“Dignified Transfers”– Bringing Them Back

The Mortuary Affairs Operation Center at Dover and the Dignified Transfer of the Fallen


The Air Force, your Air Force, operates an Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center (MOAC) at Dover AFB, known as the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. The Carson Center was opened in October 2003, replacing a 1948 facility. We’ll take a
closer look at it in a moment.

At a top level, its job is to receive the remains of a Fallen member, identify those remains, prepare them and transport them to their final destination. Under most circumstances, a family member directs the disposition of the remains. Identification of those family members has a priority order; e.g., surviving spouse if not divorced, then children over 18, then father or mother if not divorced etc.


Charles C. Carson served as a civilian mortician with the USAF in 1958. He was the deputy mortuary officer at TanSon Nhut Air Base, Republic ofVietnam and Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines from 1964 to 1970. He covered mortuary affairs in Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and administered mortuary contracts in New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. Mr. Carson had supervised mortuary preparation of remains in every major disaster involving American military and civilian personnel since 1971.

He was assigned to Dover Air Force Base August of 1970 as a mortuary inspector and was promoted to Chief Port Mortuary Officer a year later. He handled a number of disasters, including the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the Jonestown cult mass suicide in Guyana. He also supervised the processing of the remains of victims in the NASA Challenger mission and Desert Storm as well as the air plane disaster that claimed the life of then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. He retired in 1996 and died August 8, 2002.

Back in 2003, Meg Falk, director of the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy, said this about Carson:

“He was revered in the mortuary community. Not only for his extensive knowledge but for his total dedication to treating every single casualty with the utmost dignity and respect. He was constantly seeking improvements to apply new and better processing to mortuary operations.”

I want to talk about the MAOC and address the Dignified Transfer process. I should say up front that officially, the Dignified Transfer process occurs only at Dover. Unofficially, the process of removing a Fallen from the battlefield or hospital through the system is a dignified transfer start to finish so far as I am concerned.

I should present the Air Force’s description of what the official Dignified Transfer process is:

“A dignified transfer is the process by which, upon the return from the theater of operations to the United States, the remains of Fallen military members are transferred from the aircraft to a waiting vehicle and then to the port mortuary. The dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team of military personnel from the Fallen member’s respective service. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country. A senior ranking officer of the Fallen member’s service presides over each dignified transfer.

“The sequence of the dignified transfer starts with the Fallen being returned to Dover by the most expedient means possible, which may mean a direct flight from theater, or a flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and then to Dover. It is the Department of Defense’s policy, and AFMAO’s mission, to return America’s Fallen to their loved ones as quickly as possible. Once the aircraft lands at Dover, service-specific carry teams remove the transfer cases individually from the aircraft and move them to a waiting mortuary transport vehicle. Once all of the transfer cases have been taken to the transport vehicles, they are then taken to the port mortuary.”

Let’s take a closer look at the Dover MAOC. The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs is a 70,000 square foot facility. It is a joint military facility, with people from all services working there, often from the Reserves and Guard. It’s mission is this:

“It is the center’s mission and privilege to fulfill the nation’s sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to the Fallen and care, service, and support to their families.”

This is a Google Earth view of most of the Dover AFB. The base is located in east central Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula close to Delaware Bay. It is the home of the 436th Airlift Wing, the “EagleWing” and the 512th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve Associate, the “Liberty Wing.” The Eagle Wing is subordinate to the 18th Air Force located with the HQ, Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Missouri. The yellow arrow points to the location of the MAOC at Dover, on the south side of the base. It’s worth noting that it is very close to the taxiway west of the main runway.

This is a closer view. You can see it is a substantial facility. You can note the driveway straight to the taxiway, a location where transport aircraft carrying the Fallen can park for the Dignified Transfer.

I want to show you more of the facility. I am using magnificent photography presented by crypto me eyeball series on the web.

The Wall of Fallen Heroes greets each visitor as they come through the front entry. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

Entry foyer, MAOC. This view is looking from the foyer area out to the entry door. Note the curved wall in the center. The first photo showed the other side. USAFphoto.


The fingerprinting area. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.






Full body X-ray unit. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.


Autopsy stations. There are 23 such stations. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

This facility houses everything needed to properly dress the Fallen. Photo credit: William M. Plate, Jr.

With the new Gates policy on the press covering the arriving Fallen, the following is to happen once they arrive at Dover:

“The primary next of kin will make the family’s decision regarding media access to dignified transfer operations atDover;

“Families of deceased service members will be briefed on the option to allow media coverage of the dignified transfer at the time of notification of the member’s death or as soon as possible thereafter;

“If the primary next of kin permits media access atDover, reporters will be given the name, rank, military service and hometown of the ‘believed to be’ casualty. Amore complete identification of the deceased service member, including unit, place, date and circumstances of death, will be released following the confirmation of the casualty’s identity at the Dover mortuary, and then only24 hours after the last of the deceased’s next of kin have been notified of the loss; and

“Primary next of kin and two other family members may travel to Dover at department expense to observe the dignified transfer operation. The services may fund the travel of additional family members on a case-by-case basis.”

This new policy was implemented effective April 6, 2009. Whitman has described the policy this way:

“The core of the policy is built around the desires of the family members, and it will be the families that decide whether or not media have access to any of these dignified transfers.”

My purpose here is to describe the dignified transfer operation. I want to underline, underscore, and highlight the seriousness with which our military forces treat the Fallen during the dignified transfer.

I am reminded of two stories I’ve done associated with this subject to which you may some day wish to refer.

Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fire against terrorists operating in Fallujah, Iraq April 7, 2004. Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi, presented by Defend America

The first was done as part of my description of the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004. I wrote the story, “Battle for Fallujah, our warfighters towered in maturity and guts,” and added a section at the end of this report entitled, “’Major Zarnik, these are my Marines, and I am giving them to you.’ A concluding story.” This was a story about how Major Zarnik and his USAF KC-135R tanker crew were on their way to Spain after refueling some F-16 fighters in the area of Turkey. Zarnik was abruptly turned around to go to Kuwait City. His mission was to retrieve the first 22 American military forces killed in the Battle of Fallujah. Major Zarnik tells the story of what he and his crew did to bring these men home. It’s at once a heartbreaker and an injection of enormous pride.

The chief places the uniform blouse inside the casket. The chief lays the uniform blouse carefully inside the casket, over the remains, which are wrapped in a blanket below He then places the lieutenant’s uniform pants in the casket, placed properly under the blouse. Credit: Photo clip drawn from the video, “An Ocean Away,” produced by Arrowhead Film & Video and commissioned by the Discovery Channel.

The second story was published in February 2006, entitled, “The reality is, no other country does this: Bringing America’s missing
home.” This is the story of the return of US Marine Lt. Donald Matocha’s remains from Vietnam to Smithville, Texas many years after the war ended. I assembled a photo gallery that demonstrates the respect and honor given the remains of our returning military by those associated with the US Joint POW-MIA Accounting Commandin Hawaii, the JPAC.

For the current two wars our sons and daughters are fighting, Dover is the first stop in the US for those deceased military members returning home. The men and women at this center have not changed a thing since their actions have been made open to the public. Everything they do now, they did when the photographers were not there.


An example of a dignified transfer conducted once the aircraft arrives at Dover AFB is the case of Spc. Israel Candelaria Mejias, USA, 1-66th Armor,killed in action (KIA) by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq on April 5, 2009. He is shown here.

A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from the 14th Airlift Squadron was on crew rest at Spangdahlem AB, Germany when alerted that it would fly a dignified transfer mission from Ramstein AB, Germany to Dover. It has been reported that the crew remained silent while
riding the bus from Spangdahlem to Ramstein to get their aircraft — “Unspoken Silence.”

This is a 14th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III which in the photo was in Jordan. Its worth remarking that these transport aircraft, in a time of war, are scarce and heavily used. But by hook or by crook they are available for the dignified transfer.

TSgt. Erin Manley commented this way as the crew approached their aircraft:

“You go out to the jet and reality sets in.”

About the flight, SrA Airman Stephen Adams, a loadmaster, commented:

“It taxes on your emotions. We have a lot of time to reflect about the sacrifice of the individual.”

TSgt. Manley said this:

“With as much grief as they are feeling, you hope they can see the care and the attention to detail; there is more sense of pride, the jet’s clean, the flag’s on straight. There’s nothing you want to go wrong, because this guy deserves everything.”

Adams added:

“It’s pretty emotional. We try to return our military service members with honor, and that’s what we did.”

The aircraft landed at Dover, taxied and parked. The aircrew must run through its shut down checklist and then prepare for the dignified transfer of the remains from the aircraft to the mortuary center. The family was present at Dover when the aircraft landed.

About an hour after landing, an eight member Carry Team from theArmy’s Old Guard in Washington, arrived.

OldGuardA OldGuardB
The Old Guard is the the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, the 3rdInfantry. It is the oldest active-duty infantry unit, serving our nation since 1784. It is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and the escort for the president. In short, it is the Army’s official Honor Guard. It has two companies, the 1st and the 4th, the 1/3 and the 1/4 Infantries. The1/4 provides the Fife and Drum Corps. Both companies guard theTomb of the Unknown Soldier and conduct burials at Arlington National Cemetery. It should be noted that infantry is infantry — the 3rd Infantry is a combat organization which has received 50 combat streamers from the Battle of Fallen Timbers of 1794 that is considered the final battle of the Northwest Indian War through WWII. In addition to its ceremonial roles, it is presently tasked to provide security for Washington, D.C. in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

Back to Spc. Mejias’s return to the US.



Army and Air Force troops stand guard around the body of Spc. Israel Candelaria Mejias at Dover Air Force Base on nighttime arrival. Photo credits: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes.

By the time the Old Guard Carry Team arrived at the C-17 carrying Mejias, the aircrew that brought him home and an Army colonel and captain had the ramp down, and placed his case near the aircraft ramp exit. They are standing at parade rest, awaiting the Carry Team.

The Old Guard’s “Carry Team,” in uniform fatigues, wearing white gloves, marched in formation up the ramp and into the cargo hold. Photo credit: Susan Walsh, AP


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes.
Three from the Carry Team stood at attention on one side of the casket, the other three on the other side. You cannot see him in this photo, but there is a seventh Old Guard, the ranking member, standing at the head of the case. The case bore the American flag draped over it, the field of stars over his left shoulder, his feet pointed to the outside, the flag tied down to the case.

Once in place, three officers arrived and marched in unison up the ramp. They included Army Brigadier General Walter Davis, director of Army Aviation; Air Force Colonel Robert Edmondson, commander of mortuary affairs operations; and Chaplain Major Klavens Noel. Chaplain Noel said a prayer.

A senior ranking officer (SRO) of the Fallen member’s service always presides over each dignified transfer. It is my understanding that in most circumstances, the SRO is a general or flag officer.


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Following this, the Carry Team picked up the case in unison.


Photo credit: Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
With precision, the Carry Team carried Spc. Mejas down the ramp to a waiting vehicle. As it started, in a quiet tone, the order was given to those remaining on the aircraft, “present arms” — salute. They popped to attention and saluted as Mejas made his way down the ramp. The family was at the bottom of the ramp waiting.

