Thursday, July 30, 2015

Process Flow Diagrams

USMC supply system process diagram.
Most full time employees have a keen understanding of their daily processes. However, others, outside the organization, can easily become frustrated when they have to get involved in a process they don't understand. We experience this when we visit the DMV, file our own taxes, etc.

I learned a great way to solve this problem when I was a student at the Naval Academy in the early 1990s. As a midshipman, I had the rare opportunity to participate in a teleconference with Dr. Deming. Dr. Deming is known for his significant contributions in business management throughout Japan after World War II. In the mid-1980s, his Total Quality Management (TQM) teachings were adopted by the U.S. Navy and branded as TQL (L for leadership).

I paid close attention to Dr. Deming's comments during his conference call since I was raised by a father who spent a career in quality assurance.

The key issue Dr. Deming spoke about, that was actionable for me, were his comments about process diagrams. He pointed out that businesses need to diagram their processes, with names below each box of the person responsible for each step. This point stuck with me for two reasons. First, because it was an epiphany; and, second, because he was a bit of a curmudgeon about it. I got the impression he'd consulted to many businesses, over many decades, that didn't follow his simple, sensible advice.

Process Flow Diagrams

Process flow diagrams are very simple to create. Here's a real world example I developed in the Marines. While creating process diagrams, both in the military and in the corporate world, I refined my technique beyond what I learned from Dr. Deming into a highly effective tool.

Each box in a process diagram represents a step in the process for a particular task. (In my example, commodity is military-speak for customer.)

The text inside the box is a short description of the step. The first word inside the box is the department responsible for that step. If you have more text than can fit in a box then you may need to break that into multiple steps. 

Three items are listed under each box.

The first item is the job description of the person responsible for that step, along with an employee's name.

The second item is the most likely problem (MLP) encountered that holds up that step.

The third item is the solution (Sol) to the MLP. In other words, how to avoid the problem in the first place. 

Real World Reception

In the real world, this document can be received positively or negatively. A lot depends on how well an organization's processes are thought out. When I shared my process flow diagrams with my commanding officers, they were very well received. After all, the military has well established procedures, even if they're not always obvious.

In the civilian world, I got a lot of push back at one company I worked at (not Apple). No one had a clear understanding of the organization's internal processes. Initially, it surprised me when I started working on this simple, side project. It became clear I was asking managers questions about things they didn't know, but should.  This resulted in unresolved finger pointing and passing the buck. That organization reinvented the wheel over and over. Needless to say, it was an ineffective organization to work in as I discovered most every procedure was handled ad hoc.

Good definitions make for clear ideas.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What's Exciting About High Tech?

Coding with my team at Apple in Mariani One
Perhaps I'm getting grumpy in my old age, but I don't see anything new and exciting when it comes to high tech and the Web. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen anything too exciting in years.


When I first began coding, as a kid, in the late 1970s, everything was exciting. In 1977, the first three PCs came to market: Apple ][, Commodore PET, and the TRS-80 Model I.

I cut my teeth on the Model I, since access to it was easy through Radio Shack Computer Centers. I learned BASIC and Z-80 assembly on my Model I. In junior high school, we had PETs in school which worked similar to the Model I. The Apple ][ was an impressive machine, but they were hard to find. First of all, they were a tad expensive (everything's expensive when you're a kid). Also, there was only one place, which was close enough for me to bike to, that sold them. That beloved computer store is now a Starbucks.

Through out the 1980s, computers kept getting noticeably faster and bigger, in terms of memory. The Model I had a BASIC interpreter, which ran a bit slow with it's 1.77 MHz processor. Then BASIC compilers came to market, and the world got fast. Very, very exciting.


