Jeffrey Saltzman's Blog

Enhancing Organizational Performance

What if your child is below average in English?

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A question was posed to me the other day. What if your child was really good in math but below average in English? In a world of limited resources and time should you work to improve your child’s English abilities, or should you pour your resources into an area where your child has the potential to really be a superstar?  In other words, do you give up on the English and concentrate on math or do you forego a shot at becoming a math superstar to spend some time and resources on English?

As a parent the answer that comes to mind is that you do both. We have unconditional loyalty to our children so you figure out a way to make both of them happen. You bring English up to an acceptable level and you work on providing whatever edge you can in the math area. Let’s not allow that easy answer however and say that doing both is not possible. What do you do?

What if your child was an employee, an employee who was really good in one area but sorely lacking in another? Is your loyalty in this case unconditional? Where do you put your effort now?

What if the choice was between two customers? One customer was average in their satisfaction with your services the other customer was dissatisfied. If you have to make a hard choice due to limited resources, is it more beneficial to an organization to resolve the dissatisfied customers complaints or should you concentrate on making the average customer absolutely thrilled? How do you create a loyal customer?

Where do you get the biggest payback for your expenditure of resources, time and effort and is it always a matter of payback? These are questions that people within organizations as well as others struggle with every day. 

In the area of customer research I have seen some data that suggests that thrilled customers are at least 3 times more likely to repurchase your product, willing to spend 10% more for perceived value add and are much more likely to recommend your product or service to others. This data also suggested that dissatisfied customers are already lost, they are typically already actively looking for alternatives to your product or service. So the case here was made that taking an average customer and making them thrilled has more benefit to the organization. But how did the dissatisfied customer get that way in the first place? Are there systemic issues within the organization that will raise their heads again and affect your now thrilled customer?  Without that kind of root cause examination, you may be diligently working utilizing wishful thinking as a way to thrill your customers. Just to make matters more complicated I recently attended a meeting where an expert on customer research suggested that this pattern varies by industry! Ah the world is never simple, and just when I thought that a categorization was possible to simplify my thinking process it turns out to be complicated. (See posting on Organizational Entropy).

What are we to do with an employee, an employee who excels in one area but may be sorely lacking in another? Here again the answer is more complicated than it may first appear. There are certain areas that are zero tolerance in my mind. Anything less than a high level of performance should be unacceptable. These are areas like working safely, sexual harassment, and ethics. Let’s put those zero tolerance issues aside for a moment.  I have never seen a job performed absolutely identically by two different people. Each person has unique strengths and abilities and they tend to make a job their own by bringing to bear that uniqueness. I believe that an organization is stronger when it can take advantage of those unique strengths, that potential diversity, rather then attempting to force everyone into the same mold. Saying that, there are some issues that need to be performed at a minimally acceptable level, across the board, and effort needs to be expended to bring an employee up to that level. If an employee can not achieve that level they may not be a close enough fit to stay in the organization. Is loyalty to an employee unconditional? No it is not, but neither should employees be treated like disposal assets, fungible assets or to be moved around as needed like pieces on a chess board.

What was my answer to the original question? What if your child was really good in math but below average in English? I said that you do both, improve the English up to a minimally acceptable level and give them the edge that may make them a mathematical superstar. Now I am left wondering if that should always be the case even when that appears not to be an option.

Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

November 19, 2009 at 3:46 pm

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