I want to show what happens at the vehicle waiting to take Mejas to the Mortuary.

This photo is of a Carry Team taking Pfc. Nicholas H.J. Gideon, 1/40Cavalry to a waiting mortuary truck, taken on July 8, 2009. Photo
credit to Jason Minto, USAF.


In this photo, an Army Carry Team transfers the remains of Army Spc. Issac L. Johnson, July 8, 2009. Spc. Johnson was assigned to the1st Battalion, 108th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, Georgia Army National Guard. Photo credit
to Jason Minto, USAF.

In this photo, you see airmen transferring the remains of Air Force SSgt. Phillip A. Myers, April 5, 2009. I wanted to point out that the vehicle driver is standing by, shooting a salute until the Fallen is completely in place and the Carry Team is finished.

Once the Carry Team has loaded the Fallen aboard the mortuary vehicle, it braces at attention and salutes the Fallen, in this case, Lance Corporal Blaise A. Oleski, USMC, April 9, 2009. Photo credit: Tim Shaffer, Reuters.

An airman closes the door on a transport vehicle with the transfer case containing the body of Spc Mejias. Photo credit: Tim Shaffer, Reuters

Once all souls are aboard the vehicle, the driver shuts the doors securely, with dignity and respect, and drives to the nearby Dover mortuary. How long does this all take? As an example, the Dignified Transfer for Spc. Mejias took about 12 minutes from the time the transfer case is placed at the ramp to the time it is loaded aboard the vehicle.

To my knowledge, the media is not allowed to see what goes on in the mortuary, even to this day. The morticians and staff must go through a very careful, methodical, and scientific process. Their number one task, among many, is to be sure they have an 100 percent positive identification of the remains. They employ DNA, dental and fingerprint analysis and autopsy the remains to determine the cause of death. They then prepare the Fallen member for transport to the family.

Allow me to pause for a moment to address the identification process.Interestingly, people well trained in anthropology can play a major role.


The famous “dog tags” are important to the identification process, but there is sufficient concern about how they were issued and worn that they alone do not do the job. The military member does not always wear them, either forgetting or deliberately leaving them behind because of an exceedingly dangerous mission. Some soldiers exchange their tags before a mission — why is hard to ascertain. There have been times when the enemy has exchanged them to confuse us, or to be simply mean. Finally, the tags must be found on the Fallen and must remain with him through the process for them to carry any validity. While a bit gruesome, one must recognize that the tags are often pushed into the body as the result of an explosion or the like. Sometimes, they are hard to find, they are missed, or they are destroyed beyond recognition.

Hollywood often shows men tearing the tags off their Fallen — they are not to do this for reasons outlined above.

Wallets, photos, keys, rings, watches and other such items also helpthe identification process.

The skull and jaw are among the most important means of identification.


This is a CT scan of a skull showing multiple skull and facial bone fractures resulting from fatal blunt trauma to the head. In this case, it was a car collision, but you get the idea.

Dental and facial features provide good leads.

Often, when a Fallen’s body is beaten up badly, the morticians will layout the bones to create a “biological profile” which can help identify sex, age, race, and manner of death. Sometimes, the mortician will find duplicates, which then says he-she is dealing with two individuals.

If the Fallen is recovered by his comrades and medevacs quickly after battle, the flesh will probably be in tact and fingerprints can be taken. This can be a very complicated process. The photo presented is an FBI photo. I do not know whether the Dover people use this kind of technology, though I do know it is state-of-the-art. But I wanted to show this to you to affirm in your minds that new technologies are employed for identification purposes. This happens to be a spectral imaging technology that uses infrared spectral responses plotted over an area to produce images. On the left you see the fingerprint. Photo B is an expanded area of one portion of the fingerprint. Photo C is a spectra of the components.

Finally, lately DNA analysis has been of great value. Both nuclear and mitochondrial analyses are used.

It should be said that the data base of identifications and along with the empirical and analyses supporting those identifications have played an important role. The mortuary team can do a lot of crosschecking in more complicated cases. Furthermore, many advanced computer technologies are now available to help in the broad spectrum of identification approaches employed.

The identification process is often as certain as certain can be. That said, mistakes are made. Families have the right to challenge the findings. Most often, an explanation of the process alleviates their fears. Sometimes not.

One thing is for certain: the men and women assigned to this center at Dover are serious people who take their jobs very seriously.

I’d like to introduce you to some of them. Prior to doing that, I wanted to point out that the morticians do not get the Fallen untilothers have had a chance to get organized to receive the Fallen from the mortician. Several activities occur as soon as the remains are
brought into the mortuary, before the work begins on the remains.

You will recall that the remains were transferred in a body bag that was placed in an ice lined transfer case. The body bag and body are removed from the transfer case. The body is removed from the bag and placed on a metal table and digitally photographed and archived. If the Fallen arrives in parts, each is barcoded.

The Personal Effects Team takes custody of any personal items. This team takes the personal effects to their section and inventories, photographs, barcodes each item, and cleans them. If an item cannot be pinned down to the Fallen member, it goes to the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

This is a good chance to introduce you to some of those who work at the Center and provide you a sense for how seriously they take their jobs.


TSgt. Latersa Frazier, a personal effects supervisor in the Air Force Mortuary AffairsOperations Center polishes a watch April 1, 2009 to demonstrate the cleaning process used on personal effects during preparation of remains, part of the dignified transfer process. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

The cleaning process is very important. They clean all the items, and prepare them to be returned to the family. TSgt. Latersa Frazier is the personal effects supervisor and has said:

“We’ll try our best to clean them the best we can so they can go back with the escort to their families. Our goal is to make them look better than brand new … I could be working on a broken watch for hours, but it may still have the smell of cologne, and I know that I can get it back to the families. It could be the one item a child has to remind him of his father or mother. That means everything to me.”

Frazier said she spent a day and a half on a belt buckle:

“It was from a crash and was pretty charred. When I finally finished it, it was a bronze gold color; really beautiful. We still talk about that belt buckle … We put in the extra work when dealing with personal effects because we want to be able to give back to the family just a little something for their loss. If this was my love done, I would want the person working on my items to do the best job they can … My motivation is this person who has served our country, who paid the ultimate sacrifice. This is something I can do for them because they sacrificed their lives for us. Just cleaning a simple dog tag, even if I had to stand here half the day to clean it to get it back to the family, I would do that. Not only is the service member making that sacrifice, but also the families, the loved ones, and the children. They are as well. Being able to support that person — that family – it’s
an amazing feeling.”


A1C Rontera Powell works is a personal effects specialist. She is shown here in her dress uniform as an USAF honor guard, a position I might add, of distinction. She has said:

“Every case has touched me in some way. When you work in my section, you stop seeing them as remains, and you start seeing them as people who had personalities. And even though these people are no longer here in body, they’re still here in spirit through their effects.”

SSgt. John Cabral, USAF, closes the door of a transfer vehicle containing a transfercase containing the remains of Shawn D. Sykes Friday, May 8, 2009.

Another personal effects specialist, SSgt. John Cabral, said this:

“I remember my first case. He was only 19. When I saw him in triage, he was pretty messed up. Once I started looking through his personal effects to clean them up, I saw photos of him and his girlfriend; pictures of how he looked. It was just very hard for me. It takes a strong person to be able to do the job and put your emotional feelings to the side. It affects you.”

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jimmy Toro steam cleans the uniform of a Fallen solider during preparation of the dignified transfer of remains process March 31,2009. Sgt. Toro is on his third year-long voluntary deployment assisting the Air ForceMortuary Affairs Operations Center. Sergeant Toro is deployed from the U.S. ArmyReserve, 311th Quartermaster Company in Puerto Rico. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

As soon as the Fallen member arrives at the mortuary, the men and women from the uniforms section are there. SFC Jimmy Toro, USA, said their job is to take measurements:

“We get sizes as soon as (the Fallen heroes) arrive in the building. We put together their uniforms and take (the items) to the alterations shop, getting the patches and stripes sewn on the uniform. We verify the proper awards and decorations for that (service member), and we put it together.”

These uniforms are meant to be the final uniform the Fallen member will wear.

SSgt. Charles Bell walks through rows of military service dress uniforms that are stored there for every rank and size. Sgt. Bell is the Air Force noncommissioned officer in charge of logistics and oversees ordering and stocking service dress uniforms and items for dignified transfer of remains. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

This section stocks the uniforms, rank insignias, ribbons, patches, everything that is to be worn by each Fallen member. SSgt. Charles Anthony Bell has been a mortuary technician with the center since June 2008. He has said:

“I want everything to be as perfect as possible. Even though the shirts are covered by the jackets, we still take the time to clip the strings on all of the buttons, around the collars and the pockets, making sure there are no strings. We polish the devices on the ribbons, making sure they’re equally nice and shiny. We check every detail, making sure the uniform is 100 percent correct.”

Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Van Orden irons a U.S. Navy uniform March 31,2009 for a Fallen sailor. Van Orden is the Navy and Marine Corps liaison for the uniform section of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. Service liaisons prepare uniforms for Fallen heroes and work with military escorts for the dignified transfer-of-remains process. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

PO2 Danielle Van Orden is a hospital corpsman and adds:

“Everybody, everybody is treated with respect, dignity and honor. We know that when the uniform leaves here, it has our stamp of approval, our name on it. We know that people are going to be viewing their loved ones at funerals. When they open that casket, they see the military creases; they see that we took our time.”

I should comment here that the mortuary works as hard to get their work done as professionally and quickly as possible. There is no time to dally about. Teams often work around the clock.

Lance Corporal Adam Knebler, Marine liaison for uniforms section, hangs Marine service dress uniforms into inventory. The uniform section of the Charles C. CarsonCenter for Mortuary Affairs, Dover Air Force Base, Del., prepares uniforms for remains and works with military escorts for the dignified transfer of remains process.Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

LCpl. Adam Knebler, USMC, has commented this way:

“Everyone is taken care of here to the 100 percent-levelof everyone’s ability. Sometimes I’m here 12 to 14 hours. I don’t want to leave until the mission’s accomplished. Istay until the mission’s done. The mission is first here for everybody.”

Toro adds:

“This is an honor for me, having this opportunity to serve those (service members) who have given their lives in combat. That’s my satisfaction. I will do it for as long as I can. It’s the best job I’ve ever had in the Army, serving these past two years at Dover. I feel I’m doing something for service members and their families who await the return of their Fallen heroes back home.”

Specialist Xavier Gonzalez polishes the decorations of a Fallen soldier. Specialist Gonzalez is deployed from the Army Reserve, 311th Quartermaster Company, PuertoRico. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

Spc. Xavier Gonzales feels the same, even though he had only been at the mortuary for four months when he said this:

“I’m here for a reason, for the mission. This mission is the most respectful thing I can do for a service member who’s died in combat. It’s an honor. I’ve got to do something for the United States; they always do something for us in Puerto Rico; it’s important for Puerto
Rico. Most importantly, it’s important for the families of the Fallen.”