The 1990s were exciting, even for casual consumers. The World Wide Web was born, making use of the Internet which had been around for decades. Sending an e-mail from one part of the world, to another, for free, was a big deal. In 1997, I deployed with the Marines to the Persian Gulf. We had one digital camera for my battalion and the wives, back home, had another digital camera. Marines' wives gave birth, back in the states, and a couple hours later, fathers could see their newborns while floating in the Indian Ocean. We were amazed. And e-commerce for consumers was quickly becoming the killer application. Billionaires were made at unprofitable companies, many of which couldn't scale.


The dot-com bubble burst in the Spring of 2000 due to overzealous investing and things calmed down for a couple years, at least in the high tech business world. But, software engineers still had exciting technologies like VoIP (free audio and video calls), XML, RSS, and podcasts. We began to say good-bye to dial-up and hello to broadband. Then came Web 2.0 (dynamic webpages and user generated content). A couple years later came social media, cloud computing, cloud storage and mobile smartphones with GPS. For software engineers, compiler technology was innovative when source code could be changed, compiled, and placed into memory to continue running without needing to stop your application for recompiling, linking, and launching.


That leads me to today. As I look at the world of high tech I don't see much that excites me. Perhaps I'm standing too far away??? The only things, in the past few years, that's moved the needle for me was Swift, Uber, Lyft, and Car2Go.

So, what am I missing? What's the hot high tech, nowadays, that changes the way consumers and software engineers do business? I'm talking about something that couldn't be done five or ten years ago?

Friday, July 10, 2015

What Makes Apple Unique?

Presented with a gift of a Chinese fan stamped with their company logo.
I was recently invited to the Bay Area to give a talk to a group of business people from China about Apple's marketing and design philosophies. Putting together the presentation was simple, since I've written and discussed what makes Apple unique, in the past.

The interesting part was speaking through a translator – a first, for me. I'm not sure exactly what the translator said when she introduced me, but the group seemed impressed.

The best part of this gig was how quickly it came together. A woman I never met contacted me on a Tuesday and asked me if I was willing to fly up the following Tuesday to give my talk. When I agreed, she immediately transferred half the payment to me. She paid the second half to me at breakfast, before I spoke. No contract, SOW, schedules, or exhibits. It worked out so well that we'll probably do it again. I can get used to this.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

All Noisy on the Western Front

Today's an interesting day in the world, especially in the world of cyber.

On the heels of China's stock market turmoil came a slew of high profile computer problems resulting in United Airlines grounding their flights, overloaded Wall Street Journal servers taking down the newspaper's website, and suspended trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

From a technical perspective, each of these issues is unrelated. But, what is interesting is that I came across a cyber security company, Norse, which claims to display cyber attacks in a real time. Although I don't know what a typical day looks like, the following video gives you a good idea of the endpoints of each cyber attack.

Cyber attacks in real-time via

PS – One more intriguing thing, as I wrote this blog post, is my computer crashed (kernel panicked). Yet another rare coincidence, but it helps spin a good yarn.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Perfect Gentleman's Guide to Dating

One of life's necessities when dating past your 40s.
Guys, are you having problems getting a second date with a lady? Do you ask yourself, “Why am I always struggling to meet women?” or “What’s the secret to getting past the first date?” or “Is there something I can do to improve my odds?” The good news is, yes, there are many things you can do. It took me some time, but here are the things I learned about dating.

For starters, it doesn’t matter if you’re heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, or pan-sexual; you get good at dating by going on dates and learning the do's and don’ts. As a man, my expertise is in heterosexual relationships, so  that’s the context in which I’ll frame my advice. (It's not my intent to ignore today's historic SCOTUS decision on Obergefell v. Hodges which is a victory for same-sex marriage.)

1. Time

Don't be late to the date. No excuses. Guys, we can have six months’ notice for a date, but we don’t start getting ready until six minutes before the date. She’ll already be a little nervous about meeting you for the first time and arriving late just adds to the stress. If you’ve never been to the place where you're meeting then get there early or reconnoiter it well before the date. Don’t arrive two minutes before the date only to find that parking’s a problem. Amateurs think tactics, professionals think logistics. There’s nothing wrong with arriving an hour early to read a book while you’re waiting. You’ll be prompt and look intelligent.

