Procedures, Process, and Policy versus Common Sense

Last month we had a incident at YVR (Vancouver International Airport) were a Polish man was tasered by the RCMP and subsequently died. What happened was tragic and I haven’t seen so many people upset and angry over what happened. It is an event that just isn’t being forgotten. It seems this is the ultimate consequence of actions made without common sense.

Last night I had to go out to the airport to pickup some friends who were coming back from the Grey Cup game in Toronto. Of course their flight was delayed. In front of the domestic terminal is a pickup area of at least 300 yards. It is for immediate pickup of passengers so no stopping or parking. I drove down to the far end of the waiting area, left the engine on, and wated. The place was empty. Sure enough the rent-a-cop showed up (Concord Security) and asked me to move about 50 feet to the other side of some orange pylons. I said ok but said it seemed a little strange to ask me to do this when no one, absolutely no one was parked in this 300 yard stretch. He understood but said “That was the policy”. I moved the vehicle. I watched for another 15 minutes and there were 2 vehicles that picked up passengers. Other than that the area was devoid of human life.

This incident got me to thinking — where was the common sense in this request? And where in the world is common sense as a prime factor in decision making these days? I would suggest the removal of common sense in any decision making is attributable to:

– Avoidance of having to deal with any exceptions.
– Need for control of any and all situations.
– Avoidance of accountability for those establishing PPP.
– Erosion of the dignity and value of the human being. We are treated as chattels.
– Establishes the ‘us’ and ‘them’ with ‘them’ always portrayed as less than ‘us”.
– Those that fulfill the PPPs only experiencing a pseudo responsibility i.e. “I only work here” “Talk to my supervisor”.

This simplistic view of the world creates nothing but extreme levels of frustation and we read daily as to its consequences. The pathway to changing this is hard and time consuming. It really is legalism’s existence in our politically correct world. Oh that anyone would decide something with just a little common sense!

Fountain Pens Anonymous

I had to drop off a Mac PowerBook at the local Apple repair outlet this last week. They keyed everything in their online form and produced the repair chit for me to sign. Ballpoint pens are not my writing utensil of choice so out came my fountain pen. As I was signing the form with it the younger sales clerk stated “I’ve never seen one of those, is that a fountain pen?”.

Now I am really feeling old. Is this guy into Gel pens or what. He asks if he can use the pen which usually is a problem for me (if you use a fountain pen you know why) but it was a Lamy and they are pretty sturdy. As soon as he wrote with it you could see the lights come on. It was neat to see someone really appreciate the use of some “old” technology.

I have been asked numerous times why I use a fountain pen. The answers are:

* cheap on ink. Do you know how long a bottle of ink lasts?

* you hardly ever loose them. There are exceptions. Why? because you never consider them disposable.

* you are always practicing your calligraphy

* there are numerous ink colours and variations. Use the colour of ink that fits your mood

* there is a ritual when filling your pen with ink that always is important

* the more expensive ones are true works of craftsmanship

* when you have had the same ones for years they really become an extension of who you are when you write

* you can easily discern good writing paper because bad paper is so tough to write on

* they are great conversation pieces

* whenever you run into another fountain pen fanatic its like a long lost and very likeable relative

Perhaps the biggest reason is that of your signature. When you sign anything you make an effort to make it as much of yourself as you can. That makes it a task that you never take for granted.

We are a culture of stories

It was interesting these last few days talking to people at the credit union about what is happening in their lives. It seems when you take care of people’s money they don’t mind discussing just about anything. There really is a trust established that you often neglect. They have plans they need to tell you, or what they are saving for or just life in particular. When you listen intently you begin to realize how important it is for them to tell you these things and equally how important it is for you to hear them.

You need time to have conversations like these and build relationships with every member. They have some fascinating things to say which you usually never hear when everyone is busy and lacks time. Are these cultures something that we value? If we do value them then with every merger there seems to be the aftermath that the culture has changed and not for the better. Is there an equilibrium established over time with members that constantly fosters this sometimes unknown aspect of credit unions? I believe there is. The problem is the ease in which it can disappear unless it is nurtured. Bottom line and only bottom line thinking is its greatest enemy because conversation and sharing can be viewed as non-productive. And that actually becomes funny – since when have any of us personally viewed conversations in a purely monetary sense.