Once the measurements are taken, the alterations made, the ribbon racks assembled correctly, everything ironed and steamed, the team then dresses the Fallen.

Of course, the morticians must prepare the remains prior to putting on the uniform. I have already covered this.

Among their most important tasks is to prepare the American flag.

TSgt. Millard Rico feeds a U.S. flag into a pressing machine March 3, 2009 at theCharles C. Carson Center. The press irons the flags wrinkle free that will be placed over caskets during the dignified transfer of remains. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J.

They remove the flag from its packaging, unfold them, and feed them through an industrial steamer to be pressed. The flags are 5×9 ft. The machine has been designed to be sure the flag never touches the ground in the process. They then drape the flags over a rack until needed.


SSgt. Star Samuel’s, shown here hanging up a freshly pressed flag, has said:

“We’re taking care of someone’s child, mother, father, husband, wife. They passed away protecting this country; we try to make everything perfect to give them and their families the utmost respect … I have so much respect for my Fallen heroes. These heroes have families, loved ones, who could’ve talked to them just a couple of hours ago. Just one mistake, one trip down the road, anything can happen. I take nothing for granted.”

Shipping Specialists SSgt. Star Samuel’s (front) and TSgt. Willard Rico place a U.S. flag over a casket March 31, 2009 during a dry run of shipping process procedures for the dignified transfer of remains at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. Sergeant Samuel’s is deployed from the 43rd Force Support Squadron at PopeAFB, North Carolina. Sergeant Rico is deployed from the 60th FSS, Travis AFB, California. Photo credit: SSgt. Bennie J. Davis III, USAF

Once a casket is ready for the flag, each airman stands on either side of the casket, they slowly pull the flag off the rack and onto the casket. One airman stands at the foot, the other at the head. They work silently but in harmony, coordinating through eye contact, to drape the flag over the casket. They work slowly and in silent synchronization. They watch everything on the casket to be sure the flag is draped over it correctly.

They draw the flag taut. The Fallen is ready for burial and transportation home.

TSgt. Willard Rico, USAF, shown above with SSgt. Samuels placing the flag over a casket, has said:

“These men and women who gave their lives for their country for the sake of freedom deserve the utmost dignity, honor and respect … We’re here for the families. I’m privileged to be working here, giving dignity, honor and respect to the Fallen for their families. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever done so far in my career.”

Both Rico and Samuels are shipping specialists, their Air Force specialty code descriptor. But they are far more than people working in a freight and shipping center. They are part of the final process for Fallen military prior to their beginning their trip home. Mortuary staff prepare the remains. People such as Rico and Samuels inspect the caskets, and perform the final checks to be sure the dog tags, ribbons and flag are correct and up to standards. They get the final look before sending the deceased home. Samuels has commented:

“We make sure everything is perfect. Our mission is to send them out the way they’re remembered, not how they came in.”

The 2007 National Defense Appropriations Act directed the Office of the Secretary of Defense to provide military or military-contracted air transport for all military people who die in a combat theater of operations. This means the US has taken responsibility for transporting the Fallen directly from Dover AFB to the nearest airport of the Fallen’s final destination.

This law also requires that an honor guard escort the Fallen to their final resting place. A family can ask that the honor guard be excused from this duty, and can request commercial air. This might be done when the closest airport to the family is a small one where USAF aircraft cannot go.

Note that the carton, with the casket inside, rests on a wooden pallet as it is loaded aboard the commercial jet. Ground-crews are trained to handle such human remainswith extreme and respectful care. Credit: Photo clip drawn from the video, “An Ocean Away,” produced by Arrowhead Film & Video and commissioned by the Discovery Channel.

The military requires that each coffin has an honor cover, a reinforced cardboard cover that fits on top of the airline industry’s standard air tray for coffins. The cover is embossed with an American flag and the Defense Department seal at both ends. These covers are used only once. They are treated to be waterproof.

The more stories I do about our men and women at war, the more I have come to appreciate the military’s chaplains. In this case, the toll on those in the families of the Fallen and those in the mortuary affairs center can be high in terms of emotions. This is where the chaplains step forward.

SparksDavid Ortiz NoelKlavens
Left to right, Lt Col. Sparks, Lt. Col Ortiz-Guzman and Maj. Klavens Noel

At this writing, mortuary chaplain staff consists of retired Lt. Col. David Sparks, Lt. Col. George Ortiz-Guzman, Maj. Klavens Noel,
and chaplain’s assistant Master Sgt. Timothy Polling. They provide counsel to the families throughout the dignified transfer. They must provide the same to the mortuary staff and the escorts.

Chaplain (Lt. Col., ret.) David Sparks counsels a fellow Port Mortuary team memberat Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs. Chaplain Sparks believes achaplain goes through three stages once he assumes Port Mortuary duty: the horrorstage, sadness stage, and focus stage. Photo credit: TSgt. Kevin Wallace, USAF

Most of us can imagine the grief of the families. But we must not forget the emotions of those working in the mortuary. They can be constantly exposed to Fallen heroes coming home. Many thoughts run through their minds. Sadness can be on onerous burden. Furthermore, many of the Fallen come home in bad shape, and they can only wonder what their deaths must have been like. The chaplain must help them deal with their emotions and at the same time, hold themselves together.

Chaplain Ortiz-Guzman has said:

“Remaining strong and sane for the sake of the mission isa defense mechanism humans use to perform amongst all that horror. But, we try to be as real as we can with our troops. They know when you are ‘snowballing’ them. We cry with them and laugh with them. We are part of the team and they all know it.”

The chaplains themselves must often seek counsel from other chaplains, and let their emotions burst out in private.

Chaplain Sparks has said:

“Port mortuary troops have various, but certainly significant stress issues. We are where they are. I’ve been out at bars at midnight, drinking a cola and talking things through with team members. This is the duty of a chaplain. We are there when they need us, not when it is convenient … With the constant human toll in front of us, the mortuary staff feeling the stress of this work and an increase in the number of grieving families, a sustainable focus is the only way a person can function here.”

It’s worth noting that chaplains must train for the Dignified Transfer.

In this photo, Army Chap. (Capt.) Joseph Odell salutes as a U.S. flag draped transfer case is prepared to be carried aboard a C-17 Globemaster III by Charleston Air Force Base honor guard members on the flight line during training for dignified transfers of human remains July 14, 2009, at Charleston AFB, S.C. More than 170 Army chaplain candidates traveled to Charleston AFB from Fort Jackson, S.C., to take part in the the training. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. DanielBowles, USAF. Army Chap. (Maj.) Robert Hart has commented:

“Imagine if you’d never done one of these before, The very first one I got tasked with, I had never done before and I was in Iraq. They said, ‘Chaplain, we took losses, and we want to do the right thing.'”

At the time, Hart said the Army did not have standards for them to follow. He also added:

“Many times there will be a formation of people who were close to the (individual). It’s a great opportunity to minister to those who might be grieving.”


Colonel Edmondson, the commander, holds his chaplains in high esteem:

“I have the greatest admiration for these loyal chaplains. As a commander, I place the highest priority on the safety, health and well being of all those in my charge. For this mission, our chaplains are the sensors, confidants, caregivers, and friends that keep us all safe and healthy and sane. Each member of the AFMAO team bears a very personal and unique responsibility; our mortuary staff and the families of the Fallen depend on these dedicated chaplains for their mental and spiritual well being.”


Originally Posted http://www.talkingproud.us

Global Marketing Strategy

What is global strategy? And why is it important?

‘Global Strategy’ is a shortened term that covers three areas: global, multinational and international strategies. Essentially, these three areas refer to those strategies designed to enable an organization to achieve its objective of international expansion.

In developing ‘global strategy’, it is useful to distinguish between three forms of international expansion that arise from a company’s resources, capabilities and current international position. If the company is still mainly focused on its home markets, then its strategies outside its home markets can be seen as international. For example, a dairy company might sell some of its excess milk and cheese supplies outside its home country. But its main strategic focus is still directed to the home market.

Pocara SweatIn South Korea, international and global soft drinks strategy will involve mixing both the global brands like Coke and Sprite  with the local brands like Pocara Sweat (and, no, I don’t know what the brand tastes like!)

ipod-billboardHowever, the Apple iPod was essentially following the same strategy everywhere in the world: in this case, the advertising billboard was in North America but it could have been anywhere.  One of the basic decisions in global strategy begins by considering just how much local variation, if any, there might be for a brand.

Another more basic decision might be whether to undertake any branding at all. Branding is expensive. It might be better to manufacture products for other companies that then undertake the expensive branding. Apple iPods are made in China with the Chinese company manufacturing to the Apple specification. The Chinese company then avoids the expense of building a brand. But faces the strategic problem that Apple could fail to renew its contract with the Chinese company, which might then be in serious financial difficulty.

As international activities have expanded at a company, it may have entered a number of different markets, each of which needs a strategy adapted to each market. Together, these strategies form a multinational strategy. For example, a car company might have one strategy for the USA – specialist cars, higher prices – with another for European markets – smaller cars, fuel efficient – and yet another for developing countries – simple, low priced cars.
For some companies, their international activities have developed to such an extent that they essentially treat the world as one market with very limited variations for each country or world region. This is called a global strategy. For example, the luxury goods company Gucchi sells essentially the same products in every country.

Importantly, global strategy on this website is a shorthand for all three strategies above.

Implications of the three definitions within global strategy:

  • International strategy: the organisation’s objectives relate primarily to the home market. However, we have some objectives with regard to overseas activity and therefore need an international strategy. Importantly, the competitive advantage – important in strategy development – is developed mainly for the home market.
  • Multinational strategy: the organisation is involved in a number of markets beyond its home country. But it needs distinctive strategies for each of these markets because customer demand and, perhaps competition, are different in each country. Importantly, competitive advantage is determined separately for each country.
  • Global strategy: the organisation treats the world as largely one market and one source of supply with little local variation. Importantly, competitive advantage is developed largely on a global basis.

Are there any other forms of global strategy?

In various books and research papers, you may see reference to other forms of ‘global strategy.’ For example, you will see ‘multi-domestic strategies’. These are useful and can be explored in their context. However, the three strategies outlined above cover the main possibilities.

Do we really have (or even want) a ‘global’ strategy?

Companies talk about ‘going global’ when what they really mean is that they are moving internationally, outside their home countries. It is important to clarify precisely what is meant by such wording because the strategic implications are completely different.

The business resources needed to sell internationally might typically include a sales team, brochures of products in various languages and an office team to handle sales orders back in the home country.

The business resources in going global are much greater. Typically, companies need manufacturing plant in various low labour cost countries, global branding and advertising, sales teams in every major country, expensive patent and intellectual property registration in many countries, etc.

So, why ‘go global’ if the required resources are much greater and, incidentally, more complex to manage? Because the business rewards are supposed to be much greater for a global strategy. And so are the risks!

