When Facing a Whale of a Problem

In the Northwest, we are reminded yearly about how to NOT deal with whales on beaches. November 12 marks an anniversary that Oregon Coast natives don’t forget too often. Paul Linnman, a local news anchor, became a respected and seasoned newscaster after this story, fully immersing himself in all that was a “whale of a problem.”

For those that don’t know, in 1970 in the sleepy coastal town of Florence, Oregon (now widely revered for its sand dunes that draw sand riding enthusiasts from all over) found themselves in the middle of a major problem. A sperm whale, that was deceased upon arrival, settled its massive 8-ton girth deeply into the sands of the beach. Measuring out at 45 feet long and starting to decay on the coastal waters, the city wasn’t sure how to deal with the issue.

Oregon beaches are all considered public park access and at the time they were managed by the Department of Transportation, Highway. So what do you do with an 8-ton obstacle when you’re trained and skilled to create roads? I think I’ll let the video explain the rest:

As I laugh at this story and use the magic of 20/20 Hind Sight to see the horror coming I also find myself wondering: “What am I doing today, dealing with the big issues in front of me, that don’t need that much power to get rid of?” Frankly, we have to ask: Do we have the right tools to deal with the issues? Are we willing to do the hard work?

Having been born in 1980 and growing up on the Oregon beaches this story has been in my local lore forever. But something new caught my attention watching it again this year. Paul mentions early in the segment about how they were trying to figure out what to do with the whale carcass and he says, “…it couldn’t be cut up because no one wanted to cut it up…” (36-second mark). Hmmm…no one wanted to do the stinky, dirty, close up work to take care of the issue. The work that is dreadful and disgusting (analogy here), the work that they ultimately had to do anyway because the easy way didn’t work out.

And that’s the lesson: How many times do I try to take the easy way through an issue only to not be able to fix the problem at all and still have to go back and do the hard work, which is basically doubly hard because I failed the first time.

Sometimes the quickest way through a problem is directly through the problem. We are tempted to use dynamite and blow up the issue into many small pieces in the hopes that nature will clean up the mess, that by making it smaller it will just go away on its own. In all the grossness of the situation, the complexity, and mire of the difficulty at hand, the best use of everyone’s time is just to face it head on and deal with it…blubber and all.

So next time you are faced with a whale-sized problem in your organization remember Florence, Oregon in 1970. Remember that you don’t want to be on the news with falling whale bits coming down around you. Better to just suck it up and get to the dirty work of facing the issue at hand than trying to blow it up hoping that nature will take care of it.

Some interesting source material can be found at The Exploding Whale site.


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I’ve got a confession for you…

First, let me start by saying I’ve worked as a waiter and retail consultant, and for a while, in 2008 I was both simultaneously.

The Confession: Today I took my family out for a meal at a chain restaurant in town and I didn’t tip well.

With a four and seven-year-old these types of restaurants tend to have a choice of food that meets everyone’s needs. And as we walked in I was a bit dismayed to see tabletop tablets again. You know the ones like the photo above that are popping up everywhere? They are supposed to save time, increase table turns, and make sure that guests have the best experience. But really they are just proving that general table-side waiting is a job that is dying.

Maybe it was my cold, or that it has been a long week, but when we were finished the waiter came and said we could get our bill on the tablet and to please answer the survey questions because they were having a contest and he needed us to rate excellent service. But from the time we were seated to the time we paid and left I saw the waiter at my table 4 times. A half-hearted welcome and taking the order for drinks, the delivering of drinks, the delivering of food, and then the plea for a survey. He offered no sense of being knowledgeable of the menu, no offer of culinary delights that we should try, a half crooked smile, and an almost begrudging gate in his walk.