Someone once said that our eyes are the windows to our souls. If that is the case, then those face to face discussions allow us to realize much more than we sometimes realize.

Just when things are getting better

Not the greatest of weekends. On Sunday our switch provider torpedoed on our card base. In other words the cards were not working in real time. So we expected that the backup off-line mode would kick in but it didn’t. (we hear today they need to fix the timing — sure) So the pre-season Christmas shoppers were up the creek without a paddle to put it bluntly. And then the November storm hit late Sunday night and early Monday morning knocking out the power everywhere. Even if the switch worked the power outage killed most of everything it needed to connect to.
Besides that when the staff went in last night the backup battery systems were deficient so we had to manage that situation in a an tried and true fashion, security guards. Today we worked to get everything balanced and in order but it just showed again no matter how prepared you are for any eventuality your reliance on 3rd party suppliers is probably going to be the weakest link that may break. Our business is so reliant on a number of others that our members never see. And if there are failures we are the ones that have to answer to the constituents who pay the bills. Rarely do we answer to those we pay the bills to.
You can’t do everything yourself and you need to rely on other businesses to get you to where you want to go. It is a constant ‘weeding’ to make sure those businesses are partners and willing to step up to the plate when needed. The biggest attribute of a good business partner is honesty – willing to accept their mistakes with the focus to fix them. The suppliers you don’t want are the ones that blame everyone but themselves. There just seems to be too many of these types.

On another note Facebook is now allowing commercial setups. Let the games begin!

The incredible 10 days

Sometimes you begin a week viewing all of the meetings, lunches, dinners and whatever else is on the calendar and wonder how you are going to make it through all of this. It becomes overwhelming at times just to consider how the heck you got into all of this. Sure you have a plan in front of you but you really didn’t realize the extent of time and the number of people you were going have some interaction with. At the beginning of your career it was exciting, then as you got used to this it became the norm. First it was a day or two then the length of time crept forward, being longer and longer. Now the length becomes more than a few days and is more into a week or more. You pace yourself and realize that this is what you have chosen, and what you are good at. You wouldn’t be doing this if that wasn’t the case, right?
These last 10 days looked like a marathon when you started but were more like a sprint when you look back. So many people, new and old, that you had great conversations and debates with. There were times of work, hard work, and times of fun, just plain fun. On Thursday afternoon I was assisting the Credit Union Foundation of BC at their booth at the CUCBC trade show. As president you attend and help out where you can. An older gentleman came up to me and said “Hello Gene, do you recognize me?”. I looked down at his name badge but he had purposely turned it around. The only thing that I recognized were his eyes. Nothing else. I said he looked familiar but no I didn’t know who he was. He mentioned his name and suddenly the past became the present. I had started in the credit union system in 1978 and this person was the loans officer at that credit union. I had only been there a short while when he left due to cancer. And I hadn’t heard from him only knowing that he was a survivor of that horrible disease. Now here he was standing in from of me 29 years later. It was overwhelming. A real super person (he used to ride bulls in rodeos as his hobby) who was now telling me what had happened in his life this last quarter of a century.
Life has its bumps and potholes but when you have events like that happen to you it makes it much more brilliant. We are human. We are social animals. No matter how tired and frustrated we get, those connections, those relationships are things that sustain us and keep us going. So everyone on Twitter thank you for all those stories and sharing all what is happening in your life in those short snippets. It makes me feel connected in some small way. It sure makes my life a bit more special.

8 days of meetings with 7 different groups

In a few minutes I head out the door for meetings, meetings, meetings, sleep, meetings, meetings,…well you get the picture. Lots to do but I’m sure my brain is going to fry and the Tylenol is going to be used. We get that hour back this weekend but what the heck it’ll just be used up by these meetings. There are some positives here, I will remain unwired for extensive periods, I re-acquaint with some people I haven’t seen for awhile, and I get to be with some pretty smart (smarter than me) people.