Hence, many companies do not have a ‘global strategy’ in the way that it is defined in international business literature. Even some major multinationals do not have a true global strategy in the sense of completely integrated production, no localized brands, etc.

walkersFor example, the highly successful multinational company PepsiCo dominates savoury snack products around the world. However, it still has local brands like Walkers Crisps in the UK. It does not use its Lays brand name in the UK, but employs Lays in much of tlayshe rest of the world. Why? Historical reasons that began with the PepsiCo acquisition of Walkers, which was already UK market leader.

Even if companies have a global strategy, this takes years to develop and requires substantial resources. It needs many millions of US$ and substantial management time and expertise. For example, Coca Cola took many years to develop its current position in the world soft drinks market.

For most companies, including many smaller companies, it is more realistic to develop an international or multinational strategy.

Why is global strategy important?

There are at least four answers to this question depending on the context:

From a company perspective, international expansion provides the opportunity for new sales and profits. In some cases, it may even be the situation that profitability is so poor in the home market that international expansion may be the only opportunity for profits.

tcl-legrandFor example, poor profitability in the Chinese domestic market was one of the reasons that the Chinese consumer electronics company, TCL decided on a strategy of international expansion. It has then pursued this with new overseas offices, new factories and acquisitions to develop its market position in the two main consumer electronics markets, the USA and the European Union.

In addition to new sales opportunities, there may be other reasons for expansion beyond the home market. For example, oil companies expand in order to secure resources – called resource seeking. Clothing companies expand in order to take advantage of low labour costs in some countries – called efficiency seeking. Some companies acquire foreign companies to enhance their market position versus competitors – called strategic asset seeking. These issues are identified in the film that you will shortly be able to see on the page ‘How do you build a global strategy?’

From a customer perspective, international trade should – in theory at least – lead to lower prices for goods and services because of the economies of scale and scope that will derive from a larger global base. For example, Nike sources its sports shoes from low labour cost countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, some customers like to purchase products and services that have a global image. For example, Disney cartoon characters or ‘Manchester United’ branded soccer shirts.

From the perspective of international governmental organisations – like the World Bank – the recent dominant thinking has been to bring down barriers to world trade while giving some degree of protection to some countries and industries. Thus global strategy is an important aspect of such international negotiations.

From the perspective of some international non-governmental organisations like Oxfam and Medicin sans Frontières, the global strategies of some – but not necessarily all – multinational companies are regarded with some suspicion. Such companies have been accused of exploiting developing countries – for example in terms of their natural mineral resources – in ways that are detrimental to those countries. This important aspect of global strategy is explored in the separate web section on Globalization.

McDonalds economy of scope

What are the benefits of a global strategy? And what are the costs?

Benefits of a global strategy

The business case for achieving a global strategy is based on one or more of the factors set out below – see academic research by Theodore Leavitt, Sumanthra Ghoshal, Kenichi Ohmae, George Yip and others. For the full, detailed references, go to the end of Chapter 19 in either of my books, Corporate Strategy or Strategic Management

  1. Economies of scope: the cost savings developed by a group when it shares activities or transfers capabilities and competencies from one part of the group to another – for example, a biotechnology sales team sells more than one product from the total range.
  2. Economies of scale:the extra cost savings that occur when higher volume production allows unit costs to be reduced – for example, an Arcelor Mittal steel mill that delivers lower steel costs per unit as the size of the mill is increased.
  3. Global brand recognition: the benefit that derives from having a brand that is recognized throughout the world – for example, Disney..
  4. Global customer satisfaction: mulitnational customers who demand the same product, service and quality at various locations around the world – for example, customers of the Sheraton Hotel chain expect and receive the same level of service at all its hotels around the world.
  5. Lowest labour and other input costs: these arise by choosing and switching manufacturers with low(er) labour costs – for example, computer assembly from imported parts in Thailand and Malaysia where labour wages are lower than in countries making some sophisticated computer parts (such as high-end computer chips) in countries like the USA
  6. Recovery of research and development (R&D) costs and other development costs across the maximm number of countries – new models, new drugs and other forms of research often amounting to billions of US dollars. The more countries of the world where the goods can be sold means the greater number of countries that can contribute to such costs. For example, the Airbus Jumbo A380 launched in 2008 where development costs have exceeded US$ 10 billion.
  7. Emergence of new markets: means greater sales from essentially the same products.

Note that Professor George Yip argues that the business case for globalization is strengthened by competitive pressures: the fear of some companies that they will be left behind other companies if they fail to globalize.

The Japanese car company, Toyota, has built itself into the world’s largest car company. It has developed this through a global strategy that includes economies of scale and scope, branding, customer recognition and the recovery of its extensive research and development costs in many markets around the world. Yet it has also been cautious in its global strategy.

For example, its strategy in the People’s Republic of China has been through joint ventures with the local car companies FAW and Guangzhou Auto. Whereas, its main strategies in Europe have been partly through wholly-owned ventures and partly through co-operation with other European car companies on some joint production.

For other models like the Lexus, Toyota still exports directly from its major production plant in Japan. The reason is that it is able to gain the economies of scale for theup-market low-volume  Lexus brand that wouldnot be present if it was to produce in smaller quantities in each world region, like the USA and European Union.

Costs of a global strategy

The costs of operating a global strategy may be greater than the benefits – see academic research from Douglas and Wind, Rugman and Verbaeke, Ghemawat and others. For the full details, go to the end of my chapter 19 in either Corporate Stategy or Strategic Management 5th edition.

Set against these benefits, there are at least six economic costs of international and global strategies:

  1. Lack of sensitivity to local demand: Leavitt argued that people would be prepared to compromise on their individual tastes if the product was cheap enough deriving from economies of scale and scope. Is this really correct? Other writers argued that there could be costs in adapting products to match local tastes, local conditions like the climate and other local factors like special laws on environmental issues.
  2. Transport and logistics costs: if manufacturing takes place in one country, then it will be necessary to transport the finished products to other countries. The costs for some heavy products, like steel bars, may be greater than the economies of scale from centralised production in one country.
  3. Economies of scale benefits may be difficult to obtain in practice: plant takes time to commission, local competitors still using old plant and cheap labour may still be competitive. For an example, see the Tate & Lyle Case in Chapter 19 of Lynch.
  4. Communications costs will be higher: standardisation of products and services needs to be communicated to every country. In virtually every case, it will also be necessary to monitor and control the result. All this is time consuming, expensive and at the mercy of local managers who may have their own agendas and interests.
  5. Management coordination costs: in practice, managers and workers in different countries often need to be consulted, issues need to be explored and discussed, local variations in tax and legal issues need to be addressed. This means that senior managers operating a global strategy need to spend time visiting countries. It cannot all be done on the telephone and worldwide web. This takes a tremendous toll of people personally.
  6. Barriers to trade: taxes and other restrictions on goods and services set by national governments as the goods cross their national borders.
  7. Other costs imposed by national governments to protect their home industries – like special taxes or restrictions on share holdings.

In practice, the business case for a global strategy will vary with the product category. The real issue for many companies is what decisions are treated globally and what locally. This is explored in the separate section on this website: ‘How do you balance global and local?’

Original Post : http://www.global-strategy.com  by Professor Richard Lynch


Profound Changes in Field Service

http://fieldservicenews.com/the-re-invention-of-manufacturing-is-profoundly-changing-field-service/‘I am still making order out of the chaos of reinvention’ said novelist John Le Carre as he penned another cold war spy thriller.

Many would say the same is true of manufacturing today. Gone are the days when a manufacturer simply made the product, delivered it to the customer, sometimes supplied some parts & services, and then moved onto the next sale. In today’s unpredictable world, this model is fast becoming unsustainable.  Accelerated by the chaos of the financial crisis and propelled by the industrial internet, many businesses are moving beyond this traditional notion of manufacturing.

Accelerated by the chaos of the financial crisis and propelled by the industrial internet, many businesses are moving beyond this traditional notion of manufacturing. No longer do they just ‘make stuff’, they provide services such as financing, maintenance programmes, lifecycle consulting or even outcome orientated service contracts. Complex equipment manufacturers are leading the way in evolving ever more strategic relationships with their clients, as they deliver their technology as a service outcome rather than stand-alone product.

Why is this important? It’s not just that product transaction orientated business models are being replaced by those centered on relationships, outcomes and service. But that to achieve this re-invention, manufacturing must overcome a severe skills shortage! Without people and skills, all the advances in technology and thinking will stagnate. Companies need to attract a completely new talent pool into their industry. One that is technically and socially more diverse and which has many of the marketing, customer experience and media skills found in the FMCG and financial sectors.  If manufacturing is re-inventing itself, so must the services back-office. Much has been written around how IoT and analytics will change the nature of field service in terms of efficiency, transparency and customer relationship management. All this is true, but more profoundly as the product/service boundary blurs towards solutions, so the idea of field service as an entity must fundamentally change. Rather than being perceived as a ‘bolt on’ entity fixing customer problems, field service must be integrated into the business. As this happens it too must broaden its skills set, outlook and relationships, especially in the areas engineering, sales and other service back-office operations.

As connectivity and data become more available in real time, so increasingly problems can be solved centrally. As service thinking becomes more embedded in manufacturing businesses, so even self-healing technologies may be introduced into product design. One can see that this will require a completely different approach as to how service organisations are perceived and managed. It is logical that in order to provide seamless outcomes and experiences to the customer, organisations will become much more integrated, between, centralised technical support, the machine itself, local support, 3rd parties and parts and sales/relationship management. Exactly how this happens will depend on the business models being supported.  There are companies in the defence industry who have their service team located in situ on warships where they are contracted to provide availability

For example in the Asia-Pacific market a leading supplier of industrial robots see their mix of Field /Central services swinging from 60/40% to 40/60% as they increasingly integrate remote services into their solutions. There are companies in the defense industry who have their service team located on warships where they are contracted to provide availability. These are perhaps the more extreme examples of the moment, but one can clearly see that there is a link between the technologies, the contractual relationship with the customer, and the organisation of the service organisation.  We we will also see field service and centralized support organisation being closer to the sales teams. Just look at the emphasis we have seen in recent years on the Trusted Advisor roles and the discussions of how field service as one of the major customer touch-points, has a significant impact on customer experience. Trying to balance relationship skills with technical problem solving is a real challenge for the industry.

The bottom line is that as manufacturing re-invents itself, so field service as an integral part of most service offerings will become a significant part of the companies growth strategy. How this will happen is difficult to tell, because we are still in the early stages of a manufacturing revolution. However, this re-invention of manufacturing is exciting from two perspectives. It means that a more diverse and broader skills set must be attracted into industry. And secondly that field service itself will need to adapt to evolving product technologies and business models bringing new challenges and opportunities for its people.


oringinally posted in http://fieldservicenews.com

Getting the Truth into Workplace Surveys

Unfortunately, not all assessments produce such useful information, and some of the failures are spectacular. In 1997, for instance, United Parcel Service was hit by a costly strike just ten months after receiving impressive marks on its regular annual survey on worker morale. Although the survey had found that overall employee satisfaction was very high, it had failed to uncover bitter complaints about the proliferation of part-time jobs within the company, a central issue during the strike. In other cases where failure occurs, questionnaires themselves can cause the company’s problems. Dayton Hudson Corporation, one of the nation’s largest retailers, reached an out-of-court settlement with a group of employees who had won an injunction against the company’s use of a standardized personality test that employees had viewed as an invasion of privacy.