2. Dress

Dress clean. Wrinkled or smelly shirts don’t cut it. Dress sharp, yet appropriate. Grunge clothes, ripped jeans, and worn out shirts are fine if that’s you – but they still should be clean. Dress for where you want to go and make sure it’s appropriate. My pet peeve is seeing a beautiful woman, dressed to the nines at a nice restaurant with a guy in dirty jeans and a decade old rock concert t-shirt.

3. Smell

You need to smell good, in body and breath. Shower as close to the date as possible, always within four hours of your date. Smell is important – very important. You have to love the way she smells and she has to love the way you smell to have a fighting chance. It doesn't matter if you’re smelling each other’s cologne, perfume, soap, detergent or simply each other; it has to be pleasant, and this is subjective. It’s part of the whole experience and less good smell is better than any bad smell. The name of the game is chemistry. Looking good opens the door, smelling good keeps you in the room.

4. Money

Guys, if you're so broke that transportation and dinner could break the bank then you may want to reconsider your dating options. Even modest, non-gold-digging ladies will find the fact that you’re a professional, white-collar adult and broke a turn off if they can sense it. Keep in mind, if you're going on a traditional date, that she'll probably expect the guy to pay. On the flip side, don't shower her with expensive gifts to show off your riches. That could make her feel like she’s being bought. Presume she wants to learn about you, not your money, three homes, boat or plane. Spending 200% of your planned budget on the date probably won't get you closer to the goalpost. Don't put a lot of pressure on your first date. Keep it low key. Lunch, coffee, or simply a walk are great options, especially if money’s an issue for you.

5. Food

Don't show up for your date starving otherwise you may get “hangry" when things aren't going perfect with parking, traffic, your dinner reservation, etc. Also, don't eat too much on the date. Nerves and disagreeable food don't go well together.

6. Drink

Watch your drinking. A couple drinks can lighten the mood and take off the edge. But don’t get sloshed or pressure her to drink more than she wants to. Also, if you think you’re only enjoyable when you're buzzed then you have to fix that before dating.

7. Talk

Talk little about yourself without being secretive or evasive. Let her dig out the fact that you're a millionaire CEO who used to be an astronaut. Actually, astronauts are the perfect role model since, when you meet them in a bar, they'll never tell you they're an astronaut (true story). They have the world’s cool job and they’re genuinely the most humble people you’ll ever meet.

Instead of talking about yourself, talk about your date, listen to her, and be genuinely supportive of her thoughts and dreams. When a lady tells you about one of her problems on a date, don't try to solve it for her on the spot. Instead, simply listen. Listen. She's not looking for you to solve her problems. She’s looking for someone to listen and be her cheerleader. Don't try to fix her.

Keep the conversation upbeat and non-controversial. Everything you tell her will fall into one of three categories. Either be positive (“Did you see last night’s beautiful sunset?”), neutral (“Would you like to order dessert?”), or negative (“My landlord is such an idiot, he never fixes anything. The world is a trash can.”) Don’t focus on the negative issues in your life lest you be a Debbie Downer. It should go without saying that pontificating on politics, religion, or sex are a no-no for a first date.

Be honest. Tell her what you think, without being confrontational or opinionated. Tell her what you like about her, just a little. Don't pressure her with anything and don't play games: "She didn't return my call or answer my texts, yesterday, so I'm ignoring her today."

As a guy, it's not about being smarter or stronger. If you think you are, then move along. Seriously, if you're so much “smarter” than all the women you meet then do you really need someone "that dumb" to complement you? Let her see how smart you are by your actions. You don't need to tell her. If you continually find yourself dating “dumber” women then I’m betting you’re really the problem with your dates, not the ladies.

Also, don’t interrupt. People on a date get nervous. We all do since we're being judged. So chill out and let her talk all she wants. If she doesn't stop herself to ask you questions then that may be a warning sign for you.

