Good Example of Bad Management

Taxi el 3asema is a new service in Egypt that was introduced maybe a year ago or something.  It is supposed to provide people with on-call taxi service.  You call the company and reserve a taxi for the place you need to go on the time that you need.  Three companies offer this service in Egypt. 

The funny thing is it has not been more than a year and the service already sucks!! 

All the following issues happen:

1- You call and reserve a taxi, the taxi never shows up, the company never calls to say sorry.  And if you call they tell you the taxi made an accident.

2-    You call and reserve a taxi, before your date by 10 minutes they call and say they have no car available for you.

3-    You call and reserve a taxi, it is late, and you call the company they keep telling you it’s on its way until you are fed up and late for your appointment!!

4-    The taxis now have parking slots in some places (Tahrir, beside city starts).  The rule is, you go to the parking area and if you find a free taxi you ride in and then tell him where to go.  What really happens is: you find a free taxi, he asks you where you are going and if he does not like the destination, he says No!

5-    One day I tried to take one of those taxis at Tahrir square, I found the taxi but could not find the driver, and then I saw a man standing near the taxi with a tourist, I asked him: are you the taxi driver? He said NO. So I kept waiting.  I waited for a long while and that man was still chatting with the tourist.  Once I got bored and started moving away, the man and the tourist took the taxi and the man – who turned out to be the driver- drove away.  Obviously he was discussing fees with the tourist to cheat him out and take the fees to himself instead of delivering it to the company.

6-    My sister once tried to take one of those taxis from beside city stars. First he said no and then he changed his mind and told her to get in; he did not start the charger to calculate the fees based on the distance traveled. So she commented and told him that he is supposed to start it.  The answer was: It is for your own benefit I will take less than what it will charge you! 

All this is a sign of bad management.  There are no rules or regulations and no one is watching over those drivers.  No one is monitoring the call center as well to make sure that if you book a taxi, you get one on time.

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Writing Good Reports

Writing good, readable and meaningful reports is not easy. Sometimes people over do it, by imagining that the more they write the better. They also try to complicate it and make it seem as “professional” as possible. Professional in their definition is to use words that are rarely used by people to make them check the dictionary to be able to understand. Or use too many formulas and scientific facts and details. The result is a too long and too complicated document to read.

When you write a report the simpler the better. Your focus should be in meeting the aim of the document. Always ask yourself, what is the aim of this report? How should it benefit the reader? If you start this way, you will know exactly what to write in it.

If you want people to read what you write, do the following:

Step 1: Why are you writing this report? Define its aim and what is it supposed to serve.
Step 2: Define your scope. Depending on the topic of your report, sometimes it could be too wide and you yourself can digress while writing. Define your scope to avoid this problem and to avoid making your report too wide and hence vague to the reader. Every report should have a scope that limits the contents of the report.
Step 3: Know your audience. A report written to a technical audience differs than a report written to managing directors and executives, differs than a report written to accountants,..and so on. You have to know who will read the report to address them with the language they know best. And if it is a mixed audience, then write in a straight forward simple language that they will all understand. And if it is needed to mention some details for a group of the audience- do that – but clarify it in simple language in order not to loose the rest of your audience.
Step 4: Write the table of contents. This has to be finalized before you start writing to avoid loosing your focus in the middle of the report.
Step 5: Have all materials, statistics, research findings, images and references that you will need ready.
Step 6: Write your report.
Step 7: Include your conclusion or wrapping paragraph. A report with a conclusion is a wasted effort.
Step 8: Include the next step. This should highlight to the reader what will we do next or what is requested of him after he reads.
Steps 9, 10 and 11: PROOFREAD and PROOFREAD and PROOFREAD. Any document with spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes or logical mistakes will loose its audience and will never deliver the message.

Notes:
When you are writing the report take care that visual effects make a great difference. So make sure to make your report visually accepted as follows:
1-Use the same font throughout the document. Same type and size for content, headers and titles. And of course use a readable size.
2-Use normal black color for writing and use a different color to highlight parts that you need to stress their importance.
3-Whenever charts or images can make a certain idea or fact clearer use them.
4-Avoid too long sentences and too long paragraphs. The shorter and to the point the better.
5-Paginate your document.
6-Fix your margins and make sure your document prints well if you are going to send an electronic copy.

Communication skills

I want to share with you the results of one of the projects that I worked on as a project manager. I was responsible of minimizing the gap between financial revenue records and actual production records. I will not get into details of the project and what type of service I am talking about to avoid revealing business secrets. But I will say just enough to clarify how bad or missing communication can cause disasters. The gap they suffered from was both ways i.e. over booking of revenues that do not exist and under booking or missing revenues that should have been booked but they were not. The main problem though was in missing revenues that were not recorded. Over booking was minimal as it happened only when an order was cancelled and never reported to finance.

Most of the production records were missed and not listed as financial revenues. The company was actually losing money because no one kept clear and actual track of what they were actually producing and selling. When I started we had 50% gap between finance and production i.e. 50% of actual revenues were not listed in the company’s financial records. In only one month for example we had 87,000 LE missing revenues. I started working on this project on May 2005; on Jan 2006 I reached 66% reduction in losses.

You will be astonished to know that the main reason of such losses was communication issues. Involved teams did not have a common terminology to describe things. The financial team used certain terms to describe some things, while the production team used the same terms to describe totally different things. The production team itself was divided and did not have common terminology. They did not have common templates to fill for record keeping, they did not have a clear workflow and they did not have an established communication channel. Some people used to talk over the phone, others used the email and others did not bother communicating at all.

The service the company was selling was an online service, so it was dynamic i.e. sometimes the original cotract used to state something but after actual production lots of changes were introduced. Those changes sometimes increase the contract value, sometimes decrease it and sometimes ends up by canceling the entire thing. All those changes were never reported to finance, so they used to book only the original contract value. this resulted as well in a lot of revenue losses.

Most of my work was focused on:
1- Creating a clear workflow where every team member can know when to start, how to start, which template to use, how to pass on to the next team member and how to follow up.
2- Creating a common terminology where everyone uses the same word to mean the same thing.
3- Creating templates and IDs to avoid misunderstanding issues.
4- Establishing a performance evaluation method.
5- Introducing an automated process for the teams involved to be notified upon every change. This was mainly to make sure that finance are informed of all updates and changes.

By making sure that all team members are able to communicate effectively, we were able in 9 months to reach 94% matching between finance and production although we started with a 50% match only.

Communication skills are critical for the success of any business. If you are unable to communicate effectively, you will not get anywhere. Even written communication has its rules to make sure you deliver your message clearly and properly.

A nice link that I came across is: http://www.communication-skills-4confidence.com/communication-skills-test.html
This is a Self-Assessment Exercise that tests your communication skills, try it out and check how good you are.