What makes the difference between a good workplace survey and a bad one? The difference, quite simply, is careful and informed design. And it’s an unfortunate truth that too many managers and HR professionals have fallen behind advances in survey design. Although the last decade has brought dramatic changes in the field and seen a fivefold increase in the number of publications describing survey results in corporations, many managers still apply design principles formulated 40 or 50 years ago.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the more glaring failures in design and provide 16 guidelines to help companies improve their workplace surveys. These guidelines are based on peer-reviewed research from education and the behavioral sciences, general knowledge in the field of survey design, and our company’s experience designing and revising assessments for large corporations. Managers can use these rules either as a primer for developing their own questionnaires or as a reference to assess the quality of work they commission. These recommendations are not intended to serve as absolute rules. But applied judiciously, they will increase response rates and popular support along with accuracy and usefulness. Two years ago, International Truck and Engine Corporation (hereafter called “International”) revised its annual workplace survey using our guidelines and saw a leap in the response rate from 33%to 66%of the workforce. These guidelines—and the problems they address—fall into five areas: content, format, language, measurement, and administration.

Guidelines for Content

1. Ask questions about observable behavior rather than thoughts or motives. Many surveys, particularly those designed to assess performance or leadership skill, ask respondents to speculate about the character traits or ideas of other individuals. Our recent work with Duke Energy’s Talent Management Group, for example, showed that the working notes for a leadership assessment asked respondents to rate the extent to which their project leader “understands the business and the marketplace.” Another question asked respondents to rate the person’s ability to “think globally.”

While interest in the answers to those questions is understandable, the company is unlikely to obtain the answers by asking the questions directly. For a start, the results of such opinion-based questions are too easy to dispute. Leaders whose understanding of the marketplace was criticized could quite reasonably argue that they understood the company’s customers and market better than the respondents imagined. More important, though, the responses to such questions are often biased by associations about the person being evaluated. For example, a substantial body of research shows that people with symmetrical faces, babyish facial features, and large eyes are often perceived to be relatively honest. Indeed, inferences based on appearance are remarkably common, as the prevalence of stereotypes suggests.

The best way around these problems is to ask questions about specific, observable behavior and let respondents draw on their own, firsthand, experience. This minimizes the potential for distortion. Referring again to the Duke Energy assessment, we revised the question on understanding the marketplace so that it asked respondents to estimate how often the leader “resolves complaints from customers quickly and thoroughly.” Although the change did not completely remove the subjectivity of the evaluation—raters and leaders might disagree about what constitutes quick and thorough resolution—at least responses could be tied to discrete events and behaviors that could be tabulated, analyzed, and discussed.

2. Include some items that can be independently verified. Clearly, if there is no relation between survey responses and verifiable facts, something is amiss. Conversely, verifiable responses allow you to reach conclusions about the survey’s validity, which is particularly important if the survey measures something new or unusual. For example, we formulated a customized 360-degree assessment tool to evaluate leadership skill at the technology services company EDS. In order to be sure that the test results were valid, we asked (among other validity checks) if the leader “establishes loyal and enduring relationships” with colleagues and staff; we then compared these scores with objective measures, such as staff retention data, from the leader’s unit. The high correlation of these measures, along with others, allowed us to prove the assessment’s validity when we reported the results and claimed that the survey actually measured what it was designed to measure. In other assessments, we frequently also ask respondents to rate the profitability of their units, which we can then compare with actual profits.

In another case, we designed an anonymous skill assessment for the training department of one of the nation’s largest vehicle manufacturers and found that 76% of the engineers believed their skills were above the company average. Only 50% of any group can be above the average, of course, so the survey showed how far employee perceptions about this aspect of their work were out of step with reality. The results were invaluable for promoting enrollment in the company’s voluntary training program, because few people could argue with the conclusion that 26% of the respondents—nearly 8,000 engineers—had a mistakenly favorable view of their skills.

In addition to posing questions with verifiable answers, asking qualitative questions in a quantitative survey, although counterintuitive, can provide a way to validate the results. In an employee survey we analyzed for EDS in 2000, we engaged independent, objective readers to classify the topic and valence (positive, negative, or neutral) of all written comments—45,000 of them. We then examined the correlation between these classifications and the quantitative data contained in the survey ratings from all 66,000 respondents. The tight correlation between ratings and comments in each section of the survey—high ratings accompanying positive comments—gave us strong evidence of the survey’s validity.

3. Measure only behaviors that have a recognized link to your company’s performance. This rule may seem obvious, but as many as three-quarters of the questions (such as “I know about my company’s new office of internal affairs”) in surveys we review have no clear link to any business outcome or to job performance. This shortcoming explains many of the more startling survey failures. Most often, the problem arises because questions have not been systematically chosen. To avoid this, we use a two-step process to select question topics. First, we interview informed stakeholders, asking them to describe the main problems and what they think their causes are. Then, we review published research to identify known pairings of problems and causes.

For instance, to build a survey for International, we interviewed nearly 100 managers, employees, union representatives, and executives in the workforce of 18,000. We asked each to specify what aspect of performance they thought most needed improvement and what they believed was its primary cause. Interviewees all agreed that the defect rate required improvement but were less certain in identifying behaviors possibly causing the problem. Research on quality, however, seemed to confirm the suspicion of some stakeholders that improving communication would lower the defect rate.

As a result, we included a number of questions about communication in the survey. One question asked respondents to indicate how often “In our department, we receive all the information we need to get our jobs done.” The results confirmed that poor communication was indeed associated with the defect rate. The company then implemented a pilot program at one of its larger manufacturing facilities to improve communication within and between departments. Following this intervention, communication scores at the pilot site rose 9.5% while defects fell 19%. Although any of a number of factors may have been behind the defect rate, it was incontestable that the more communication improved, the more the defect rate fell.

Guidelines for Format

4. Keep sections of the survey unlabeled and uninterrupted by page breaks. Boxes, topic labels, and other innocuous looking details on surveys can skew responses subtly and even substantially. The reason is relatively straightforward: As extensive research shows, respondents tend to respond similarly to questions they think relate to each other. Several years ago, we were asked to revise an employee questionnaire for a large parcel-delivery service based in Europe. The survey contained approximately 120 questions divided into 25 sections, with each section having its own label (“benefits,” “communication,” and so on) and set off in its own box. When we looked at the results, we spotted some unlikely correlations between average scores for certain sections and corresponding performance measures. For example, teamwork seemed to be negatively correlated with on-time delivery.

A statistical test revealed the source of the problem. Questions in some sections spanned two pages and therefore appeared in two separate boxes. Consequently, respondents treated the material in each box as if it addressed a separate topic. We solved the problem by simply removing the boxes, labels, and page breaks that interrupted some sections. The changes in formatting encouraged respondents to consider each question on its own merits; although the changes were subtle, they had a profound impact on the survey results.

5. Design sections to contain a similar number of items, and questions a similar number of words. Research and our own experience show that the more questions you ask, the higher the resulting scores for the entire section tend to be. Similarly, respondents often give higher ratings to questions that contain more words and require more time for reflection. Maintaining fairly equal question and section lengths provides the highest probability that you’ll obtain compatible survey responses across all questions.

A customer satisfaction questionnaire used by a large retailer in the Northwest illustrates those dangers. In evaluating the survey, we found that longer questions and longer sections evoked higher ratings, regardless of the product being evaluated. Together, response biases produced by these two question characteristics elevated scores on the survey’s final question (“How likely is it that you will repurchase from us?”) and lowered the overall accuracy of the survey’s findings. The company could have avoided both of these problems by maintaining consistent question and section length.

The same response bias—wherein scores increase with question and section length—will also elevate scores in excessively long surveys. In addition, the average score for survey questions increases as a respondent works through a questionnaire: It is not unusual to see the average score on a 100-question survey climb by 5%. At the same time, research and our experience show that the range of responses (the standard deviation) usually becomes smaller.

6. Place questions about respondent demographics last in employee surveys but first in performance appraisals. An optional section on demographics is a staple of customer questionnaires, and its value is uncontestable. Questions about demographics also frequently appear in employee surveys since managers believe the generated information can produce useful general data about workforce trends. Of course, it is imperative to avoid demographic questions that can seem invasive or irrelevant.

Including demographic questions, however, can dramatically depress employee response rates, especially when respondents feel that their anonymity may be jeopardized. A survey carried out in 1999 by one of the nation’s largest appliance manufacturers began by asking respondents whether they belonged to a union. Most of the union employees stopped filling out their surveys at this point; they reportedly feared that the data would be used to make misleading comparisons with unrepresented workers and that those comparisons could weaken the union’s position during future contract negotiations.

In employee surveys, it’s generally best to put demographic questions at the end, make them optional, and minimize their number. Such placement avoids creating an initial negative reaction at the very moment when readers are deciding whether to participate. A 1990 study by M. T. Roberson and E. Sundstrom found that moving demographic questions to the end of an employee survey improves response rates by around 8%.

7. Avoid terms that have strong associations. This rule of language is one of the most frequently ignored. Metaphor plays a prominent role in descriptions of management, but it can also trigger associations that bias responses. A leadership evaluation conducted in the mid-1990s by one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of photographic equipment asked respondents whether their team leader “takes bold strides” and “has a strong grasp” of complicated issues. While such phrases are commonly used to describe leadership qualities, they are counterproductive in surveys because they can trigger associations favoring males, whose stride length and grip strength, on average, exceed those of women. As a result, the leadership ratings of male leaders for this assessment were unfairly elevated. Here, simple revisions in wording solved the problem: “Has a strong grasp of complex problems” was changed to “Discusses complex problems with precision and clarity.” Subsequently, we found—as published research leads us to expect—no significant difference between the average scores of male and female leaders. We have observed similar results when words that trigger ethnic and religious associations have been changed.

8. Change the wording in about one-third of questions so that the desired answer is negative.One of the best-documented response biases is the tendency of respondents to agree with questions, a tendency that becomes more pronounced as work progresses through a survey. The best way to overcome this bias is to periodically introduce questions that are phrased negatively. It’s possible to transform almost any question or statement (“In my department, we do a good job of resolving conflicts”) to its opposite (“In my department, we do a poor job of resolving conflicts”) without creating tortuous wording, double negatives, or the like. This practice is quite common. When airline personnel ask passengers about their baggage, they usually ask one question so the desired answer is yes and another so the answer is no. For instance, “Did you pack your bags yourself?” might be followed by “Have your bags been out of your control since they were packed?”

One of the best-documented response biases is the tendency of respondents to agree with questions, a tendency that becomes more pronounced as work progresses through a survey.