8. Chivalry

She should have to discover your blessings by your actions, not talk. Don’t tell her how wonderful you are, she should see it. Open the car door for her except when the valet's doing it. Help her put on her coat or jacket except in situations where that would be obscenely awkward. When walking down the sidewalk, put yourself between her and the street without her noticing. Like a classical novel, filled with symbolism, let her discover that you stand for chivalry. You want to be thoughtful, not show-off-full. How thoughtful and selfless can you be without being a martyr?

9. Endgame

If your date is going swimmingly then you might be the man she’s looking for, so continue thinking of her needs and desires. Be thoughtful. You’ll need to figure out her speed and match it. Too fast, with too much pressure for the next date, and you’ll scare her off. Too slow and she’ll drift away. The people you date will always be a mystery, at first. So, think like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared.

And always be a gentleman. If she was your daughter, would you want her dating a guy like you? If you want to kiss her at the end of the date then ask. Those are her lips, not yours. So ask permission. You’d be surprised how much women appreciate the advanced notice.

Remember that women want to be treated like the subject of love, not the object. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people won't always remember what you say and they won't always remember what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel; so leave the ladies feeling lovely.

Finally, keep in mind that even if you do everything right it doesn’t mean it will always work out. Some things are not meant to be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Constitutional Amendment Addressing Technology?

The Second Amendment is the only article in the Bill of Rights that specifically addresses a rapidly changing technology. What if our forefathers wrote the Constitution today? Would the Second Amendment be the right to a car, computer, or Internet access instead of the right to bear arms?

Unlike the 18th century, technologies and issues now become outdated or irrelevant faster than ever. One needn't look past the Third Amendment to see an outdated issue in the Bill of Rights. The Third Amendment has never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision. And it may never be given that the United States has transitioned from a militia, to a standing army, to what now seems like a permanent war. A permanent war not against a state or government, but rather an idea: drugs, terrorism, etc. How do wars like this end? Who surrenders and signs the peace treaty leading to the release of the prisoners held in Gitmo? It seems to me that ending all terrorism in the world would be the equivalent of ending worldwide crime. A noble, yet impractical goal we should still strive for with the understanding that it cannot be fully achieved.

The key purpose of the Second Amendment was to give American citizens a daily tool while keeping the government in check. The balance of arms between the people and local communities, compared to the federal government, used to be even. Today, a rebellion by Americans against the federal government would be a disproportionate fight. Private citizens do not own or control weapons of mass destruction (nor should they). Two hundred and fifty years ago, people could not arm and stash a flintlock pistol in their pocket. Also the firearms of that time, from pistols to cannons, were single shot. Percussion cap weapons, the predecessor to bullets, weren't introduced until the 1820s.

I'm not suggesting that we add a Constitutional amendment banning firearms. Nor do I have a solution to ending gun violence. Part of my argument is that having the Constitution address a specific technology may have been a bad idea. More importantly, the Constitution is about giving rights to citizens, not restricting them. There's no place in it for banning alcohol, barring gay marriage, or restricting suffrage.

Simply because the Framers wrote the Constitution doesn't mean it's an absolute human right. Unless you think minorities shouldn't vote and alcohol should be banned. Bearing arms is a right, driving is a privilege – which is more practical in today's America? So, I leave you with no answers, only questions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is Art? What is Art's Purpose? Why?

Why would someone record a scene of simply eating? Why would anyone want to watch it?

What is art? What is its purpose?

Those are questions I've attempted to answer for years.

Is a Lamborghini or Apple Watch art?

It's easier to answer the second question, first: Art’s purpose is to express consciousness. That's it.

Which leads us back to the first question, "What is art?" It's been said, "Art is what you can get away with" but that's a bit nebulous.

Simply put, art is anything we create for others that can standalone. Art does not need to serve any purpose, other than existing, like a sunset.

