Gerstner: The Culture Is What You Inspect

Lou Gerstner: “Culture is often described by a statement of values that all employees are expected to follow … But look inside these companies and you will learn that a common vocabulary does not lead to common behavior. What is critical to understand here is that people do not do what you expect but what you inspect. Culture is not a prime mover. Rather it is a derivative. It forms as a result of signals employees get from the corporate processes that structure their work priorities.”

“Compensation is one of the most important of these processes. If the reward system pays a premium for one kind of behavior, that’s what will determine employee behavior—regardless of the words enshrined in the value statement. If the financial-reporting system focuses entirely on short-term operating results, that’s what will get priority from employees. If you want employees to care a lot about customers, then customer-satisfaction data should get as prominent a place in the reporting system as sales and profit.”

“It is the cumulative effect of all of these processes: compensation, performance measurement, recognition, etc. that shape what we describe as corporate culture. So for any CEO who wants to understand the real culture in his or her company: Do not look at the value statement in the new employee handbook. Go deep and understand what each process in the company is telling employees is important. Again, people do not do what you expect but what you inspect.”

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Walmart & The Nexus of Hi-Tech and Hi-Touch

Walmart CIO Karenann Terrell: “We’ve observed that online customers have a very, very high level of satisfaction—above 90%—while for those shopping in the store, it isn’t nearly at that high level. We wanted to dig underneath and find out why. The convenience of online ordering, coupled with the special treatment online customers get when they come in person to pick up their orders, leads to a more satisfying experience.”

“We’ve hired dedicated personal shoppers to pick these online grocery orders for customers. They see these customers regularly and know their preferences and begin to know them personally. That has been a huge learning for us in how we will manage stores. One associate wrote a Happy Mother’s Day card to a single mom who visits every week and has a son with Down syndrome.”

“I’m so fascinated with the Internet of Things. It could make a huge difference operationally and with the improvement of the experience for customers … It’s real-time data about goods on the shelf at the time that the customer shops. On-shelf availability means what the customer wants is fully available to them. They don’t say, ‘I wanted Crest Pro Health toothpaste but they were out.’ The Internet of Things is going to rock the world of operational effectiveness.”

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Sentimental Algorithms & The Employee Experience

The Atlantic: “Sentiment analysis has bloomed into a large and lucrative industry … Large companies like Accenture, Intel, IBM, and Twitter have started using software to understand how their own employees feel about their jobs, and identify problems that might escape a harried supervisor during annual-review time … Twitter, for example, hired a company called Kanjoya to analyze employees’ responses to regular surveys about their workplace experiences … Kanjoya’s analysis tools ran through the narrative answers, extracting patterns that were then shared with executives.”

“To catch grievances that might not surface in structured responses, or identify policies that are working, IBM has for years been scooping up employees’ posts and comments on the company’s internal social networking platform. That platform, called Connections, is available to all of IBM’s 380,000 employees in 170 countries … An internally developed sentiment-analysis tool called Social Pulse monitors posts and comments for trends and red flags.”

“The human element still remains an important check on emotion-sensing algorithms. Even IBM’s 3-year-old Social Pulse software is bolstered by human eyes: A small team of analysts routinely examine the trends it identifies to make sure it got them right before sending them up the chain to management.”

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Analog Aesthetics: Where The Cash Register Ka-Chings

The Wall Street Journal: “Like your eccentric buddy who still uses a flip phone, New York is full of shopkeepers who swear by cash registers that are little more than glorified adding machines … At Holyland Market, an Israeli grocery in the East Village, Eran Hileli proclaims the virtues of his $200 Sharp register. It keeps his clerks on their toes … Plus, it’s more satisfying to punch a button than tap a screen.”

“Not to mention cost considerations. Old-school technology is cheap. You can buy an entry-level register and card-reader combo at Staples for $200 … For some merchants, the objection is aesthetic: They don’t want a glowing screen turning their charming shop into the Starship Enterprise … Some even believe a handwritten check adds to a venue’s vibe.”

“On the Bowery, 94-year old Bernard Faerman restores mechanical registers that are older than he is. Prices for the brass beauties start at $2,000 … Customers include Irish bars that want a vintage register for an old-time feel … Mr. Faerman’s son, Brian Faerman, introduces his ancient National Cash Register Class 6000, a beast he refers to as ‘The Big Six.’ Made of steel and big as a mini-fridge, it features a sonorous ka-ching. Why does it sound so good? ‘Because it’s awesome,, the younger Mr. Faerman says.”

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Late & Great: Richard Trentlage

The New York Times: “The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song had its beginnings in September 1962, when Richard Trentlage … learned that Oscar Mayer … was sponsoring a contest for a wiener jingle … Inspiration struck when he remembered one of his sons, using a term for someone who is cool, talking about a friend who was a ‘dirt-bike hot dog’ … ‘I wish I could be a dirt-bike hot dog,’ his son said.”

“When the jingle was first heard on a Houston radio station in 1963, listeners, thinking it was a pop tune, requested that it be played repeatedly … The song became part of the fabric of American culture.”

“Mr. Trentlage’s melodies, lyrics and tag lines were practically a hit parade in the advertising world, many of them with the mental stickiness of flypaper; among others, he wrote ‘McDonald’s is your kind of place’; ‘Wow! It sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice,’ for V8; and ‘Buckle up for safety, buckle up!’ (sung to the tune of ‘Buckle Down, Winsocki’) for a National Safety Council seatbelt promotion.” Richard Trentlage died September 21, 2016, at 87.

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