It is also important to describe reverse wording in the instructions to the survey and to clearly signal its presence to respondents. Readers can easily miss minor word changes; a statement such as “My leader makes unfair hiring decisions” might be misread as “My leader makes fair hiring decisions.” So the wording of the negative questions must be carefully considered. One good way to prepare readers for this possibility within the questionnaire is to introduce a simple reversed item early on, in the third or fourth question. This reminds respondents about the presence of these kinds of queries throughout the survey. In our experience, we’ve found a good rule of thumb is to change the wording in about one-third of the questions.

9. Avoid merging two disconnected topics into one question. Many survey questions combine two elements. When items are associated, it makes sense to minimize the length of the survey by combining them, but at other times, merging two elements can be problematic. For example, a leadership assessment at a telecommunications company in the late 1990s asked employees to rate their leader’s skill at “hiring staff and setting compensation.” Clearly, data from such a question would result in little insight about a leader’s specific skill in each of the two related but distinct tasks. In determining whether to include two related elements in the same question, decide whether the behaviors associated with them will require the same intervention if they need to be fixed. It can be quite reasonable to ask employees whether they think a leader both “provides and responds to constructive feedback” because both processes (to various degrees) require insight, tact, candor, flexibility, and a willingness to learn. But asking about hiring and compensation at the same time will probably elicit muddied responses of little specific usefulness.

Guidelines for Measurement

10. Create a response scale with numbers at regularly spaced intervals and words only at each end. Many surveys invite respondents to evaluate an item by selecting words that best fit their own reactions. For instance, a global computer company’s annual performance appraisal asked managers to evaluate employees by ticking one of five boxes labeled “unacceptable” to “far exceeds expectations.” (See the top of the exhibit “Numbers Are Better than Words.”)

Numbers Are Better than Words

The results of this kind of evaluation, however, are notoriously unreliable because they are influenced by a variety of extraneous factors. The biggest problem is that each response option on the scale contains different words, and so it is difficult to place the responses on an evenly spaced mathematical continuum in order to conduct statistical tests. Although the labels may be in a plausible order, the distance between each pair of classifications on the continuum remains unknown. For many people, for instance, “unacceptable” and “does not meet expectations” may be closer to each other than “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations” are to each other. In addition, the response scale uses words that overlap (“exceeds” and “far exceeds”) and that may mean different things to different people over time. Therefore, it is difficult to compare ratings on these scales from different managers in different years or to compare ratings from different departments, geographic regions, and even seasons.

You can avoid these and other distortions created by word labels by using a scale with only two word labels, one at either end with a range of numbers in between. Questions answered with numerical scales may not appear to be very different from those with word answers, but the responses to them are far more reliable and can be submitted to a much more informative statistical analysis.

11. If possible, use a response scale that asks respondents to estimate a frequency. Relying on a numerical scale is only part of the story. There can still be a great deal of subjectivity in the question or in the words at each end of the scale that you’ll need to eliminate. For instance, an employee survey we reviewed in the late 1990s asked respondents how much they agreed with the question: “Are you dedicated to quality in all that you do?” People were asked to tick a box on a scale between “disagree strongly” and “agree strongly.” But questions that invite respondents to measure extent of agreement often produce biased responses. The bias may be especially pronounced if, as in our example above, disagreement would be unflattering to the respondent. After all, who would say that they were not dedicated to quality? Naturally, responses to this survey question were clustered at the high end of the scale.

The best way around the problem, we’ve found, is to invite respondents to provide an estimate of frequency, with percentages or ratings between “never” and “always,” as shown in the lower part of the exhibit “Numbers Are Better than Words.” For example, in conducting a nationwide benchmark survey of employee motivation, we asked: “What percent of the teams in your company produce high-quality work?” In contrast to the agree-disagree question on quality mentioned above, we used a rating scale with numbers and obtained a normal curve of responses (see the results for both types of surveys in the exhibit “Well-Designed Surveys Produce Normal Results”), indicating that the responses were unbiased. What’s more, a large body of research confirms that respondents’ frequency estimations are typically quite reliable and accurate, even if they’d never consciously kept track of the behaviors examined in the survey.

Well-Designed Surveys Produce Normal Results Well-designed surveys generate data that follow the normal bell curve: A small number of the results lie near the low end of the scale, most are average, and a few are exceptional. Poorly designed surveys generate skewed data that depict overly high or low responses.

12. Use only one response scale that offers an odd number of options. Many surveys have a jumble of different response scales, jumping from one to another without warning. A survey currently being used by a large hotel chain asks respondents to rate the service’s friendliness on a scale from “very unfriendly” to “very friendly,” then the service’s efficiency on a scale from “very inefficient” to “very efficient,” and so on for dozens of questions about the hotel’s service. One response scale, such as “never” to “always” with numbered ratings in between, allows for an easy comparison of responses and is simpler for respondents. Single-scale surveys take less time to complete, provide more reliable data, and make quantitative comparisons between different items much easier than multiple-scale surveys.

Single-scale surveys take less time to complete, provide more reliable data, and make quantitative comparisons between different items much easier than multiple-scale surveys.

We find that it’s advisable to provide an odd number of response alternatives, so that respondents have the option of registering a neutral opinion. We also advocate including a “don’t know” or “not applicable” answer (preferably made to look different from the other answer options, as illustrated in the exhibit). Without that option, respondents may feel compelled to provide answers that they know are worthless. Including this option enhances response rates and makes it less likely that respondents will leave blanks or abandon the survey in the middle.

Take care not to offer too many or too few response options. In its annual employee survey, one of the nation’s largest oil companies asks employees about attitudes and offers them only two response alternatives: “agree” or “disagree.” Inevitably, managers complain that the results are simplistic and difficult to interpret. We have found that a graded response scale with seven or 11 alternatives (the latter for scales from 0% to 100% in increments of ten) furnishes sufficiently detailed results.

13. Avoid questions that require rankings. Many surveys require respondents to rank a number of items in order of preference. A survey we reviewed in 1997 asked people to “Rank in ascending order of severity the problems threatening productivity in your department: on-the-job injuries, absenteeism, attrition, out-of-specification materials from vendors, lack of tools.” Research shows, however, that responses to such questions are biased by a host of factors—most prominently the number, order, and selection of items. Respondents will best remember a list’s first and last items and will tend to assign them the top and bottom ranks. Moreover, other research shows that a ranking question can disrupt ratings on subsequent questions, presumably because respondents become sensitized to the topic of the ranking question.

Guidelines for Administration

14. Make workplace surveys individually anonymous and demonstrate that they remain so. As we have already pointed out, respondents are much more likely to participate in surveys if they are confident that personal anonymity is guaranteed. In our employee survey for International, we told employees that the anonymous surveys contained no hidden marks and that we would never be able to connect any individual survey to a specific employee. We backed up this claim by having boxes of spare surveys (under minimal supervision, to discourage people from submitting more than one questionnaire) at every facility. Access to all those loose surveys went a long way toward reassuring people about our commitment to anonymity.

The desire of respondents for anonymity explains why many companies prefer using paper-based surveys, even when all employees have access to a computer network. Most workers are savvy enough to know that each computer has a unique fingerprint and that passwords can be easily decrypted or overridden. A 2001 pilot test of a leadership assessment at Duke Energy illustrates the problems of administering surveys electronically. Duke ran, in parallel, an electronic and a paper-based version of its 360-degree leadership assessment so that the company could complete a cost-benefit analysis of the two methods.

Analysis of the pilot data revealed that ratings administered via the company’s e-mail system had a higher mean, a narrower range, and more blanks than ratings taken from optically scanned paper forms. The distribution of the scores was also markedly different: Paper-based ratings were distributed along a normal bell curve, indicating reliable and valid results, while ratings from the company server were strongly skewed toward favorable answers. These results suggested that respondents were reluctant to provide anything other than unrealistically favorable ratings of their leader and peers when they knew that their responses were being compiled somewhere on the company mainframe. Duke now lets participants choose the format they prefer for the survey: a conventional paper form or a new Web-enabled version running on an external server owned by a third party.

15. In large organizations, make the department the primary unit of analysis for company surveys. While the need to retain anonymity is paramount, large corporations still need to organize and analyze the results of internal surveys at the department or operating unit level because they assess performance at those levels. Clearly, surveys that are undifferentiated by department will be limited in their usefulness. In designing large surveys, therefore, it is useful to add a check-off sheet (or a list of codes) identifying a respondent’s facility and department. This feature helps you put together customized feedback reports that cluster departments and divisions into the precise groupings you need. Adding this feature to a large survey for International enabled us to deliver nearly 400 customized reports—some summarizing a single department’s results, others summarizing sectors (a cluster of departments), facilities, or entire divisions—only one month after we collected surveys from more than 10,000 employees.

16. Make sure that employees can complete the survey in about 20 minutes. Employees are busy, and nobody really likes surveys and assessments. If a questionnaire appears excessively time-consuming, only people with a lot of time (hardly a representative sample) will participate, and the response rate will fall dramatically. We’ve already seen that when surveys are long, respondents’ answers become automatic and overly positive. In general, we’ve found that surveys that can be finished in 20 minutes can provide substantial results for a company.

A sign at the auto parts store in my hometown states: “The wrong information will get you the wrong part…every time.” Good surveys accurately home in on the problems the company wants information about. They are designed so that as many people as possible actually respond. And good survey design ensures that the spectrum of responses is unbiased. Following these guidelines will make it more likely that the information from your workplace survey will be unbiased, representative, and useful.

Palmer Morrel-Samuels, a research psychologist, is a former research scientist at IBM and the University of Michigan Business School. He is president of Employee Motivation and Performance Assessment (www.surveysforbusiness.com) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the author of “Getting the Truth into Workplace Surveys” (HBR, February 2002).

6 Critical Success Factors for Volatility

Here are six critical success factors for embracing volatility in ways that will allow the organization to thrive:

1. Courageous leaders
I define courageous leaders as individuals who focus relentlessly on achieving the organization’s mission, especially when they are surrounded by chaos, uncertainty, and fear-based opposition. They make and implement the tough decisions required when faced with the reality of extraordinary shortages of resources. They seek and find the opportunities inherent in the volatility rather than succumb to the obstacles that less bold leaders point to as reasons to hide under the desks till the storm blows over.

2. Concrete and unambiguous definition of the playing field
Every organizational stakeholder must know, with certainty and precision, what “game” they are playing, who the players are, the rules of the game, the specific roles that they fill, and the desired end result. They must know what is “in” and what is “out” of play so they can concentrate on the former and not waste time on the latter.

3. Clear priorities
In order to allocate scarce resources most effectively, there must be unmistakable priorities. Leaders must model priorities-based decision-making.

4. Ability to release people and things that no longer serve the organization’s mission well
Everything that is done must contribute directly to the organization’s mission. Anything that is not mission-critical must be jettisoned if the organization is to thrive. This is a time to gain exceptional clarity about what the organization does, and why.


5. Accountability
Although accountability was a critical success factor for thriving in more stable times, it often fell by the wayside when leaders were willing to settle for less than excellence, or for a lower standard of performance, when resources were more plentiful. In volatile times, however, the ability to thrive demands accountability at all levels.