Is a diary or personal journal art? I'd say no, since it's private. Rather, art is that poem we wrote which we shared with others, but never intended to sell. It's a photo, prose, performance, or painting that captures the moment.

What about the iPhone? Is that art?
Again, I'd say, no, it's not pure art. Art, with function, isn't so much art as it is design.
Design is art with function. It's how things work from the outside in.
Engineering is technology with function. It's how things work from the inside out.

There's nothing wrong with asking why. But, anyone who asks, "Why?" without the true intent of understanding more, doesn't get it. And that's okay. Not everybody understands everything, but at least have an open mind.

Art is so unique that it would not be missed if it were never created; yet its existence expands our experience with creative beauty. Words, paint, or notes of music, all created from nothing, for nothing, other than to exist, makes art. But that, alone, does not make great art which depends on both content and context, as the above video clip demonstrates. I reproduced the context of eating, but I can't reproduce the content of being Andy Warhol.

And who could forget when violinist Joshua Bell played at the Union Station train station in DC? Without the context of a symphony hall, no one appreciated his music.

Epilogue: Jørgen Leth speaks about his experience filming and directing Andy Warhol.

Credit: Big thank you to M. Thorsen for recording and editing this video.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Up and Running with Watch

Space Black Watch
Yesterday was my first full day with my Apple Watch. My first foray into wearable technology was 20 years ago when I purchased a Polar heart rate monitor in June 1994. Since then, on nearly every run, from training, to 5Ks and 50Ks, I have worn a heart rate monitor. But the Apple Watch is my first experience with a consumer wearable high tech device designed for daily use.

A buddy purchased an Apple Watch Sport, and, when I told him I had ordered a Space Black Apple Watch, he said, "The internals are all the same. The only difference is the casing, band and crystal." A good point. In other words, this device is more fashion than technology; just like a car.

Unbox and On Wrist

When my Apple Watch arrived, I recorded the unboxing and then played around with my new toy for a couple hours. The fit and finish is exquisite. I also ordered three bands (leather, Sport, and Milanese). The traditional wrist watch has been around for more than a century, yet it took Apple to design a simple way to swap and adjust bands. You can see, in my unboxing video, that my Apple Watch bracelet was too big and needed resizing. Instead of bringing it to a jeweler to adjust my band, I did it myself. It only took a couple minutes to pop out links from the bracelet, with my fingernail, until it was a perfect fit. Swapping out bands is even faster – simply make sure that the three rubber shims are facing up as you slide on a new band and you'll have no problem.

On the Go

New York Times, July 9, 1916
The heart rate monitors I've used required that I wear a chest strap. Before the Apple Watch, if I wanted to go for a run while listening to music, I needed to bring four things: watch, chest strap, iPod shuffle, and headphones. Since the Apple Watch can store music and monitor my heart rate without being tethered to an iPhone, I now only need two things: Apple Watch and Bluetooth headphones. 

Yesterday morning I walked to breakfast with my Apple Watch while listening to a podcast. The Apple Watch Workout app performed beautifully while tracking my heart rate during my mile and a half walk. The app lets you set a specific goal for running, walking, cycling, etc. The goals can be set for time, distance, calories, or left open with no specific goal.

In the afternoon, I took my Apple Watch for a run. During my one mile warm up run I didn't use the Workout app. I was a little concerned when I tried measuring my heart rate while warming up because it took 10 to 20 seconds to measure it. Looking down at my watch for that long, while running, seemed worse than texting while driving. 

Heart Rate Hubbub

Heart rate fonts could be larger for easier reading.
Once I was done stretching, I activated the Workout app and my heart rate measuring concerns melted away. The Workout app continuously reported my heart rate. Measuring your heart rate is the key to knowing your personal exertion levels during endurance sports. You don't want to be anaerobic if you're running a marathon because you'll bonk. On short runs, you don't want to run too slow and miss out on maximizing your training. Noticing that your heart rate is higher than normal while running at a slow pace could indicate something. Perhaps you're coming down with a cold or you haven't recovered from a previous workout.

