Lynda's Diary - Week 5 & 6


Tags: SSON


Friday...May 8
"Smoking Cinderella"

My Q1 review this week...and I realise how much of my role is being an 'interpreter' ... I stand at the gateway of the US and mainland Europe, translating both ways. Right now we are rolling out a Customer Service excellence training program which is actually very good, but developed by someone who worked all his life at Disneyland. Our challenge is not only to translate the training material into multiple languages, but to make the concepts meaningful and applicable to staff who have no idea of what Disneyland might be! We need the essence of Service Excellence to get through, despite the training examples of 'Small, small world' and 'Cinderella'... not easy.

Equally, I never-endingly have to explain, over and over, why I'm over headcount — because legally, you’re entitled to three years’ maternity leave in Germany; and if over 50, you can move to part-time working in Belgium; and in France, you have to discuss everything with the Works council ... so I have to hire extra headcount, but in FTE terms? — I'm the same. I know that Europe is often perceived as just being difficult, but I try to explain that we're not — we’re just multi-country and complex.

All my team fly in for the quarterly reviews. I have three multi-lingual European Operations Leaders on my team who manage CBS staff in remote-language speaking parts of Europe plus my Regional IT leader who's come in from Belgium, so there are multiple language discussions going on about the place and during the review.

We cover our basic business essentials — financials, headcount, performance vs SLA, customer satisfaction and level of promoters within the businesses, six sigma status, organisation development review and high potentials development, projects updates and much more.

Over dinner at the end of Day 1, we consider how we will translate the training on 'appropriateness of image'... the training gives us the 'Smoking Cinderella' example, where customers at Disney see Cinderella in full costume — having a cigarette outside her Castle! We agree that in Russia the appropriate response to this image might be — can I borrow your lighter please?..but that somehow fails to deliver the right training message. Putin in swim shorts? It's been done already but it might work...

Friday May 22
‘Downsized but not downhearted’

This is a hard week to write about. My boss flew in from the US this week and I'm always glad to see him. I can say just about anything to him and he knows just how I mean it...that's worth a lot. We're headquartered out of Nashville, Tennessee...what better place? And he has rock music on his mp3 and rides a Harley...what's not to like?

And he comes to tell me I'm downsized. He has to take out one of his team and certain major projects we'd planned in Europe won't go forward the next two years due to the economic climate and so he doesn't need someone of my caliber in the here and now.

I'm forced to agree with him, actually, that I am very good at what I do...certainly in the top ‘One’...but still... The plan is for my team to report directly into the US, now. I wonder how that will work for my 250 multi-lingual people across Europe...even though we all know that Europe is one country and is based in the UK and everyone speaks English...

I'm asked to take care of the transition ... figure out how it can work and make it workable. And I will, of course. I want everything we’ve created to remain strong and intact.

At the minute, and incongruously — because my boss is nothing like him — all I can think of is that most excellent Dilbert cartoon where pointy-headed man tries to inject humor into the layoff process: Knock knock...Who's there?...Not you anymore!

I make him hug me before he flies out. I won’t see him again and he's dear to me and anyway I want him to feel really bad all the way home. I know I’d intended to downsize anyway — lose a few pounds for the beach this summer, but this is slightly more than I had in mind.

I’m sad about it. Cummins has the very nicest people in the world — a bit like Forced Ranking: 20% are fabulous, 70% are really great to work with and 10% get their emails deleted by everyone. Now I need to plan how I’ll tell my people and then customers, and consider the questions they may have...

Soon, I know, I’ll feel excitement building...new adventures in front of me...what fun.

Lynda’s Diary ends here, for now, while she looks for the next great adventure. Meanwhile you can connect with Lynda through LinkedIn, or at lynda.atherton-miles@hotmail.co.uk.