6. Creativity and innovation
About the only thing we know for certain about these volatile times is that there will be continued turbulence. Things we cannot forecast with any certainty include what new challenges and opportunities will present themselves, and how we can handle them. What we can do is encourage and reward those who apply their creativity and innovation to address the opportunities in ways that help the organization succeed.

Three Secrets of Organizational Effectiveness

When the leaders of a major retail pharmacy chain set out to enhance customer satisfaction, market research told them that the number one determinant would be friendly and courteous service. This meant changing the organizational culture in hundreds of locations—creating an open, welcoming atmosphere where regular customers and employees knew one another’s names, and any question was quickly and cheerfully answered.

If you’re trying to instill this kind of organizational change in your company, then you face not just a logistical shift, but a cultural challenge as well. Employees will have to think differently, see people differently, and act in new ways: going the extra mile for shoppers, helping them articulate what they’re looking for, and working harder to keep items from getting out of stock. Employees also need to continually reinforce the right habits in one another so that the customer experience is on their minds everywhere, not just at the pharmacy or checkout counter, but in the aisles and back room as well. Conventional efforts to make this happen by “changing the organizational culture” in a programmatic fashion won’t get the job done.

One method that can help is known as pride building. This is a cultural intervention in which leaders seek out a few employees who are already known to be master motivators, adept at inspiring strategic awareness among their colleagues. These master motivators are invited to recommend specific measures that enable better ways of working. It’s noteworthy that pride builders in a wide variety of companies and industries tend to recommend three specific measures time and time again: (1) giving more autonomy to frontline workers, (2) clearly explaining to staff members the significance and value (the “why”) of everyday work, and (3) providing better recognition and rewards for employee contributions.

These are, of course, widely appreciated management methods for raising performance. But they’re rarely put into practice. Perhaps it’s because they feel counterintuitive to many managers. Even the leaders who use them, and whose enterprises benefit from the results, don’t know why they work. So the value of these powerful practices is often overlooked.

That’s where neuroscience comes in. Breakthroughs in human brain research (using conventional experimental psychology research in addition to relatively new technologies like CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging) are revealing new insights about cognitive processes. With a little knowledge of how these three underused practices affect the brain, you can use them to generate a more energizing culture.

Autonomy at the Front Line

At the pharmacy chain, the pride builders were employees with a knack for exceptional service. When asked how to spread that knack to others, they suggested giving clerks more leeway to do things on their own. For instance, the clerks could resolve customer complaints by issuing refunds on the spot, and they could try out their own product promotion ideas. In the past, store managers had been quick to step in and correct mistakes in an abrupt and sharp-tongued manner. Now they would be more positive, collaborative, and interactive with customers and colleagues.

The company set up a pilot program to train some store managers and track results. Almost immediately, there were encouraging comments from the front line: “[My store manager is] now open to suggestions, big or small. I know that my opinion counts with her.” Customer ratings and the amount spent per visit also rose, perhaps because giving employees the freedom to stretch and to shape their work directly improved the customer experience.

Why did autonomy make such a difference? Because micromanagement, the opposite of autonomy and the default behavior for many managers, puts people in a threatened state. The resulting feelings of fear and anxiety, even when people consciously choose to disregard them, interfere with performance. Specifically, a reduction in autonomy is experienced by the brain in much the same way as a physical attack. This “fight-or-flight” reaction, triggered when a perceived threat activates a brain region called the amygdala, includes muscle contractions, the release of hormones, and other autonomic activity that makes people reactive: They are now attuned to threat and assault, and primed to respond quickly and emotionally. An ever-growing body of research, summarized by neuroscientist Christine Cox of New York University, has found that when this fight-or-flight reaction kicks in, even if there is no visible response, productivity falls and the quality of decisions is diminished. Neuroscientists such as Matthew Lieberman of the University of California at Los Angeles have also shown that when the neural circuits for being reactive drive behavior, some other neural circuits become less active—those associated with executive thinking, that is, controlling oneself, paying attention, innovating, planning, and problem solving.

By giving employees some genuine autonomy, a company can reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of this threat state. Indeed, as Mauricio Delgado and his social and affective neuroscience research laboratory at Rutgers University have found, the perception of increased choice in itself activates reward-related circuits in the brain, making people feel more at ease.

In the long run, sustained lack of autonomy is an ongoing source of stress, which in itself can habitually lead the brain to be more reactive than reflective. Sustained stress can also decrease the performance of important learning and memory brain circuits, as well as the performance of the prefrontal cortex, which is so important for reflection.

To return to our drugstore example, when a customer complains about being overcharged, a clerk in a fight-or-flight state might respond counterproductively—for example, by arguing. But a clerk accustomed to autonomy would be more likely to understand and to try to solve the problem in an empathetic way. If the company leaders try to enforce better customer service through strict rules that make clerks feel micromanaged, the physiological state associated with the fight-or-flight reaction would probably lead to the opposite outcome: driving customers away.

The “Why” of Everyday Work

A regional health insurance company, adapting to the U.S. Affordable Care Act, resolved to create more brand loyalty in an attempt to attract customers. One of the first trouble spots was the call center that managed claims. Customer satisfaction with health insurance call centers is notoriously low, often with good reason. There are not always good options for resolving claims. Staff members are typically judged on how rapidly and economically they can get people off the phone. The technology is often unsophisticated, catching callers in irritating voice-mail loops. At this company, call center employees saw consumers as their enemies—as complainers who berated the employees and blamed them for a miserable system that wasn’t their fault. All the training in the world could not overcome their fight-or-flight reaction. This, in turn, led to low levels of effectiveness and high turnover rates. From a neuroscience perspective, the system couldn’t have been better designed to bring out the worst in everybody.

Despite all this, some supervisors in the call centers regularly managed to mobilize service reps to deliver great customer care. The company was eager to learn how. When they brought these supervisors together, it turned out they had all, independently, discovered the same technique: taking the time to help sales reps and other call takers see and fully understand the “why” of their everyday work. This often took the form of explaining (or, better yet, demonstrating) the significant value of daily tasks, so that the reps understood their impact as part of a larger health ecosystem that supported people during difficult and stressful times. In the words of one pride builder, “I tell my team that it’s not just a claim on the other end of the call; it’s a family. You do more than answer the phone. You are a part of these folks’ lives.”

Here, too, neuroscience helps illuminate why the explicit invoking of significance and empathy is so effective. Helping a family member who is concerned about a medical issue (generally one with financial ramifications) is a different challenge from dealing with a customer trying to get more money. In neuroscience, these would be called different schemas: patterns of thought that organize experiences.

People do not have just one way of operating. They have different modes of social behavior that vary from one context to the next. The rules for social interaction are quite different when out for a drink with friends than when at a parent–teacher meeting. Schemas reflect these changes of context; thus, when a call center employee is operating in a help-a-family schema, the kinds of behaviors that are appropriate are quite different from those in a deal-with-a-customer schema.

Elliot Berkman of the University of Oregon, one of the leading researchers into the neuroscience of goal setting and habit formation, has proposed another reason why explanations of this sort are powerful motivators. When people know the reason that a goal exists, it is easier to form a “goal hierarchy”: a mental structure in which priorities can be considered as complements rather than obstacles to one another. This makes it more likely that people will follow through.

Consider the job of helping people who call for information about their insurance policy. The employee’s goal is tightly connected with the purpose of the job. If the goal is to help families, the employee would ask about the family’s challenges and describe how its policies could help. If the goal is to get people off the phone quickly, the employee would try to convince callers that the company was already doing everything it could. Employees will favor the former goal only if they see how it fits the company’s strategy, and if they are confident that pursuing it will be regarded as right by their leaders and peers.

Finally, stressing the “why” to employees helps companies deploy the cognitive power of altruism. Studies show that the brain’s reward system is directly activated by helping others. At the University of British Columbia, Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues found that people report feeling happier after giving money to others than after spending it on themselves. Similarly, when it’s clear to employees that they’re helping others through their work, their intrinsic motivation rapidly expands. Management by objectives is a far more limited mental schema than management by aspiration.

When it’s clear to employees that they’re helping others through their work, their intrinsic motivation rapidly expands.  For all these reasons, once the “why” of their jobs had been explained to them, call center employees transformed the way they dealt with customers. This mitigated a prevalent pain point and accelerated the changes that the company needed to make.

Recognition and Rewards

When the global automobile industry began to recover from the severe slump of 2008–10, the leaders of one major automaker recognized the need to refocus their orientation from survival to growth. Employees already knew how to make the production line work better. Now, could they do the same in their customer interactions, particularly with car buyers in showrooms?

The company found the solution in its pride builders. North America, Europe, and Asia had been affected differently by the recession, so these master motivators had to adapt their approach to regional business conditions, cultural differences, and employee attitudes. One theme was common to everyone: recognizing employee success in a skillfull and considered way. This did not mean heaping undeserved praise on people; it meant celebrating a job well done while keeping the bar high. One example is this note from a team member about a supervisor: “She is a demanding manager in a fast-paced job, but she knows the importance of keeping the work fun and rewarding.”

The most effective supervisors all turned out to have similar pride-builder-style approaches for conveying recognition and, where possible, rewarding people for good customer interactions. They relayed positive feedback from customers; they took care to contact each team member’s manager when giving thanks and recognition; and they personalized the messages. “Maria knows what kinds of recognition each person appreciates most,” a team member observed about his boss. “She might take one person out to coffee or lunch as a form of recognition. Or she might encourage people to work from home one day per week so they can spend more time with their kids.”

Neuroscience explains the importance of the personal touch in delivering recognition that matters. When a manager recognizes an employee’s strengths before the group, it lights up the same regions of the employee’s brain as would winning a large sum of money. Rewards of all kinds, including social rewards, tend to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces good feelings. These reward circuits encourage people to repeatedly behave the same way.

One framework of social motivators is the SCARF theory: David Rock, cofounder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, proposes that people at work are highly motivated by five types of social rewards: status boosts (S); increases in certainty (C); gaining autonomy (A); enhancing relatedness (being part of the group) (R); and demonstrating fairness (F) (see “Managing with the Brain in Mind,” by David Rock, s+b, Aug. 27, 2009). Public personal recognition provides three of these rewards. It increases social status, enhances the sense of being a valued member of the group, and shows that hard work will be fairly recognized. Most people’s neural circuits will respond directly to these, and the automakers were no exception. This, in turn, made it more likely that they would continue behaving in productive ways. The auto supplier thus laid the cultural foundations to support a shift from financial peril to growth.

Pride and the Imitation Process

The three management approaches described here—autonomy, purpose, and recognition—can create a climate of trust that spirals upward through the ecosystem of the organization. That’s because people in just about any social setting tend to pick up the mood and attitudes of others nearby, generally to a degree that they don’t consciously realize.