What's the Big Deal?

The allure of wearable technology is that it physically incorporates you into its system. It's a part of you and you're a part of it.

I usually wear a traditional watch so I might as well wear one that ties in with my iPhone. Since I've only been using my Apple Watch for a couple days I still have a lot to discover. For simplicity sake, the small size of the Apple Watch necessitates limited UI interactions, so it takes a little getting used to. But, it's very handy to answer phone calls and respond to text messages without needing to carry around my phone. However, it is, yet, another device I need to have with me. And it needs to be tethered to an iPhone to use all of its features.

Time will tell, but so far it's definitely an asset. I'm pulling my phone out of my pocket far fewer times throughout the day without missing alerts, e-mails, and messages.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Advice for the USNA Class of 2015

Veep Joe Biden handing out today's diplomas.
Today, the US Naval Academy class of 2015 graduated. When I graduated, in 1993, I was ready to take on the world. My challenge, as a new second lieutenant, was that I had a lot to learn after graduation, not from books but rather from experiences. Here are a few things I wish I had learned sooner, rather than later.

1. Ask Why

No, don't ask your seniors why, ask your subordinates.

Before losing your temper with subordinates, when things aren't going right, ask, "Why?" This is Stephen Covey's fifth habit.

When I was a supply officer, we had some equipment that needed to be moved from one area of our warehouse lot to another. The warehouse chief told me that he'd take care of it while I was at a meeting. When I came back I was surprised to see that this task hadn't even been started. I was a tad unhappy when I asked, "Why wasn't the equipment moved?"

I was immediately thankful that I worded the question the way I did, rather than using a "What the hell is going on?" tone. The warehouse chief's answer to my question was something I hadn't considered, "Sir, the CO came by while you were at your meeting and told us not to move the equipment."

Every good Marine knows to follow their last order first after pointing out the conflict.

2. Answer the Question

When I was a new second lieutenant I frequently answered a superior's simple yes or no question with an explanation before giving the answer. After I was cut off, a couple times, and told, "Just answer the question...yes or no?" I got the hint. Start with the simplest answer you can give and go from there. After awhile, you'll get a feel for how much of an explanation is needed.

3. Leading vs. Staff Work

The Naval Academy is the leadership crucible. There are plenty of examples of how to lead, and how not to lead. Leading is a challenge, and outranking your subordinates makes it easier. At Annapolis, we're all the same rank. Leading peers is hard. You can fool your seniors and you can fool your subordinates. But, fooling your peers is nearly impossible since they see you when your guard is down.

The best leadership experience I had my Firstie (senior) year was being a company commander. That gave me the confidence to speak to 120 midshipmen, while standing in front of the company, everyday. I constantly reviewed my technique, delivery, message, and mistakes so I could improve.

After graduation, I was a little slow to learn a key aspect of my job in addition to leadership: managing up, known in the military as staff work.

A staff is a group of peers. Each has administrative, technical, or tactical expertise in their area of responsibility. A battalion staff is typically managed by the executive officer, who is the chief of staff. The entire staff reports to the commanding officer.

Unlike one-on-one meetings or working sessions, staff meetings are primarily used for reporting status updates and quick, simple decisions. I was slow to learn that I was expected to make recommendations to my commanding officer (CO). An example of good staff work is when you need a decision from your CO. Let's say that there are two possible choices, option A and option B, that require the CO to sign off on a memo or letter announcing their intent. When you show up for your one-on-one meeting with the CO, you may not know which choice the CO will make. So, you should draft up two separate memos for signature. One memo supports option A and the other supports option B. After you present your recommendation the CO will make a decision and sign the appropriate memo.

This example is how the process works in it's simplest form. It enables you to see other's perspectives. More importantly, it is a more efficient use of time since a second meeting isn't needed to sign the paperwork.