DgCrZRjfQUPlO4r-wE28lLmf.gif The Restaurant Experience photo-02.jpg
Then  Now

I didn’t do the survey (merciful of me), but I also didn’t tip well. Again, having been a waiter I know how important those tips are. But with the increased use of these digital devices, it seems that the waiters are becoming nothing more than glorified food delivery systems who occasionally refill beverages. I mean I can order on the tablet, split my own check, sign myself in (or sign up) for a rewards program, and pay my own bill. Frankly, it is only one step away from walking up to a counter to order my food. And when I do eat at those places I don’t tip 15% for them to take my order and call my name.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m writing this on my blog for you today.

Well, as I was driving home and discussing the recent dining experience with my wife it hit me…most industries and businesses that are point-of-sale // customer facing are in the exact same spot as these restaurants today.

Technology is wonderful, and you will hear me continue to encourage you to look at new and compliant ways to utilize it for your business and for your organization. I mean I work for a company that builds a software platform to increase internal compliance and knowledge base, so I wholeheartedly support technology. But customer-facing technology can erode the customer experience before you even know it is happening. If a customer can find answers for themselves while never seeing//interacting with you in person then you have to wonder…why are you even doing it? Especially if your business has traditionally relied on this type of interaction from paying customers. (Some may read this and think “That’s what I want my business to be” and that’s awesome, but remember everyone wants to know that at least one smart and caring person is behind every transaction)  You may not get tips like a waiter, but you do get paid for service(s) or goods provided. Ask yourself, would your customer pay you more if they could because of your service, or do they buy from you begrudging the dollar figure that is going to your company?

You must be the masterful host of the experience.

I think the solution to this issue is exceptionally easy and you can thrive in an ever-changing environment of increased technology. You must be the masterful host of the experience. Buying goods/services is always an experience!  And we Americans LOVE to have amazing experiences (that’s why people pay $100 a day to go to Disneyland year after year).

You have to make this process more than process, it has to be an event that people look FORWARD to. Only you can do that because only you can make human connections and interactions that create positive lasting memories.

In regards to the table top tablets, this past weekend we were at another restaurant and the waitress was extremely friendly and engaging. She laughed with us and offered us great meal choices by showing us the pictures on the tablet and then making us feel like we were VIPs at a special event. When she told me about their survey and asked for my input she received excellent reviews and a large tip because she made the technology part of the experience, not the center of the service. 

So, which type of waiter will you be in your business?

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My Opinion Means Nothing Compared to You

I have an opinion, but I didn’t share it often because I love you too much. Instead of holding opinions sacred, I hold people lovingly.  My opinion means nothing to me compared to how much I care about you.  If you want to know what I think then please ask and I will share, preferably in person (or maybe on this blog). The reality is that you are more important to me than our differences of opinion in music, movies, politicians, drug use, economic stimulus, pay rates, taxation (frankly anything political), car brands, television shows, cell phone service providers, iPhone vs. Android, Mac vs. Windows, wearing brown with black, wearing navy with black, wearing white after labor day, the correct order to watch Star Wars, if Episode 1 should even be considered a Star Wars movie, if I-5 is faster than I-205, sports teams, comma use, and so on… 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV).  This passage is taken in context, it stands alone, there is no understanding you must have of location, language, or people group; it is perfect in its entirety.  Therefore I obey it to the best of my ability today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.  I have strong-held beliefs in my life and will hold them close.  One of those beliefs is that loving someone is not accepting everything they do//are, but loving and serving them the very best I can no matter what.  Like opinions I (usually) keep them to myself unless you ask, but if you do ask they are shared in trust and love and not open for debate. One more thing. I was made aware of this article yesterday:  50 GROUPS/INDIVIDUALS JESUS SAYS YOU CAN HATE It’s a perfect, Biblical list, and I agree. So do I have an opinion on which Star Trek movie was best, or what hair length is best for me, or which dessert is better than all the others, and everything else under the sun?  Of course, I do.  But if that opinion will cause you to feel scorned or unvalued and unloved then I will keep it to myself until the time is right for us to discuss it in person, respectfully, so that you know that I love you more than our differing opinions would suggest.  

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