This process, which neuroscientists call imitation, has been studied extensively. For example, Elaine Hatfield’s work at the University of Hawaii on “emotional contagion” has shown how one person’s emotions can rapidly influence those of a group. The brain also has a process known as mirror neuron activity: When people see others act in a certain way, circuits in their brain are activated as if they had taken the actions themselves, even if they don’t directly imitate that behavior. Moreover, according to research led by Andreas Olsson, now at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, observation can at times substitute for personal experience. Watching someone else in a situation can have an impact on the brain similar to that of experiencing it directly.

The workplace is a natural medium for viral behavior, transmitted through observation. As long as people see the difference it makes, a change in a few individuals’ neural patterns can move rapidly through the enterprise. Social scientists sometimes refer to this phenomenon as social proof or the bandwagon effect, and it has long been documented as a vehicle for social change. Indeed, this could be why the pride building method itself is so effective.

There is enormous potential for combining neuroscience theory with efforts to help companies improve the positive impact of their culture. The more people who understand the value of fostering autonomy, purpose, and recognition—and who translate these principles into practice—the more others will mirror them and the more widespread these practices will become. By providing scientific evidence of the power of the pride builder behaviors, neuroscience can help leaders see the value of constructive organizational culture change, and deploy more effective ways to accomplish it.



5 Signs of an Ineffective Structure

http://realtormag.realtor.org/for-brokers/network/article/2014/09/workplace-conflict-getting-past-he-said-she-said ron palinkasAn organization is defined as a group of people working towards a common goal. An effective organization is one that delivers on its common goal consistently with the resources available. Clarity, Competency, Consistency and Efficiency are hallmarks of an effective organization. While simple in theory, this is something that most organizations grapple with. One key component of this is the Organizational Structure (also known as Boxes and Wires). The structure is put in place to provide formal authority for decision-making and drive accountability. The structure enables an organization to perform five critical functions of management – planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.

Building an effective organization structure is a leadership competency. A Leader that I admire a lot once shared that “No structure is permanent and no structure is perfect. You need to keep adjusting it to build an effective organization.” So, how do we know if our structure has a problem? Here are five simple signs that may be helpful

  1. You need sign off from three or more people for a single decision – The evolution of matrix structure, fueled by Global Operating Models have created a complex operating environment – a mix of functional experts and business revenue owners. Multiple parts of the organization are focused on multiple priorities and some of them may be at odds with each other. The matrix structure distributes the ‘power’ to make decisions and aims to drive a ‘healthy tension’ (functional maximization vs business optimization). However, when decisions need to be signed off by three or more people, you have an ineffective structure. This is reflected in the ‘time to decide’ metric. Decision delays and multiple reviews where same information is shared are great examples of ineffective structure.
  2.  You have more than eights levels or layers of hierarchy- I have done a ‘blank sheet approach’ with number of senior leaders. I start by asking them to pen down their ideal levels or layers of hierarchy starting from the top. Each level has to have a distinct responsibility. The typical 7 levels for large multinational, multi-product organization that they come up with are – CXO – Business/Functional Global Leader – Product/Department Leader – Senior Manager – Manager – Supervisor – Execution Level. This is then compared with actual levels/layers in hierarchy and we are typically off by 2 or more levels. Typical rationale provided include – talent pipeline, development roles and career opportunities. All are valid reasons. However what started as a short term focus become a permanent fixture and creates a tall hierarchical structure. What these additional layers create is an overlap or dilution of responsibilities and accountabilities. A simple way to measure this is to look at the number of layers/levels that are present in a meeting. If you look around and find two or more levels in the same review meeting, you know you have a problem.
  3. When was that decided, nobody told me” – Any time you hear this, you know your structure has inefficiency. The power of management is in its ability to coordinate efforts. The key is effective communication. When you have multiple stakeholders focusing on multiple priorities at differentiated speed, there are bound to be ‘misses’. Your processes and structure should be able to ensure effectiveness of communication. While there is a ‘want’ to be ‘informed about everything that goes on’, what people ‘need’ is ‘information that impacts achievement of their goal’. If you are spending time in this communication tsunami and seem to be going around in circles with it, you know you have an ineffective structure.
  4. “I need to check with my boss for this decision, let me get back to you” – This statement is like a slow spreading cancer for an effective organization. The Managers and Leaders are expected to make decisions to further the organization. That’s their primary duty. So any forum, meeting or review where critical decisions need to be taken, leaders in the room should have the courage and competence to decide. If they are not, something is wrong. It could be a person dependency or structural redundancy. Either ways it is not a healthy sign.
  5.  “Let me introduce myself and explain what I do” or “We need a new position” – A common mistake Leaders make is to confuse new work (job) with a dedicated role (position). Each new type of work does not mean a dedicated new role. It should be explored whether this work can be done with existing resources. While dedicated role has its advantages – like focus, clear accountability – it also comes with its baggage. People are not certain about what the new role will accomplish and how it will change current interactions. It takes precious time away from critical priorities and directs them to settling the new role. This is typical in a global operating model or a matrix organization where functional areas create their own set up rather than leveraging existing structure.

Any time you find yourself in a situation that is described above, it’s time to pause and reflect. Building an effective organization is a ‘Leadership’ competency, one that is becoming highly valuable in today’s complex business environment.

(Views expressed herein are my own. It does not represent any organization)

From Sanjay Gawde:   http://sanjay gawde

ServiceMax Titanium


SANTA CLARA, CA– September 14, 2010 – ServiceMax today announced ServiceMax Titanium, providing small manufacturers and service-based businesses a revolutionary new way of automating their field service organizations. The new service brings together a pre-configured version of ServiceMax and Salesforce Service Cloud 2, to create ServiceMax Titanium. Built natively on the Force.com cloud-computing platform, ServiceMax Titanium delivers industry-leading CRM features with best-in-class field service capabilities and industry best practices to help companies rethink field service. Learn more during a 30-minute Titanium webinar on October 5 at 8 a.m. PDT.

Comments on the news

“For the past two decades our industry has neglected the needs of small service organizations. Field service teams, the backbone of their organizations, frequently still use spreadsheets and whiteboards to run their field service operations,” said Dave Yarnold, CEO of ServiceMax. “We are proud to team with salesforce.com to deliver a streamlined, yet complete field service solution to companies with less than 100 users. Titanium – the most complete field service solution available today – is easy to use, inexpensive to implement, loaded with industry best practices, and built on the world’s most powerful cloud platform, Force.com.”
“Today’s customers aren’t waiting to get their solutions in the mail, they are on Cloud 2 – they’re mobile, using social networks to collaborate and demanding real-time answers,” said Kendall Collins at salesforce.com. “With ServiceMax Titanium, Service Cloud 2 can now deliver success to small- and mid-sized field service companies like never before.”
“Our research confirms that small- and mid-size service organizations are looking to grow revenue and increase productivity without sacrificing customer service and retention,” said Sumair Dutta, Sr. Research Analyst, Service Management, Aberdeen Group. “The availability of enterprise-class field service management capabilities in a low cost cloud computing model, delivered by solutions such as ServiceMax Titanium, will provide SMBs the opportunity to meet and exceed their service initiatives.”
ServiceMax Titanium brings the innovations of Force.com, salesforce.com’s enterprise cloud computing platform, to post-sales field service, making the solution cost-efficient, easy to use, and deployable in days, not weeks. Because Titanium is delivered through the cloud, businesses no longer have to rely on clunky, outdated legacy software systems. Instead, they can focus on customer relationships and immediate customer needs, not on software maintenance or piles of work orders.

Titanium includes all the tools small service organizations require to reinvent field service from one vendor, including:

Installed Base and Entitlements
Full entitlement tracking on all equipment under warranty or service contracts. Real-time, complete access to all relevant customer and contractual information that allows companies to ensure they meet each individual customer’s needs while maximizing service revenues.
Advanced Scheduling and Workforce Optimization
Interactive, automatic and/or cost optimal assignment of work-orders to technicians. Optimize the schedules of any number of technicians with a click of a button and without any additional IT resource investment.
Work-order Management & Issue Tracking
Create work orders and assign technicians to close issues quickly. Easy-to-use tools make it simple to manage field technicians and automate the creation, assignment, execution and closure of cases and work orders.
Inventory and Parts Logistics
Complete logistics and reverse logistics for organizations whose field operations include parts movement functions and depot repair activities. Manage infinite locations of spare parts inventories, including van stock and inventory depots.
Salesforce Chatter
Real-time, secure communication and collaboration across the organization – from field service to engineering to sales to execs. Illuminate service issues immediately via Salesforce Chatter, before the customer even knows there is a problem.
Reports and Dashboards
Create reports and dashboards to give service staff the business intelligence they need to run a profitable and competitive service operation to easily see profits, losses, service levels, and much more.
Mobile and Offline Solutions
Titanium Mobile brings the real-time collaboration of Cloud 2 to field technicians on the go, providing easy access across many mobile platforms, including BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Mobile.
Customer Portal
The customer portal offers self-service capabilities to customers so they can directly interact with a business for their field service needs by creating, tracking and managing their own work-orders.
Force.com Platform
Titanium is built and delivered on the robust and trusted Force.com enterprise cloud computing platform. It includes the unparalleled scalability and speed that thousands of small, medium, and large companies have come to rely upon.


from:  http://www.servicemax.com

Create Organizational Paths to Success



Are you building the infrastructure and human capital you need for the long haul? How well do your employees’ individual road maps for professional development align with your long-term plans for the company, and how can you strengthen those connections? To create your path to long-term success, consider:


  • Giving your people increasing responsibility. There can be a balancing act between tapping employees for new responsibilities and not overloading them with work that isn’t tied to a short-term opportunity to advance. Continually explore their capabilities and potential for growth, and you’ll uncover new talents among your team members.
  • Communicating as a hedge against risk. Speak with people whose roles are evolving to determine which responsibilities can be shifted away from them as they take on new tasks. Even if you can’t offer them an immediate raise or change in title, they’ll feel valued and see that you’re not trying to take advantage of them.
  • Planning for your own evolution. Consider the ways your own role will change as the company grows, and ensure that you continue to guide employees regardless of how big your team becomes.

As a leader, you must ensure that your core values remain a prominent part of your culture as the company grows. This empowers the business and individual members of your team to advance together with a shared sense of purpose and a strong, enduring commitment to realizing your performance goals.

Read the third in our series of Connections to Growth: Team guides, Tactics and Tech to Put Your People on Paths to Growth, to learn how growing as an organization leads to long-term success.

from :http://comcast.com

Challenge Coins

Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions Ron Palinkas Global Technical Services ManagerChallenge coins have been around the military for quite some time.  A tradition that started with the Roman and made it’s way to contemporary times during World War I.  Challenge coins became popular only recently in US military history.(Wiki Challenge Coins)  This past week I sent out challenge coins to the Global Technical Services Team to recognize the commitment and tremendous value they bring to the organization.  Hours in airports all over the world, evenings spent preparing reports, and weekends spent remoting into customer design stations to help resolve an issue.  Although each is a member of the Global Team, field service in most industries is an independent job that comes with a great deal of responsibility and accountability.  I hope the coins become an annual tradition in Technical Services, recognizing the commitment that this group shows each day.  I am honored to be a member of the team.