4. Align Tasks and Timing with the Interested Party

This is a leadership technique that's more of an art than a science. Basically, if you can get into the mindset of assigning tasks to the most interested party, you'll get the best results. This works well in most organizations whether in the military, a corporation or a family.

Timing is also an issue when delegating tasks or passing information. Don't task someone when passing them in the hallway or as as they're headed out the door for PT because they're likely to forget it. Try to control your excitement of needing to pass along information. What good is it to task someone when they're not in a good position to receive and act on that information? The reason people pass information at inopportune times is because they are worried about forgetting it, themselves. It's not about passing the buck and checking a box where, later, you can say, "I told them to do it." Rather, it's about having the task accomplished by setting people up for success.

Here are my tips for Time Management in the 21st Century.

5. Get Everything Into Your Medical Record

Marines know that they have to carry their weight, regardless if they're sick, lame, or lazy. This drives Marines to push themselves so they're not a liability. There's sometimes a perception that one should not go to sick call, when appropriate, and have an entry made in their medical record. At some point in the future you will no longer be on active duty. The VA will evaluate your health, based on your medical record, so anything that's missing will work against you. Something minor, from decades ago, could turn into something major, tomorrow, so having a record of it is important.

6. Let Him Fail

Occasionally, you have to let a subordinate fail, resulting in you or your team taking a face shot. This isn't a case of hanging someone out to dry, rather, it's that you can't step in and do someone else's job when they're failing. I've written about this in detail in Let Him Fail. When this does happen, consider the possibility that a subordinate's shortcoming may be a result of your failure to properly train them. While that may not be the case, simply think about how the problem could be avoided in the future.

7. Don't Brag That You Graduated From Annapolis

There's a very old joke:
Q: How do you know if someone went to Harvard?
A: They'll tell you.

Yes, the service academies are vastly different experiences compared to civilian colleges and universities. (And, yes, I told you in the second sentence of this blog post that I graduated from Annapolis.) But, officers from the Naval Academy aren't better people than officers from other commissioning sources. The Naval Academy may make an individual a better officer, initially, since they've spent four years on active duty by the time they're commissioned. But officers from civilian schools have faced an array of issues that midshipmen were shielded from such as college loans, rental leases, working a job, daily commutes, doing their own laundry, taking out the trash, and raising a family while studying.

8. Never Forget the Basics

Honesty, integrity, and setting the example are key. People, in the military and in the civilian world, will follow your example as I pointed out in Everyone's a Leader. And, while lying is discouraged, there are times when it's okay to be deceptive which I covered in Ethics for the Junior Officer.

Congratulations and fair winds and following seas to the US Naval Academy Class of 2015.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Noteworthy Customer Service

Everyone loves great customer service, especially me. It's an integrity issue and it's one of my pet peeves.

I've had my Accord for more than a decade. Recently, the factory installed GPS nav system was on the fritz. Honda offered to repair my system for a couple thousand dollars, which is steep considering it's merely the GPS DVD that needed to be fixed.

Following a recommendation from a local business, I brought my car into La Jolla Audio. I'm happy to say that everything the rep, Gary, at the shop told me was wrong.

First, he told me it would cost $800 if he could repair it in the shop. But, if he had to send out the DVD it would cost closer to $1,000. After spending the day trouble shooting it, he told me that he'd have to send it out; but it would still only cost $800 because the repair prices had dropped.

Second, he told me that it typically takes at least two weeks to repair the DVD player. He was also wrong about that. Six days later, he called me back to say that he'd received the repaired DVD player and it was ready to be installed.

As soon as I hung up the phone I drove over to La Jolla Audio. He told me that it would take about an hour to install and program the repaired unit. It turns out that was wrong, too – it only took 45 minutes. Very refreshing.

I could have done the work myself for about $300, but it was worth it to have an expert do it. It might be easy to reason that his process was planned, but that wasn't the case.  He gave me his best estimates not based on the soonest the repairs could be made, but rather the average, with a couple possible delays thrown. That's the hallmark of excellent customer service.