remembering yesterday, for all our dreamy nostalgia about being young and free, how really crap it was to be young and poor. You knew exactly how much better life would be as a kid if you had that new Scalextric chicane, and what you got instead was a parental treatise on the benefits of delayed gratification.

Parents and children always live to a different agenda. While parents treasure their children’s childhood, the kids themselves want cash. We want to preserve their innocence, they want to live in Argos. By the time they’re into double figures, they’re already budding consumers – shackled by the patronage of pocket-money and dreaming of fiscal freedom.

Gordon Brown thinks 16-year-olds should get the vote. I think twelve is the right age. Not to vote but to start experiencing properly the financial reward principle that’ll inform the rest of their lives. How about we link financial reward with education and pay children against their performance at school? By we I mean the taxpayer. By pay I mean in hard cash, as well as buckets of praise.

At last, proof of certifiable madness.
You think so? Education is a service industry, and the customer it serves is society. When new adults arrive from Teenage Central and leave their rank little hoodies at the door, we want them fully operational in social skills. Feet off seats etc. But we also want them clever.

To most children, school is primarily an arena for personal and social discoveries. Who am I? Who are my friends? These are questions more vital to any adolesecent than What symbol represents potassium on the periodic table? As adults, we’ve forgotten what it’s like. Imagine if we had to sit in a room all day while a bunch of old people made us learn things that we personally couldn’t give a damn about. Like line dancing. For our own good.

How many adults do you know who recite Wordsworth while figuring out Sudoku? By the age of twelve, kids have already jumped off the arts/science fence onto the side that suits them. What is the point of trigonometry if you’re a linguist? Why study syntax if biology’s your future? Why not let them specialise earlier, drop the subjects that make them feel dumb and incentivise them properly for becoming better earlier at the subjects they actually enjoy. The government’s EMA scheme already gives some 16-19 year olds £30 a week just for turning up at school. They need a dose of profit-related pay, them kids do.

And how this relates to business is…?
I wonder how well we educate our people at work and help them grow. How well do we construct a curriculum of job tasks and personal development that motivates them and encourages them to motivate themselves? Do we understand their interests? Do we think of them as individuals? Or do we treat our employees as children, who ought to do what they’re told?

Maslow and Herzberg (the Jedward of management gurus) were always spouting that money is a feeble motivator compared to the glow of personal job satisfaction. That’s true without a doubt, especially when you’ve acquired enough Scalextric. The worrying thing for most businesses, in terms of employee job satisfaction and therefore employee performance, is the actual number you come up with if you perform this simple test: look around you now and calculate how many of your colleagues are glowing. Dare you! Double dare you do it!

You probably won’t need a differential equation for the answer.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember

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20 Inglorious BA Stewards

Posted in Uncategorized on NovemberFri, 06 Nov 2009 00:27:31 +01002706am09 24 AMpFri, 06 Nov 2009 00:27:31 +010027Friday 09 by nielsendinwoodie

Yes, since you ask, I am a dissatisfied customer. And not just because we’re still sitting on the stand 40 minutes after take-off time.

Have you ever felt the air beneath your wings at the exact time the flight is actually scheduled to leave? Nor has anyone. Why is that? If the West Wessex Steam Railway Company staffed entirely every third weekend by Rick and Bob and Clive’s ex-wife, don’t ask, can achieve departure KPIs of 96% efficiency, why can’t British Airways?

Is it because air travel is a pact with the devil? The airline agrees to transport you at preternatural speed in an unfeasibly heavy metal object to a destination that’s a lifetime away by your normal method of donkey and cart, but in return you sacrifice most of your human rights.

Passport Control was a breeze. But now you are made to queue in a snaking chain-gang of reptilian civilians, moving 30 yards in 30 minutes, and then made to remove all those expensive items like your matching watch, belt and shoes combo from George at Asda, in case they’re a designer nuclear warhead, and put them into a big grey hospital tray so that all the forensic scientists with their blue pullovers and snap-on gloves can enjoy some prurient me-time with their X-ray cameras, yawning at each other all the while.

Once that’s done, please enjoy some more queuing at the Gate, your time is valuable to us, while we tell you over a specialist hi-feedback tannoy system no plausible reason for your delay yourself at all today.

It wasn’t the delay. It was the sandwich.

gate gourmet

You’d think, if you were leaving Gatwick on a midday flight lasting nearly three hours, that you’d get lunch. On British Airways. This wasn’t Ryanair after all, where you have to pay separately for breathing. (For further hilarious ideas, such as charging extra for ice in the drink you’ve just been charged for, by our little flying Irish screw-you correspondent fellow Michael O’Leary, third barrow on the left, Tipperary market, every second Tuesday, best prices paid for grandmothers, visit

On BA, we’d be ok. Except that the Chief Executive of British Airways is miniature Dubliner Willie Walsh. So what we actually have now is our native airspace controlled by two tiny Irishmen engaged in a childhood grudge match about harses. And you and I are paying the price.

On BA we didn’t get lunch, we got a sandwich. It came without charge, but also without charm. This was a sandwich without any pretentious accessorising by way of half a piece of fruit on the side. Just two slices of dry bread smeared with something even slimier than the cling film that encased it.

This was a sandwich that proved Lidl is now luxury shopping. A logo-less sandwich so ashamed of itself that one began to feel not just hunger pangs but pangs of nostalgia for its predecessor in BA customer nutrition provision, the rubber chicken salad never knowingly organic.

This was a sandwich that didn’t even come with a tray. Where was my plastic fork, so I could know I had eaten? Where was my chemical lemon wipe, so I could smell cheap for the next two hours?

Cabin Crew Tiffany (comes with real hair) wasn’t interested. She had already been set to automatic and cross-checked. But, as a result of impeccable training, she dropped a Customer Satisfaction Form into my lap. And, as a result of my having finished reading the stained in-flight magazine, I dutifully composed a one-sentence synopsis of my customer issues.

What follows are actual extracts from the letter I received this morning from the BA Customer Relations Team, plus the training notes the writer presumably received.

“Dear Mr Dinwoodie
I am sorry you are unahppy [sic] about the changes we have made to our onboard catering service. I can understand how upsetting it must have been to be served only a sandwich as you were expecting to be served with something more substantial.”

Lesson 1: Establish empathy, emphasise your understanding of enormous upsettingness regardless of how trivial customer complaint. If you can phrase this patronisingly so that they feel belittled after the event, so much the better.

“We have focused on removing cost in areas where there should be no or minimal impact to our customers or in areas where customers have told us the current offering offers little or no value to their in-flight experience.”

Lesson 2: Use the word “focus”, it’s vague but sounds good. Use “should” to tell customers what they ought to be thinking, as opposed to what they actually believe. Imply they’re mad as hatters if they challenge what other “customers have told us”.

“We recognise it is vital to maintain the high standards that we pride ourselves on and that we continue to deliver value for money to our customers as part of our commitment to remain a full-service airline. This includes delivering world-class service consistently.”

Lesson 3: Never underestimate the power of absolutely meaningless guff like this. Litter your sentences with random management clichés and words like “vital…pride…commitment…” Sebastian from PR read some stuff like this in a book once and gave it the thumbs up.

“Your experience as a customer will always be our top priority.”

Lesson 4: Always laugh up your sleeve as you type this line. For extra irony, put that bloody Delibes tune on in the background and say we care. Say it over and over. But do not divert resources into improving customer service while we still have that massive ad agency bill to pay. See how well we’re looking after our customers? I’m an excellent driver.

And how this relates to business is…?
Good question.

Nielsen Dinwoodie
business messages people remember